Julian’s journey has heart

One visit to the RCH Emergency Department turned into a life-saving journey for Julian Gunn.

When Julian’s flu-like symptoms persisted for months, parents Celine and John brought him to the RCH for help. Zeroing in on his laboured breathing, an RCH cardiologist performed an ultrasound. The results were clear — Julian had congestive heart failure.

Admitted to the RCH Koala Cardiac Ward, Julian began treatment for Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, and arrhythmia which were causing his heart to fail. The experience was agonising for Julian’s parents, who found it difficult to come to terms with his diagnosis.

Says Celine, “It was hard for John and I to accept that our son was so sick. We were devastated.”

Exhausting all options, doctors soon determined that Julian needed HeartWare, a machine that supports the pumping function of the heart, and eventually a heart transplant.

Although this was daunting news, Julian impressed everyone with his strength and optimism.

“Julian was very positive about it and he was never afraid. But we weren’t mentally prepared to see Julian in ICU after the surgery with tubes coming out of his chest. When we got home, John and I were just on the floor, shattered.”

Despite a couple of setbacks, Julian’s condition stabilised before Christmas and the Gunn’s received an early present: news that a transplant might not be needed.

Ongoing investigation confirmed that arrhythmia was the cause of Julian’s condition, not a symptom. After months of careful monitoring and medication, doctors were seeing a significant improvement in Julian’s heart function. No heart transplant necessary!

As Julian is the first child on HeartWare not receiving a transplant, the RCH cardiology team are working with Austin cardiology to remove the device and get Julian home, happy and healthy.

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