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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Perrysburg teen's eagerness revealed hole in his heart and nerves of steel


Johnny Stout started playing soccer at 3. The Perrysburg teen ran cross country. He was active in Boy Scouts of America.

And it was a routine Boy Scouts field trip to Toledo Hospital two years ago that revealed a silver-dollar-sized hole in Johnny's heart, which later was determined also to have a valve that had not closed properly since birth.

While touring the hospital with his troop as part of an effort to earn a merit badge in medicine, Johnny volunteered to undergo an echocardiogram. The sonographer who performed the test noticed an abnormality that led to the boy needing open-heart surgery.

Was it merely coincidence that Johnny and the other Scouts decided during a July, 2006, camp-out to try for the medicine badge? That Johnny was the one picked to have the heart test three months later at Toledo Hospital, where his father, John Stout, happens to be administrative director of surgical and cardiovascular services? That Johnny only missed a dozen days of school after the December, 2006, surgery because much of the Ohio State University sports fan's recovery coincided with the holiday recess?

His mother, Paula Stout, doesn't think so.

"It's like the plan had been laid all year long," said Mrs. Stout, adding, "I don't believe in coincidences."

His pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Fouad Butto, said: "You get lucky, so to speak. He was a good kid, ready to volunteer."

Johnny Stout smiles for the camera while he recuperates from open heart surgery in December, 2006. Johnny Stout smiles for the camera while he recuperates from open heart surgery in December, 2006.

Two years after having the hole and valve repaired at the University of Michigan Medical Center - where Johnny's first words after surgery were, "Go Bucks" - the 15-year-old is a sophomore at Perrysburg High who plays on the junior varsity soccer team.

After Dr. Butto diagnosed Johnny with atrial septal defect, Johnny didn't want any delays in having the surgery done, he said.

"I wanted to get it done as soon as possible, get it out of the way so I could play soccer," Johnny said.

Having such a defect go undetected in children is not unusual, and symptoms such as heart palpitations and pulmonary hypertension normally wouldn't develop until later in life, Dr. Butto said.

Johnny never experienced any symptoms like breathlessness, he and his parents said.

"I think he thought he was not able to run like his teammates because he has short legs," Dr. Butto said.

Dr. Butto said Johnny's mitral-valve leakage would have worsened over time, and while there still is some leakage, it is minor. The hole in Johnny's heart was repaired, and he is now in good shape, he said.

Since the surgery, Johnny has become an Eagle Scout, and he said he wants to become a surgeon, perhaps even a cardiac surgeon.

He has shared his story with various church, business, and Scout groups, as well as with Toledo Hospital personnel.

While the youngest of three can't play football, hockey, or lacrosse because of risk from equipment-enhanced contact, his favorite sport, soccer, is not off limits, Mr. Stout said.

This year, father and son went to the rugged Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for a two-week backpacking excursion.

Johnny also has grown seven inches and gained 40 pounds, to his parents' surprise.

"He was shorter than the rest, but we just figured we're the short Stouts," Mrs. Stout said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:


or 419-724-6087.

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