Miami-Based Media Personality, Julieanna Goddard, Reflects on Daughter’s Miracle Birth at The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial

By: Miranda Torres

When Julieanna “Julz” Goddard, 32, discovered that her daughter had developed a rare birth defect, she never could have imagined what her life would look like one year later. Goddard, a well-known entrepreneur, host, philanthropist, and media personality, always dreamed of being a mother.

Following her hosting duties at the Rolling Loud Music Festival in July of 2022, she discovered that she was pregnant with her first child with her partner, Duke Riley.

“I felt like maybe I had come down with COVID or the flu after hosting the festival,” Goddard said. “Sure enough, I took a pregnancy test the next day and it was positive. I was terrified and elated at the same time, but Duke reassured me that this was a blessing and nothing was greater than God’s plan.”

The joy that followed the announcement of her pregnancy was suddenly clouded by anxiety and fear during a routine prenatal ultrasound at Goddard’s 13-week check-up. Carmen Tudela, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial, noticed that something was not right and diagnosed the baby with gastroschisis, a condition where a hole in the abdominal wall allows the intestines to extend outside of the body.

Following the diagnosis, Goddard sat down with Dr. Tudela and her team for an extensive discussion of what to expect throughout her pregnancy.

“We discussed that we would need to perform various detailed fetal anatomy ultrasounds, looking at all of the baby’s organs, and her heart, to make sure that that there were no other conditions that could further complicate the pregnancy,” said Dr. Tudela.

The uncertainty surrounding the baby’s health caused Goddard to question whether she should move forward with the pregnancy.

“It was difficult to weight out the option of moving forward because you immediately think, ‘What did I do wrong?’ ‘How could I have prevented this?’ ‘What does this mean for my daughter in her life-long journey?’” she said. “Duke and I read more into it and realized it’s truly a simple fix, and those born with it end up living long, full lives, so we felt confident going into the procedure once the baby arrived.”

At that point, Angela Reyes-Truong, MD, an OB-GYN at The Women’s Hospital, and Dr. Tudela assured Goddard that her medical team would be prepared to provide the highest level of care for her and her daughter.

”Jackson has the highest level neonatal intensive care unit in South Florida,” Dr. Reyes-Truong said. “We’re well equipped to help families with babies with malformations transition after birth.”

Due to her daughter’s gastroschisis diagnosis, Goddard was scheduled for an induction to ensure all of the appropriate teams would be available at the time of her delivery.

On March 24, 2022, Goddard was induced to begin the labor and delivery process. However, the baby’s heart rate began accelerating rapidly, making it dangerous to move forward. The medical team quickly prepared for an emergency Cesarean section to ensure both mom and baby were safe. Thanks to the expert team of doctors and nurses at The Women’s Hospital, River Jo Riley made her entrance into the world safely.

Due to River’s malformation, the high-risk pediatric operating team was on standby to tend to her gastroschisis immediately after birth. Once she was transferred to the NICU, Chad Thorson, MD, pediatric surgeon at Holtz Children’s Hospital, and the neonatologists began the process of reducing the intestines back into River’s abdomen.

Her intestines were placed in a bag called a ‘silo,’ which is essentially a plastic bag with an expandable ring that fits inside the baby’s abdomen where the gastroschisis defect occurs. This protects the intestine from damage, drying out, and fluid loss. Over the next two days, the team was able to slowly reduce the intestines into River’s abdomen until they were fully relocated where they should have been. Dr. Thorson was able to perform the closure by using the remnant of her umbilical cord as a patch over the hole, essentially hiding any proof of the malformation.

“Just 50 years ago, this condition was almost universally fatal since we did not have the ability to take care of these kids because their bowels are not functioning very well in the beginning,” Dr. Thorson said.

mom holding her baby while smiling
mom holding her baby while smiling

Two weeks later, River began feeding regularly, which is above average for babies born with gastroschisis.

“Being able to recover from my C-section while my daughter was recovering down the hall was truly a blessing.” Goddard said. “Visiting her those first few days was very important to me, and the medical team and hospital staff were all incredibly kind and helpful.”

Goddard was able to transition into motherhood with the support of her family and friends, while also being a few steps away from River.

“It’s great that we have the maternity units so close to the NICU because we can provide care for our moms and babies on the same floor,” Dr. Reyes-Truong said. “Moms have easy access to the NICU, and get to stay close to their babies during an extremely crucial and important time.”

One month post-delivery, Goddard finally got to take her daughter home.

“After being in the hospital every day for a month, I remember just crying tears of joy and disbelief that I was able to finally bring her home and let her experience fresh air,” she said. “She was always so cute and precious, with a kind smile and loving eyes. I knew from that day on I would never be alone again.”

Now, one-year-old River is healthy, happy, and thriving. Following her mom’s example, River is already taking an interest in music, and is working on her first album of lullabies and nursery rhymes.

“My goal is to support River in being everything and anything she wants to be by giving her the tools and the freedom she needs to explore the world, develop her own interests, and hone in on her talents,” Goddard said. “I am so excited to have the honor of watching her grow into the amazing young woman I know she will be.”