Congenital heart disease refers to a problem with the heart’s structure and function due to abnormal heart development before birth. Congenital heart defects are present at birth and can involve the interior walls of the heart, valves inside the heart, or the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or out to the body. These defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart.
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting 8 of every 1,000 newborns. According to the American Heart Association, about 35,000 babies are born each year with some type of congenital heart defect. These defects range from simple defects with no symptoms to complex defects with severe, life-threatening symptoms. Due to the new advanced diagnosis and treatment, almost all children with complex heart defects grow to adulthood and can live active, productive lives because their heart defects have been effectively treated. However, some need special heart care throughout their lives.
I wanted to share a few stories from real people who have been affected by congenital heart disease.
Riley was born on July, 6, 2007 via c-section and was 9 lbs 10 ounces. The doctors mentioned she had a heart murmur, but it was probably nothing the parents needed to worry about. However, two weeks later, Riley was no longer eating and was being really fussy. They took her into her pediatrician, but the pediatrician rushed her to the hospital. She went through two bypass operations and three cardiac catheterizations. On her third bypass surgery, after coming to the conclusion that she might need an artificial valve, the doctor was able to successfully make a repair without having to put in the artificial valve. Riley healed and is now 3 and is a very active girl; however, the parents are still watching her all the time and it will be something they will be concerned about for the rest of her life.
Jack was born with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of fallot. He also had an absent pulmonary valve. He has undergone multiple open-heart surgeries and survived pulmonary and cardiac aneurysms. Jack didn’t talk until he was almost 3, but now as a 7 year old he is happy and playful. However, he still has to undergo many operations. His mom says that they always have to be open to more surgeries, because he will most likely need more surgeries as his body grows. Although he is healthy now, the future is uncertain and his parents must always pay attention to his conditions.
Congenital heart disease does not only affect children. As these children grow up and become adults, they still face heart problems and must constantly be aware of their body and how it may react. Do you have any personal experiences with congenital heart disease or any other ways it may affect an individual and their family?