Heart disease? That only happens to old people, right? That’s what I used to think. That was until I was 35 weeks pregnant and doctors discovered that my unborn child’s heart wasn’t working properly. My family and I were told that our daughter would be born with Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia-a heart defect which includes a series of structural abnormalities including a hole in the heart, a malfunctioning valve, and an overriding aorta.
Although terrified, we were told that congenital heart defects were common. According to the American Heart Association, nine out of 1,000 births will have some form of congenital heart disorder and about 36,000 U.S. children are born with a heart defect yearly.
February is American Heart Month and the 7-14th is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week. I urge everyone to understand that age is not a limiting factor in heart disease. It affects the old-but it also affects the very young. Speak to your doctor about ensuring that everyone in your family has a healthy heart.
We were lucky. Doctors were prepared to treat the defect because research, supported by the American Heart Association, lead to the treatment that helped save our daughter’s life. Zoe was born on December 2, 2008 and underwent her first open heart surgery at one day old. Since then, she has undergone countless tests, several procedures, and a second open heart surgery. She is now a vibrant, energetic four year old who makes us smile every day.
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We need to continue funding lifesaving research and the American Heart Association so that more advancements will be made in order to save more lives. It is my sincere hope that one day, no mother will ever have to hear the words that their child has a heart defect.
For more information on how you can help in the fight against cardiovascular disease, visit www.heart.org.
American Heart Association Volunteer