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My Mended Heart

F e b r u a r y. The month of HEARTS and all things LOVE. But February is special for another reason. . .Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. Each year, February 7th-14th is dedicated to little and big hearts alike who are born with a CHD.

What exactly is a congenital heart defect?

Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth. There may be a hole in the wall of the heart, missing or poorly formed chambers, or in the case of my son, a severely narrowed valve.

How common are CHDs?

It is estimated that 1 in every 100 babies will be born with a CHD. Approximately 2 to 3 million individuals are thought to be living in the United States with a CHD. Thanks to improvements in medicine, the number of adults living with CHDs is increasing. It is now believed that the number of adults living with CHDs is at least equal to, if not greater than, the number of children living with CHDs.

Can I prevent my baby from developing a CHD?

I wish, with all of my heart, that I could tell you yes. But I can't. Most CHDs are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other risk factors, such as environmental exposures and certain maternal conditions such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, and some infections. Because the heart is formed so early in pregnancy, the damage may occur before most women know they are pregnant.

The good news!

Modern technology and medical practices such as fetal ultrasounds and fetal echocardiograms allow providers to diagnose about 80% of CHDs before birth. This is extremely beneficial so that you, as parents, are aware and develop a plan of action with your child’s pediatrician. Even if the CHD isn’t identified before birth, there are several screenings at the time of birth to test for possible abnormalities. For example, as of 2018 all 50 states perform a pulse oximetry test on all newborns. This is a painless, non-invasive way for doctors and nurses to determine whether your baby’s heart is functioning as it should be by reading the oxygen levels in their blood.

On a personal note.

Everyday is special with my children, but CHD awareness week means a lot to me because I have my very own "heart warrior." His name is Grayson and he was born with Pulmonary

Valve Stenosis. He is now an active 5 year old with a mended heart.

For more information about congenital heart defects, check out or

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