Congenital Heart Defects needs to be recognized

Alysa F., Staff Reporter

Congenital Heart Defects have affected not only my family but many others. Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) is the most common birth defect, affecting nearly 40,000 births in the United States.

One in one hundred babies in the U.S are born with a CHD. That is one baby every fifteen minutes! Heart defects are present at birth,but can show symptoms during the first few months of life. Only one third of CHD cases are diagnosed before the baby is born.

Serious CHD usually show signs shortly after birth, and some symptoms include pale/grey skin color.  It also includes rapid breathing, swelling of various parts of the body, shortness of breath during feedings, and poor weight gain.

There are over forty different types of CHDs. CHD can come in different shapes and forms such as a small whole in the heart, missing or poorly formed parts. Some babies are born with only half a heart. About 25 percent of babies born with a CHD are born with a critical form of the disease. Congenital Heart Defects are more common than childhood cancers combined as said on https://projectheart.org/about-chd/chd-facts-and-stats/

These children will have to have open heart surgery and have many wires hooked up to them during their first year of life in order to survive. There is no cure for CHD, only invasive surgeries and other interventions.

From a personal experience, I lost my sister in 2015 due to CHD and she had to have many surgeries, a feeding tube, and many wires. She had an interrupted aortic arch (type A), which occurs just beyond the left subclavian artery.

Approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of the infants with interrupted aortic arch have type A. She also had a arterial septical defect that is a hole in the two upper chambers of the heart. She was also effected by an a/p window. An a/p window is a rare congenital heart defect in which there is a connection between the aorta and the main pulmonary artery. This opening allows oxygenated blood to pass, or shunt, from the aorta into the pulmonary artery at high pressure.

She was diagnosed with it when she was born, she would turn blue and was not able to eat because she would stop breathing. The hospital transported her to Akron Children’s where she had many open heart surgeries.

Even though she was sick and in a hospital all her life she had her ways of informing us that she was okay. For instance, she would squeeze our fingers really tight, and she would smile at us when she was doing better.

After one of her surgeries everything started to go downhill and we were told to prepare for the worst, but we could not do anything to prepare for the news that she was gone. To find out I lost the best thing in my life was devastating.

For many years I asked my parents for a little sister and in May of 2015 I had one. She was the best thing in my life, I looked forward to watching her grow and help her become who she would have been.

However that all changed, and I thought my life would not be the same without her. However, two years after she passed I found out about my little brother so things started to feel normal again. My family and I will always miss my sister but she will never be forgotten and there have been many more children and families impacted by CHD.

Many young lives were lost while others were changed. There is no way to fully grasp the thought and facts of losing a sibling or son/daughter due to CHD.

Since CHD is not very well known to the general population, a lot of people do not understand that CHD is a serious thing and they do not learn anything about it until someone they know is diagnosed with it.

I feel it is my mission to raise awareness to how common CHDs are. Educate the people on  the signs and symptoms, and the potential early diagnosis and intervention can save lives.