My son recently came home from school with materials and information for The American Heart Association. It brought up some memories for me and I felt inspired to share my experiences in order to facilitate awareness.
A faculty member at my son’s school has a personal tie to the AHA as do I. Although I personally haven’t suffered from a heart defect, my baby-sister passed away from congenital heart disease at just 5 months old in 1990. To this day, it still boggles my mind as to why and how for 5 months and numerous doctor check-ups since birth, they deemed her a “healthy” baby girl.
Suddenly my sister started screaming, which my mother responded to by bringing her to our pediatrician. He cleared her to go home and said that she was fine and just crying due to possible gas pain. Keep in mind, he checked her heartbeat during this visit.
Just an hour after the appointment, my 5-month-old sister started turning blue. She wasn’t breathing properly and my mother rushed her to the hospital, again. They took her in immediately and started CPR. She had to get emergency surgery. Luckily she made it through the initial surgery to fix her heart, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. An hour after surgery, her little body was not coping well. She was rushed in to get another emergency surgery. The procedure would take her away from us and change the lives of my family forever. Unfortunately, my baby sister Michelle passed away that day in the hospital.
My mother filed a lawsuit against the pediatrician who had been seeing my baby sister since birth. He was also my pediatrician since birth. How did he not realize anything was wrong? If he would’ve paid attention to her irregular heartbeat instead of rushing her newborn appointments, maybe they would’ve caught this sooner? He saw her just that day, hours before she was in the hospital getting immediate open heart surgery and diagnosed with congenital heart disease. My parents fought him in court, and they LOST. Yes. They lost their infant daughter to a disease they couldn’t possibly diagnose themselves to a man they entrusted with her well being and overall health. She had no other visible symptoms on the outside (other then being more cranky then myself or my brother were.)
All of this made it very difficult for me when I became a mother myself and had my newborn baby home with me. To be on the safe side, a few weeks after my first sons birth, I had scheduled a full heart scan due to genetics’ role in heart disease in young children. People thought I was crazy, but I’d rather be safe than sorry and not leave it to chance.
Although the fight for my sister both during life and after death was lost, the fight against heart disease could be won through organizations like the American Heart Association. Thanks to the AHA, and generous donations they’ve received, there is more information on how to detect heart defects in the womb, allowing Doctor’s the opportunity to identify life-threatening issues.
FACTS (source Web MD):
Congenital heart disease is a category of heart disease that includes abnormalities in cardiovascular structures that occur before birth.
These defects occur while the fetus is developing in the uterus and may affect approximately 1 in 100 children.
Congenital heart defects may produce symptoms at birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood. Other congenital defects may cause no symptoms.
About 500,000 adults in the U.S. have congenital heart disease.
The risk of having a child with congenital heart disease may double if a parent or a sibling has a congenital heart defect.
My personal story in this blog is offered with hope that you will take time to educate yourself on the human heart and know the signs and symptoms of diseases associated with the heart. Disease that can affect all ages, not just the elderly.
Today February 6th 2015 is National Wear Red day, and I ask you all to wear red to raise awareness.
Macy’s is a national sponsor of Go Red For Women. Wednesday, Feb. 4, through Monday, Feb. 16, Macy’s will sell its exclusive Red Dress Pin in stores for $2 each with all proceeds donated to Go Red For Women. Additionally, Macy’s will offer a variety of products benefiting the American Heart Association throughout February.