This week (February 7 – 14) is Congential Heart Defect/Childhood Heart Disease Awareness Week. It is an excellent time to spread awareness of this devastating condition.
My painful and involuntary introduction to being a heart parent happened shortly after River was born. Since River was born a “2 vessel baby” (she had Single Umbilical Artery in utero) she got a mandatory echocardiogram. SUA babies have a 40% chance of heart defects. Fortunately this was necessary. And this had nothing to do with her significant prematurity. They caught her defects right away. Many other babies are not so lucky.
Her first surgery was a left thoracotomy(surgery going into the left side of her chest) and it was an “extended end to end repair of the coractation of the aorta”. This surgery took place on 3/31/10. River was 1.7 kg, and only 2 weeks old. In other words: TOTAL NIGHTMARISH EMOTIONAL TRAUMA. I just went over all of my day to day “diary” entries on Carepages, the way I used to keep our family and friends up-to-date on River’s progress. I was so factual, and put a positive spin on everything I wrote. I tried desperately not to scare everyone, or let them know what a total and complete wreck I was. I didn’t want them to feel my pain, I didn’t want them to cry everyday like I was.
Here were the first few days:
3/31/10: River is now currently recovering in the Ped ICU. She had a successful surgery, and the surgeon Dr. Ronald Woods was very pleased and said everything went as well as it could go. The surgery was to repair the Coarctation of her aorta. It was done through the left side of the chest (thoracotomy) and it is considered “closed heart surgery”. She will be recovering for the next 24-48 hours in the PICU, then will be relocated to the Mary Bridge ward for a few more days. Following a hopefully speedy and uneventful recovery, she will then be moved back into the NICU to continue her preemie treatment until her eventual home coming.
4/1/10: Today’s progress has been good. River’s chest tubes came out very early today. Her breathing tube will be removed soon. They are concerned about fluid in her lungs, but it has been getting better throughout the day. They expect her to be out of the PICU by tomorrow and by to the NICU and back on track to feeding and growing.
4/2/10: River’s breathing tube was removed yesterday afternoon. She is back on CPAP to assist her with her breathing, her symptoms related to her breathing are just still due to her preemie-ness and not her heart. Currently her heart is sounding good. She will begin feeding today again, breastmilk delivered through a feeding tube. She is expected to be released from PICU tomorrow and go back downstairs to the NICU. Her heart surgery recovery(incision site, etc) has gone well.
This was all very true, but so lacking in the truth of the matter. If you read between the lines you might read that I saw my baby stop breathing and turn gray and watch the PICU team jump into action. You might read that I was losing my mind with anxiety and fear. You might truly understand what it could be like to be the parent of a baby with CHD.
Below is a CHD fact sheet. Research is terribly underfunded! Please raise awareness!
CHD FACT SHEET
Incidence, Morbidity & Mortality
- Congenital heart defects are America’s and every country’s #1 birth defect. Nearly one of every 100 babies is born with a CHD.
- Congenital heart defects are the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths.
- Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of all infant deaths in theUnited States.
- Each year approximately 40,000 babies are born in the United Stateswith a congenital heart defect. thousands of them will not reach their first birthday and thousands more die before they reach adulthood.
- Each year over 1,000,000 babies are born worldwide with a congenital heart defect. 100,000 of them will not live to see their first birthday and thousands more die before they reach adulthood.
- The Children’s Heart Foundation is the only organization that was created to exclusively fund congenital heart defect research.
- The Children’s Heart Foundation has directed $3 million to 34 basic science, translational and clinical CHD research projects at leading research centers across the US and Canada.
- CHF has published and distributed 15,000 copies of It’s My Heart, a patient and parent resource book.
- CHF has established five Chapters and has volunteers in many USstates.
- Almost half all children and adults with complex congenital heart disease have neurological and developmental disabilities.
- There are an estimated 2,000,000 CHD survivors in the United States.
- For the first time, more than 50% of the CHD survivors are adults.
- 10% of all CHD cases evaluated in an Adult CHD clinic are first diagnosed in adulthood.
- 91,000 life years are lost each year in this country due to congenital heart defects.
- The cost for inpatient surgery to repair congenital heart defects exceeds $2.2 billion a year.
General CHD FACTS
- More than 50% of all children born with congenital heart defect will require at least one invasive surgery in their lifetime.
- There are more than 40 different types of congenital heart defects. Little is known about the cause of most of them. There is no known prevention or cure for any of them.
- In the United States, twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined, yet funding for pediatric cancer research is five times higher than funding for CHD.
Research Allocations & Impact
- Congenital heart defects are common and deadly, yet CHD research is grossly under-funded relative to the prevalence of the disease.
- Only one penny of every dollar donated to the American Heart Association goes towards congenital heart defect research.
- Of every dollar the government spends on medical funding only a fraction of a penny is directed toward congenital heart defect research.
- The NHLBI has stated that Congenital Heart Defects are a serious and underappreciated global health problem.
In the last decade death rates for congenital heart defects have declined by almost 30% due to advances made through research.