Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

I have been writing this post all month... Well, I've been writing this post in my head all month.  :)  For those of you who didn't catch it before now, the month of February is American Heart Month

While America has an entire month devoted to heart health, having a day where people wear red to raise awareness of heart disease.  It was spotlighted at least weekly on the Today Show, and the reminder is even on the side of your Diet Coke can. (hahaha... or you could have just thought it was cute hearts for Valentine's Day...!) 

I WAS planning on writing this post at the beginning of February, but decided I wanted to wait until the END of February because it is something that is important to everyone to remember and think about through all months of the year. 

Heart health is an important subject to me.  While I DO have family who it effects, lately I have been hearing MUCH more than just family stories of heart problems.

This past year, I have made some amazing friends, Annie and Paul who's son Connor was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD) called Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF).

Annie and Baby Connor when he was only a day old.
Paul and Connor
Basically, Connor was born with a hole in his heart.  Connor was born 3 weeks early, and  he was admitted to the NICU for having a hard time breathing.  Annie and Paul were told that the NICU staff thought that Connor had a CHD, and he was sent to Primary Children's Hospital here in Salt Lake City where their thoughts were confirmed.  Connor spent the next 2 1/2 months in the NICU at Primary Children's.  While he was there, he had a feeding tube in his nose, but he was able to come home.  He also developed severe Acid Reflux.  He was scheduled to have open heart surgery, but the surgery had to be rescheduled 3 times before he was able to have surgery this past June to repair his ToF.  His surgery lasted seven hours and was very successful and he stayed in the hospital for two weeks.

I LOVE this picture of Connor!
He had a cardiology checkup in November, and the cardiologist said that his pulmonary valve is leaking more than they would like to see, so in a few years, Connor will have to have open heart surgery again and have his entire valve replaced.  He will probably need to have some type of surgery or procedures throughout his life to replace and upkeep his valve.

Connor at 1 years old
Also this month, I read an amazing story of  my friend, who's grandfather was admitted into the hospital for a heart attack.  He too had emergency open heart surgery and died on the table SIX times.  The second time was the longest duration of the six, and the doctor was looking up at the clock to pronounce the time of death when her grandfather's heart began to beat again.  During his open heart surgery, a team of twenty-two worked to partially clear one of his main arteries that had become 100% blocked.  Her grandfather is still alive, and "24 hours after his surgery, he was sitting up in bed, chowing down on his first solid meal in three days, and had ditched 3 of the 4 IV machines he'd had the day before.  Onward and upward!"

This month, these two stories have really helped me become more thankful for my health and that of my family.  It has made me want to help, even if this blog post gets read by only Annie and a few others, I still feel that putting it out there has somehow made a difference.

YOU can help too by helping yourself. The American Heart Association has a great program called "My Life Check: Life's Simple 7 Success Plan".  It is a fun quiz you can take to see how you are doing in your optimal health.  It's a great way to start

YOU can help too by helping your family.  If you are a mom who plans the meals, plan some that are yummy and heart healthy.  If you are a dad who is sick of your "family fun" watching a Disney movie on the couch, take your kids out for a walk around the block or go play catch at the park.  Encourage your family to have checkups and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.  If you are expecting a new baby, talk to your pediatrician about testing your baby for a Congenital Heart Defect.

One in One100 babies are born with some sort of Congenital Heart Defect. Remember how the Super Bowl was this month?  Well, the Dallas Cowboys stadium can seat 80,000 people.  If you took every baby born THIS YEAR with a congenital heart defect and put them in a seat, they would fill nearly HALF the stadium.  Between 35,000 and 36,000 births a year.

YOU can help too by raising awareness.  Tell your friends and family how important it is to take care of their Hearts.  Volunteer.  Write or call your legislature and ask to have CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training given to students (at least) before they graduate.  Ask for better screening for heart problems to the uninsured and under-insured.  Ask for basic screening for newborn babies for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital by pulse oximetry screening after 24 hours of life.  (For a great example of a mother who went before her state of Indiana's legislature demanding this very easy and life saving screening click here to read Cora's Story.)  Even asking legislature for a basic mandate for schools to have regular GYM CLASS, RECESS and HEALTHIER FOOD in your child's school helps immensely!

You can help too...!

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  1. You are so wonderful to write this post. Thank you so much. Awareness is truly spread one person at a time! Love ya!

  2. Awesome post Mel! Thank you so much for writing this post. I'm glad we have such awesome friends! =)


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