The primary purpose of the Helping Hearts Foundation is to raise awareness, unite and empower families dealing with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD’s) through various channels, including the generosity from donors and to fund research. Being the most common birth defect, 1 in 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect, meaning there is one or more abnormalities of the heart present before birth. CHD’s contribute to more infant deaths in the first year of life than any other cause (30% according to the American Heart Association). The abnormalities can be located anywhere within the structure of the heart, or even the arteries and veins surrounding the heart, and can range from relatively harmless to life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of CHD’s are considered critical and surgery and other procedures must be done in the first year of life. Most of these defects are impossible to pinpoint the root cause. Some are presumably genetic, while others could be attributed to drug use or an infection during pregnancy.
These defects can often be diagnosed in utero, typically first discovered at the 20 week ultrasound/fetal echocardiogram. Knowing ahead of time, and altering your pregnancy care can mean the difference between life and death. Other defects that go unnoticed, are either discovered at birth or even at later stages as some CHD’s show no symptoms early on. A baby with an undiscovered heart defect may have shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty or lack of interest in feeding, may turn bluish in the face, body and/or extremities. Some defects may be unable to be fully corrected, but still require attention, often immediately. Children with CHD’s may grow and develop slower due to the heart pumping harder to overcompensate for the defect. Early intervention programs can help assist in meeting milestones. CHD’s can also attribute to genetic mutations that could lead to other genetic abnormalities. There is no cure for CHD’s, but treatment can be as simple as prescribed medication, to surgery and heart transplants.
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