February 7-14, 2009 is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. As this subject is now very near and dear to my heart, here are a few things I’d like you all to be aware of.
- A Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) means a child is born with an abnormally structured heart and/or large vessels. Such hearts may have incomplete or missing parts, may be put together the wrong way, may have holes between chamber partitions or may have narrow or leaky valves or narrow vessels. There are approximately 35 different types of congenital heart defects.
- CHDs are the #1 birth defect in America, affecting approximately one in one hundred or 40,000 newborns every year.
Each day 10,830 babies are born in the U.S.; 411 of them have a birth defect -- of those, 87 will be born with a congenital heart defect -- that's more than cerebral palsy (27), sickle cell disease (27), Down Syndrome (12), and oral/facial clefts (11) combined (total of 77). (According to the March of Dimes)
- CHDs are responsible for one third of all birth defect-related deaths, and sadly 20 percent of children who make it through birth will not survive past their first birthday.
- 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.
- For many children a new heart is the only option, but only about 30% of the children who need a heart transplant receive one in time. In 2007 there were 327 pediatric heart transplants performed in the United States. The average heart transplant only lasts around 10 years.
What can you do?
We hope and pray that Jack's heart will last for a very long time, but the day may come when he will need a new heart. Hopefully by then they will have come up with a way to grow a heart or some other medical miracle, but that will only happen if the right people get the funding to find a solution, and in the meantime there are lots of children waiting for that most precious gift.