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Families have an effect on heart defects


by: PHOTO COURTESY: WENDY BREEDLOVE - Wendy Breedlove helps raise awareness for congenital heart defects through various heart-health organizations.Two women from Oregon City demonstrated how various generations struggle with congenital heart defects last week in spurring their mayor to speak on the issue affecting nearly 2 million U.S. families.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: WENDY BREEDLOVE - Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley thanks Victoria Daniels (right) and Wendy Breedlove for bringing forward the issue of congenital heart defects at last week's City Commission meeting.Victoria Daniels’ daughter Lucy just turned 1 after an open-heart surgery May 22, 2012, for a heart defect. Wendy Breedlove was 11 months old in 1970 when she got her first open-heart surgery, but in 2008 she had to have a second operation.

“I was the second-smallest baby on record to survive that operation, but now they operate on babies that are just a few days old,” Breedlove said.

Despite technological advances, heart defects remain the No. 1 cause worldwide of infant death, affecting 1 in 100 births, 10 percent of whom die before their first birthday.

Mayor Doug Neeley proclaimed Feb. 7 through 14 congenital heart defect awareness week. Breedlove asked him to make a proclamation, not knowing that the mayor’s daughter was born with a heart defect. Neeley said at the Feb. 6 City Commission meeting that he and his wife had a couple of scary years before their daughter was able to get corrective surgery and lead a normal life.

Breedlove warned people in such situations as Neeley’s daughter get regular checkups. She said she would not be around today had she not gotten a pre-op consultation when she went into the hospital before back surgery.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: WENDY BREEDLOVE - Wendy Breedlove was 11 months old in 1970 when she got her first open-heart surgery, but in 2008 she had to have a second operation.“It is a very common misconception that babies with defects are ‘cured’ once they have a repair, but it is something they will need to monitor their entire lives,” she said. “I was an idiot and assumed that after 38-plus years of normal heart checkups, I was cured. That almost killed me.”

Daniels said it was also painful to see her daughter with heart monitors and plugged into machines to keep vital signs going after surgery.

“We took it a little hard, and it was a struggle every day because our daughter was in and out of the hospital a lot,” she said. “The most difficult day was the surgery and having to hand your trust over to the surgeon.”

She and her husband, Kevin Love, watched how when their daughter was just a month a half she had catheters inserted.

“I would not change anything about what we’ve done, and I believe that going through this has made us better parents,” she said. “We just want to get the word out there so we can connect with others who are struggling and know that there is hope.”

A lot has changed since Breedlove was born in 1969 with Tetrology of Fallot, one of the most common heart defects, and subsequently became the second smallest baby to survive a corrective operation, performed by Dr. Albert Starr. Physicians now perform surgeries on days-old infants, but when she was born, the survival rate was much lower.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: VICTORIA DANIELS - Victoria Daniels' daughter Lucy celebrates turning 1 after recoving from open-heart surgery.“I am from a different generation; when I was born, it wasn’t something that was discussed ... and something to be ashamed of,” she said. “I want kids today to not have to know what that feels like, and to be proud of the fight they are fighting, and educate people on what it is like to live with a congenital heart defect.”

Various heart groups she belongs to are lobbying for required pulse-ox screenings in newborns in an effort to promote early diagnosis. Many infants are not diagnosed until days or months after they are born, and some lose their lives because it was not caught sooner.by: PHOTO COURTESY: VICTORIA DANIELS - Victoria Daniels and Kevin Love's daughter Lucy recovers from an open-heart surgery May 22, 2012, for a heart defect.