Friday, October 11, 2013

How do you give back during the holidays?

You can help give back this holiday season by purchasing tickets to this spectacular event this holiday season!! 

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes

Nov. 12 Performance to Benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta


The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes is returning to Atlanta's Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center with an all new show for the first time in four years this holiday season. For one night only, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m., proceeds from the show will benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. 

This timeless holiday tradition offers something for everyone: the Rockettes will perform five new numbers as well as cherished favorites like the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity, all while showcasing their signature eye-high kicks and new costumes and sets. Bring the whole family!

Tickets to this special performance are available exclusively on the Children's website. Also being offered are priceless behind-the-scenes experiences, such as a dance class taught by the Rockettes. This event is made possible by our generous sponsor, Delta Air Lines. For more information and to purchase tickets,


Friday, August 16, 2013

Support Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities and win a 2014 BMW

Help support Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities and you could win a. Rand new 2014 BMW! 

There is no time more difficult in a family’s life than when a child is sick or injured. BMW is proud to join ARMHC and help these families find comfort and hope during their time of need,” said Wayne Schulte, Field Marketing Manager for BMW of North America, Southern Region.

This year’s grand prize winner will drive away in a 2014 BMW Z4 sDrive 28i valued at $50,675. 

The second prize winner will receive a $2,500 shopping spree courtesy of H. Stockton. The third prize is a suite of jewelry from Mayors Jewelers at Phipps Plaza.

Raffle tickets are $100 each with 100% of the net proceeds benefiting the two Atlanta Ronald McDonald Houses. Tickets are available until December 4, 2013 by visiting or by calling (678) 704-8097.

Since the annual car raffle began 15 years ago, more than $1.75 million has been raised to help fund the operations of Atlanta’s two Ronald McDonald Houses.

About Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities:

ARMHC is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to serving the needs of children by providing temporary housing and support services to families of critically ill and injured children being treated at local hospitals. The two Atlanta Houses have provided a home away from home to more than 42,000 families since the first Atlanta House opened in 1979. For more information about ARMHC, please visit or call (404) 315-1133.

At the Ronald McDonald House, families can enjoy many of the comforts of home, receive nutritious meals prepared and served by volunteers and obtain emotional support through contact with other families experiencing similar situations. No family is turned away if they cannot afford the small $20 requested contribution and many of these families stay at the Ronald McDonald House for weeks, and sometimes months, while their children receive medical treatment. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Offers Back-to-School Tips

                                Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Offers Back-to-School Tips
              Doctors recommend ways to keep children healthy as they head into the classroom


When it is time to go back to school, your kids' focus should be to learn important things like reading, writing and arithmetic. Your focus, as a parent, should remain the same–keeping your kids healthy so they can learn and grow.


To help you do that, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta offers some back-to-school tips centered on common school-related issues:


·         Backpack Safety - Backpacks are a very handy way for your child to carry his books and other school materials, but they can also put strain on his back muscles and joints and cause back pain if used incorrectly.

·         Sleep - During summer vacation, many children and teens get to stay up later and sleep in longer than they would during the school year. This shift often makes returning to an earlier schedule difficult. Getting enough sleep is important to a student's physical health and school performance.

·         Germs - Exposure to germs can be a big problem as children go back to school. Germs can be found in all kinds of places and can be spread by any child, adolescent, teen or adult. Addressing the spread of germs in schools is essential to the health of your child. Nearly 22 million school days are lost in the U.S. each year due to the common cold alone.

·         Healthy Lunches - Eating a healthy lunch at school is just as essential as having the proper supplies like backpacks, paper and pencils. Whether your child gets their lunch from the school cafeteria or brings a meal from home, it is important to ensure they are eating a well-balanced meal that provides them with the proper daily nutrients. For more info you can also visit

For more detailed information about Children’s Back-to-School tips, visit 


Monday, July 1, 2013

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Urges Families to Leave Fireworks to the Professionals


Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is reminding families to be safe this July 4th and avoid directly handling fire-related devices like fireworks and sparklers. During this time of celebration, Children's urges everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals.

"The Fourth of July is an occasion to celebrate outdoors and spend time with family, but nothing ruins a party like a trip to the emergency room," says James Fortenberry, M.D., Director of Critical Care Medicine and Pediatrician-in-Chief at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "With the long list of local professional firework displays available, there's no reason to risk life-threatening injuries and burns by putting on your own show. Leave the fireworks to trained professionals."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, during the weeks surrounding July 4th an average of 200 people visit an emergency room with fireworks-related injuries. Fifty-seven percent of all fireworks-related injuries occur during this time each year. The risk of fireworks injury is highest for children ages five to 14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.

Children under 15 years old account for 39 percent of the estimated fireworks injuries, which can include burns, contusions/lacerations, concussion, scarring and even death, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A list of some Atlanta-area public firework shows can be found here. For more tips on summer safety from Children's, please visit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Feb 12-CHD Awareness- Lance's Story

Lance is a very happy-go-lucky 9 year old that sees the good in people and in life. When he was born, we had no idea he had any heart defects, but soon found out what would change our lives forever. Lance was born with an underdeveloped right ventricle and two holes in his heart. When he was 6 months old he had his first open heart surgery and recovered quite well from this surgery. Our lives seemed to be back to normal and that is how we strive to keep his life "normal" as possible. However, 4 years later he got really sick and we were told that he needed his next surgery which was the Fontan, this surgery made us very nervous, because we were told that this surgery would mean some time down the line, he would need a heart transplant. We had no choice, he was too sick to not have the surgery. We just prayed that he would be in the category of "needing a transplant" twenty years after the Fontan. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, Lance's Fontan was considered to be a " Failed Fontan". I will never forget that feeling, when I heard that term! It stills makes me sick to my stomach. After a couple attempts to help his heart, we had no choice, Lance needed a new heart. So many emotions rush to me whilewriting this...After going through the whole process, Lance was listed for his heart as "A1" status. Our prayers were answered very quickly, he got his gift of life 5 days from the date he was listed. We are so thankful for the donor's family, they were going through such a difficult time, yet they had enough heart to save so many others' lives. We think of them often and hope to meet them one day. We understand if this day doesn't come,but if it does, it will be in their time. Lance leads a very active life and is involved in so many sports and activities. Thank you for taking the time to read Lance's story and hope it raises awareness to DONATE LIFE!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Feb. 11-CHD Awareness- Braden's Story

Braden was born December 7th, 2009. He was diagnosed in utero with Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA). After he was born, things seemed to improve and we were sent home from the birthing hospital. Two days later, December 14th, we saw our pediatrician for a routine check-up. Dr. Setia discovered Braden had no palpable pulses in his legs and we were immediately sent to Dr. Videlefsky’s office. Once arriving there, an Echocardiogram and EKG were performed. Braden was then transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. We handed over our perfect, beautiful baby boy. A few hours later, we were allowed back into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) to see him. He looked so pitiful. He was hooked up to so many machines and had IVs and oxygen. It was absolutely unreal to see him that way. We were told the Coarctation of the Aorta was present and they would be performing surgery. On December 16th, at 9 days old, Braden had his first heart surgery. They separated his ribcage and entered below his shoulder blade. The CoA was repaired. The surgeon also discovered Braden had a Hypoplastic Aortic Arch. They did a left subclavian artery flap to repair it. He struggled post-op and remained on the ventilator longer than we expected. Once it was removed, he drastically declined and they had to reinsert it. Finally, on December 23rd, we were able to take our precious baby home, just in time for Christmas. He was too weak to suck a bottle so he came home with a Nasogastric tube for feeding. Unfortunately, on January 4th, Braden began to drastically decline and we rushed him into CHOA. Pressures in Braden’s lungs had changed and it revealed several VSDs in his heart also known as Swiss Cheese VSDs. He underwent his second heart surgery on January 12th, 2010. The surgeon placed a Pulmonary Artery band to help slow the blood flow to his lungs. After struggling yet again to come off the ventilator, and needing to be re-intubated, we finally returned home on January 19th. Sadly, our stay at home was short lived. Something was not right with Braden. We made several trips into the ER for respiratory distress. Braden was once again readmitted to the hospital. After staying for a week, it was discovered that Braden was micro-aspirating. He was aspirating everything he ate, along with reflux. On March 11th, 2010, Braden underwent his 3rd surgery. He had a Nissen Fundoplication and a G-tube inserted. He finally came home, but was on oxygen due to issues with his pulse ox after all the damage that was caused to his lungs. We continued to follow up with our cardiologist, pulmonologist and Gastroenterologist. Braden had several hospital admissions from his discharge in March until July. In July 2010, Braden underwent a heart cath to check things over. We were very blessed to have been able to avoid the hospital from August-November .Braden finally was strong enough and was removed for Oxygen in November. In December 2010, Braden had a heart cath done. It revealed that the Pulmonary Artery Band was ready to be removed. On January 11th, 2011, Braden underwent his 3rd heart surgery and 4th overall surgery. The Pulmonary Artery band was removed, an ASD was closed and approximately 6 VSDs were closed as well. There was some damage done to his heart in the form of dilation and thickening of the heart muscles. It was thought to be related to the Pulmonary Artery banding and we were optimistic it would slowly improve as time went on. We continued to follow up with our doctors, mainly Cardiology. In April 2012, a heart cath was done. It showed signs of (RCM) Restrictive Cardiomyopathy but no official diagnosis was made. We didn’t get discouraged and continued following up with the cardiologist. In July, 2012, Dr. Videlefsky recommended we make a visit to Dr. Mahle, Egleston’s Transplant doctor. Our lives changed in a way they had never changed before. Dr. Mahle not only confirmed the diagnosis of RCM, but told us our only option for Braden would be transplant. Thankfully Braden remains stable so they are able to hold off and not list him yet. We ask for prayers to keep our son stable as long as possible. The doctors are projecting that Braden will be listed and possibly transplanted within the next three years. Nothing is a guarantee. He could decline tomorrow and need to be listed. Every day with him is a blessing.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Feb 10-CHD Awareness- Bennett's Story

Bennett was born December 30th, 2010 with Critical Aortic Stenosis. After birth, he was transported to CHOA where he immediately had a cath done to balloon his aortic valve in hopes to give him some growing time. This was successful and at 2 months of age, he went in to heart failure and had his 1st open heart surgery in which they replaced his aortic valve with his own pulmonary valve and he has a donor valve in place of his pulmonary valve. Unfortunately after surgery, he was struggling to survive and was placed on ECMO and we were given little hope for his survival but after 5 days of ECMO, he never took a step back! He has had 2 more heart caths since and we are currently waiting to get word when he will need the next surgery to replace the donor valve in the pulmonary position. The pressures on the right side of the heart are very high but he is having no symptoms at this time. The cardiologist says sometime this year, will probably be
when it will be time. We are so thankful to have this spunky little guy in our family. He has been such a blessing. He just celebrated his 2nd birthday which we were not promised and we are just so excited! My hope is that more people become educated about CHD. It affects so many kids and adults as well. I never thought about this until we had Bennett. Thank you for hearing my story! I would love for Olivia to meet him 1 day!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Feb 9- CHD Awareness- Kaitlyn's Story

Kaitlyn Marie entered the world at 6 lbs 7 ounces on August 25th, 2011. After having 3 younger brothers and 2 sons, I finally had a beautiful baby girl!!! Kaitlyn passed her Apgar tests with flying colors and quickly became the model infant! She was content being swaddled while her family cooed over her, only crying when she was hungry or dirty. Two days later, we brought our sweet baby home. Little did we know that 3 weeks later, our lives would be turned upside down! September 16th, she had gotten to where she didn't want to eat, she was very pale, listless and making a grunting noise when she breathed. Her pediatrician wanted us to bring her in right away. When we arrived, they took us straight back to a room. Upon assessing her condition, they decided to check her oxygen level. She told me to pick her up and hold her, then she quickly went to get another pediatrician's opinion. Both doctors came in and conversed amongst themselves, then her pediatrician leaned over and told me that she didn't want me to panic, but they had called an ambulance to take us to Children's. When we arrived at Children's, they whisked us back to a triage room and started poking and prodding on my tiny baby. One of the attending doctors asked if I would consent to a spinal tap to check for meningitis, which I did and thankfully it was negative. They brought in a pediatric cardiologist to do an echo. I remember thinking that it was taking WAY too long! After he finished his exam, he came over to talk to us. It was all a blur. I remember walking behind my little baby in the huge hospital bed as she was being wheeled up to the PICU. I remember them telling us to wait in the waiting area while they got her "settled in". I vaguely remember the cardiologist sitting down with us again and showing us a drawing he had done of Kaitlyn's heart. I remember seeing his mouth move and hearing his voice but had no idea what was saying. I felt like I was in a fog. I had no idea what was going on! All I knew was that our world had been turned upside down! In a nutshell, Kaitlyn has what's called Shone's complex. We were told it's a rare disorder consisting of at least 4 heart defects in the left side of her heart. Her defects are: a Bicuspid Aortic Valve, Hypoplastic ascending aorta, Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), mitral valve stenosis, fenestrated atrial septum, coarctation of the aorta, and multiple ventriculal septal defects (VSD's). She underwent her first surgery September 29th, 2011 at 5 weeks old. They repaired her coarctation and put a pulmonary band on to try to even up the pressures going to her lungs. Since that surgery, Kaitlyn has been nothing short of a miracle! Looking at her, you'd never know! She left the hospital on .5mg twice a day of Enalapril (a blood pressure medicine), which has NEVER had to be adjusted! Today, she's an active 17 month old and is right where she's supposed developmentally. She walks, she talks, she dances, she climbs, she does the "Itsy Bitsy Spider". Her weight is on the lower end. She's in the 3% for weight for babies her age. She had an appointment last week with a nutritionist. Today, she weighed 17lbs 15 ounces; up 13 ounces from last week!!! We'll be going to the cardiologist again in March. We saw him in October, and he decided that since the band was still doing it's job and since she was doing so well, let her grow!!! I'll call in February to make that appointment and we'll go from there! Aside from her heart condition, Kaitlyn has some chromosome disorders. She has a chromosome 3 deletion which she inherited from her daddy and a chromosome 13 isochromosome. The geneticist she sees told us that not enough is known about our DNA. They can't blame the heart condition on this chromosome, but they can't rule it out either. Either way, she's ours and she's PERFECT!!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Feb. 8- CHD Awareness- Auriana's Story

Auriana Faith was born on September 17, 2008 after I spent several weeks in the hospital on monitors due to umbilical cord absent flow and pre-eclampsia. An ultrasound around 18 weeks revealed that Auriana had a severe heart defect known as AV Canal Defect and possibly a chromosome abnormality. When she was born 5 weeks early, Auri weighed just 3 lbs. 10 oz. We found that she had Down Syndrome and a heart defect. She got her first echo-cardiogram at just 1 day old! We were told that Auriana had Complete AV Canal Defect-- No walls in her heart at all!! All her blood mixed up together. She was too weak to eat and had to be NG Tube fed. She had her first open heart surgery around 4 months old. In this surgery, the surgeon went into her heart to build the walls out of gortex patches. She did well and was in the hospital about 10 days. She never learned to eat properly though and was tube fed until she was 29 months old. We were told that Auriana may need another open heart surgery at 10-15 years old to replace the gortex. She was followed by a cardiologist every 6 months. In July of 2011, however, we noticed her tiring more easily and turning purple often. I called and made her a cardiologist appointment. When her cardiologist did an echo he noticed that she had narrowing in her aorta or aortic stenosis. She has another open heart surgery-- subaortic membrane resectioning--in September of 2011, just before her 3rd birthday! They left some of the membrane intact thinking that it was better to leave some since the conduction system of the heart is located in this area. The surgeon explained that he didn't want to risk her needing a pacemaker placed and wanted to give her more time to grow. He said she would probably need another surgery in 3-5 years to open up the aorta some more. Just a few weeks ago Auriana begin having chest pains and after a cadiac cath was done, we were told that the narrowing in Auriana's aorta was measuring around 80 percent (which was higher than it was prior to her previous surgery just 15 months ago!) She also had developed narrowing all the way up into her left ventricular outflow tract (LVOTO- Left Ventricular outflow tract obstruction). She needed surgery, once again, within the month! We went into this surgery on January 25, 2013 with an extremely high probability of her needing a pacemaker and with an expectation for a 6-8 hour surgery. Just 4 hours after surgery began, it was completed and Auriana amazingly had her own heart rhythm!! We will be heading home tomorrow, January 28, just 3 days after surgery!! We are hoping not to need anymore surgeries until the gortex replacement around 10 to 15 years old. Auriana has been a little trooper though! She is so strong and has taught me to be thankful for the little things in life! Auriana has a 7 year old sister, Kylee, and a 1 year old sister, Lily Hope who have been a huge support to her during her surgery! She wants to get better to go home and see her sisters! We thank God daily for being with Auriana and allowing us the blessing of raising her, Kylee, and Lily!! My life would not be the same without my 3 little girls in it!
ps. please forgive me if this story is not well written, this momma has been in and out of the hospital with Auri over the past 3 weeks. 1 ER visit and 4 day stay for chest pains, another hospital stay for vomiting, and finally her surgery. Mommy is tired but so happy to see Auri's heartrate within normal range for a change. (she used to have heartrates in the 40's while sleeping, last night she was reading in the 80's while sleeping. It is such a great feeling to know your child's heart has been repaired and is functioning well. It makes all this worth it!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Feb. 7- CHD Awareness- Lauren's Story

I was born in August of 1987, supposedly a healthy baby girl. I was taken home and thrived. A few weeks after coming home I started to display some things that worried my parents. I was throwing up everything I ateand was developing a rash all over my body. My mom took me to my pediatrician and they told her “I was fine”. My mom knew I wasn’t. Not only her second child, but my mom was a dietitian and had some medical knowledge; she knew something was wrong. My mom took me to the pediatrician’s once a week for 6 weeks, yet the doctors still insisted I was fine, just a mucousy baby. One morning when I was 11 weeks old my mom found that I was breathing very heavy and turning bluish-gray around my mouth. She took me to my pediatrician again and demanded a local hospital to admit me (back then my parents were on health insurance that you needed a request for admittance for tests by the primary doctor). My pediatrician and a nurse checked me over, again… this time they heard a murmur so finally they agreed I needed testing done. I was rushed to the nearest ER and an on call intern who looked at me first just had learned all about Congenital Heart Defects, so he knew it was most likely my heart. I was taken to get a chest x-rays and when he came back said that my heart was very enlarged and most of the right side of my heart was missing. Children’s hospital was called and an ambulance got ready to take me. Once my mom was told what was going on; she called my dad who came from work right away as well as my grandparents. My mom was not allowed to ride in the ambulance due to not enough room. They told my parents I was in severe heart failure and they didn’t know if I’d make it to the hospital. My parents had been thrown into every parent’s WORST nightmare!!

I made it to the hospital and was stabilized. My cardiologist (well the one I had the first 22 years of my life), told my parents I have a Congenital Heart Defect called Tricuspid Atresia, Hypoplastic Right Ventricle (which simply means I only had one working ventricle (my left) or half a working heart) and that I had to have an emergency heart cauterization to re-rip a hole in my heart so blood could flow better. My cardiologist was kind and caring to my parents. I was sent home a few days later on a few medications and a special formula which consisted of concentrated Isomil with polycoseadded (basically formula with tons of calories/fat added)so I could gain weight as I needed to be at least ten pounds for my first open heart surgery which I would have between 3-6 months of age! My mom tells me it was a grueling task to get me to eat and keep down all my formula. She told me it took about an hour for one ounce and she needed to feed me every hour with a syringe. I still very sick and due to a late diagnosis my Pulmonary Artery was about 3-4 times the size it should be, but could not be fixed till I was stronger. That Pulmonary Artery could have popped at any time before my first open heart surgery and would have killed me. Looking at pictures you would never know how sick I was. If that wasn’t a big enough task to take care of me, my parents had my older brother, Ryan, to look after who at the time was only 4 1/2years old and carried a lot of germs that could make me very sick. Of course Ryan adored me so it was hard to keep him away from me. It wasn't easy for them, but they had family to help out and support them. My parents kept strong for me and held onto faith that I would be ok. My parents didn't want to accept that something might happen to me.

In early February of 1988 I had my first open heart surgery called the Pulmonary Artery banding. It was to help the blood flow in my heart and lungs until I was old enough to have a procedure called the Fontan. The surgery went well. Though it was successful in its purpose it didn’t make it any easier on my parents and family. I was still a sick little baby, but my parents never lost hope that I would be ok! As for complications, I had one code blue called during my 10 day recovery because I pulled out my breathing tube, but after that all was well!Soon after returning home I got dangerously sick with RSV! I was taken back to Children's Hospital andadmitted. I spent a few weeks recovering from RSV on lots of medication. My dad tells me my crib has a bubble thingy over it to help me breathe and for breathing treatments (I don’t know the proper name for it). After returning home from recovering, everything went well and my parents as well as my older brother adjusted. I was born with other medical issues, one is an eye muscle disease called Estropia (“Crossed Eyes”), I did patch therapy as a baby and then had my first eye muscle surgery at 18 months old; which was during the time in between my two open heart surgeries. Despite everything, I was a happy baby and smiled a lot!

On November 21, 1989, my parents handed me over to the doctors for my second and riskiest open heart surgery, the Modified Fontan Palliation. It had only been a month before during a heart cauterization that I developed a blood clot in my right leg and scared my parents, now it was one of the biggest days for them and for me. The Fontan was a surgery still a fairly new operation (about 15yrs old). This surgery was either going save my life, take my life, or have my parents looking for other options and my parents knew that all too well. About a 50-60% of me surviving with my specific case waswhat the doctors bluntly told my parents, but my parents hung onto all positives. My parents had a lot of faith in the doctors and God that I would come out ok. I cameout of surgery ok, I was alive! As far as complications that I had from this surgery, I had a chest tube issue (they had to put it back in while my parents held me down as they didn’t have enough nurses around at the time), a SVT/very fast heart rate scare where I coded, apacemaker scare (never got one though, I'm very grateful for that) and I was put on a special diet (medium chain triglyceride diet). All things considered, I did pretty well with recovery. I was discharged from the hospital exactly one month after my surgery which was four days before Christmas 1989. My family had every reason to celebrate. I did too! I got out my mom’s lotion the day I got home and went to town putting it all over myself. I was happy and alive. What more could my parents and family want?

After that second surgery I was as healthy you can be having severe heart condition or “half a heart”. I had years in between the second surgery and any minor concerns. I went to my cardiologist once a year and was on a few medications, other than that I was doing great. I had another eye muscle surgery when I was 8, I got four stitches in the my bottom lip from getting hit be a swing when I was 8.

I got a little brother, named Aaron, when I was 11 years old and that was wonderful; I'd hold him as much as I could. Aaron and I are very close. When I was six my mom got me into acting classes; she signed me up to the family theater in our city. I was in plays till I was twelve when the family theatre group closed. I enjoyed being on stage and it made me feel on top of the world. It is something I will always remember; even my mom was in the plays with me! For my parents and family to see me up on stage happy and alive was so extremely exciting for them. I bowled, started at age 5, which I loved and years later I ended up being on my high school girlsvarsity bowling team. I enjoyed playing with my little brother, Aaron, as well as watching my older brother, Ryan’s, basketball and baseball games. Both my brothers have always been loving and supportive to me.

I was a pretty “normal” child and teenager in most aspects (I did have some limitations though) and for the most part I was a very happy child that loved to talk, to people I knew anyways (I was shy around people I didn't know). Socially I had some trouble and go teased a lot (I was shy, had glasses, couldn’t keep up with other kids during gym/recess and was not allowed to play contact sports), but I did end up making a friend or two which is all I really needed to be happy. Even in tough times I tried to have a positive outlook and have a smile on my face. I loved to write and still do, I have always enjoyed talking, and many of the simple things in life. Unless you knew I had a severe heart condition, than you probably could not tell other than the scars on my chest. My parents were open and honest about my heart my whole life, even when I was young. They always explained things to me in age appropriate ways and only what I needed to know. My mom would always tell me to listen to my body, if I was tired in an activity then stop or if I didn’t feel right then tell someone right away. I became very good at this. Though by age 10, I knew the name of my heart condition, that I’ve had open heart surgeries, what medications I take, etc, but I just did not know the all the seriousness of it. My parents always supported and encouraged me. They always would let me know how special I was and God had big plans for me. I was very Myparents never let me give up on things and gave me a pretty “normal” childhood. I’m thankful for that!

At age 14 I was diagnosed with yet another medical issue, congenital scoliosis, meaning I was born with an extra vertebrae in my back and hips not aligned that caused mild to moderate scoliosis of my back. My back is monitored, but because of my heart, not much can be done. I can get bad back pain, but it something I live with and I try not to have it get in the way of living my life.

It wasn’t till the summer I turned 16 where my health changed for me; it was a turning point so to speak. I broke out into hives all over my body for no reason early one morning and I was so scared. I remember going from doctor to doctor and even my cardiologist, getting my blood taken, getting my heart looked at, everything to find out what was wrong. I was in so much pain because the hives were on my joints too and it was hard to move. Finally, after three months of steroids, being off my heart medications, and being watched 24/7. The hives went away and to this day no one has a clue what happened. From then I realized that anything can happen and I was so grateful and blessed for what I have. I held onto my faith in God, but there were times I questioned everything (and I still do sometimes), but I try to find peace. Since then life has not been easy for me, but it certainly can be worse and I don’t take a thing for granted.

I was diagnosed with exercise and stress induced SuperaVentricular Tachycardia (SVT’s aka very fast heart rate), when I was 18 and I’m on a low dose of a beta-blocker for that (which calms the vessels in my heart so it doesn’t race). When I first got the symptoms of the SVT’s it was scary for me. I had night sweats, bad chest pain, hard to breath, and harder to do daily activates. I was so scared that I didn’t even tell my parents right away, I know now that I should have and I should ALWAYS tell someone if something isn’t right, but it was hard for me to accept that something was wrong. Since the beta-blockers I have been SO much better, but I still struggle with on and off chest pain. It can get frustrating, but I deal with it the best way I can. Since then, I’ve also been diagnosed with muscle spasms (a year ago), mostly on the left side of my body that is usually stress or anxiety induced. I had my third eye surgery in July of 2008 and all went well. I’ve had one trip to the ER of Children’s in July of 2009 due to bad food poisoning. Since 2010, I've been having issues with weird heart beats and some minor heart rate issues, I wore a 30 day heart monitor in Sept. 2011 and it didn't find anything too concerning, just some non harmful palpitations.

Every day I have little reminders that I have a CHD; from my scars to my medications to my on and off pain to getting tired easily. They remind me that each day I’m ever so blessed and grateful to be alive. These reminders also keep fear with me, fear of the unknown and worry, things that are so hard to push completely out of my mind. This CHD has impacted my personality in many ways. My CHD has helped in my very emotional personality, my stubbornness, my bluntness about things, my kindness, and my care for others. It has taught me to be more understanding of people around me, has taught me not to take life for granted, to love the people you care about with all you heart, and to enjoy the simple things in life. It has given me a motivation to help others and to always have faith. I’m thankful for my life; I’ve been very blessed in so many ways. I have two parents who have done SO much for me over the years to bring me to this point in my life, the fought so hard to get me here healthy and happy. For that I will always be internally grateful to my parents, I love them VERY much!! I also have a wonderful family including two grandparents, two brothers, and a niece who I love dearly!! I also have an amazing husband, named Christopher, whom I love so much!! Chris is my rock and best friend. I also achieved my goal of graduating college! I graduated college with a BA in Psychology in 2011. I have big plans for my future including publishing my own book. Though I have a tendency to think negatively sometimes, I’ve been trying my hardest to think more positively!

I will keep spreading CHD Awareness and telling my story!! I have LOTS of Hope that ONE DAY CHDs will be more publicized and researched so that more children will be saved!! My CHD will never go away, but I will take what I can from it and keep living my life to the fullest with lots of smiles, laughs, love, and special memories. I try not to let me CHD define me because I’m so much more than a CHD. I LOVE my life and I consider my mended heart a gift!!

Facebook Page: Lauren's Heart: Living a Full Life with "Half a Heart"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Feb. 6- CHD Awareness-Colt's Story

My husband and I were thrilled to find out we were expecting after trying for 2 years. We were over the moon when we found out we were having a son when I was about 22 weeks along, we had a daughter, and a son would make our family complete! Every time I had a check up my doctor told me the same thing, he is perfectly healthy and he had a good, strong heartbeat. I was so excited, getting his nursery ready and having his baby shower were leading up to what I thought would be a normal birth. When I went in to be induced on May 26, I would soon find out just how wrong I was. Jakob Colt Frisbee was born at 2:39pm after 8 hours of intense labor. I knew something was wrong as soon as he came into the world, he was not crying and his hands, feet and nose were bluish looking. The silence of the nurses and the doctor were also a dead giveaway. The cleaned him up and he began to cry, they immediatly hooked him up to a pulse-ox meter so they could watch his stats, which they told me could be low because he might have gotten some fluid in his lungs while he was being born, they let me and my husband hold him and feed him and everything seemed ok until they moved me into a regular room, but Colt did not go with me he was took to the NICU for further observation due to his oxygen stats being in the low 80's. We began to grow impatient for them to bring him into my room so the rest of the family could see him, so my husband called out nurse and asked her when we could see our son, she said a doctor would be coming in to talk to us soon, and that's all she could say right now. My heart sunk, my mothers intuition knew something was terribly wrong with my new baby boy. As promised, the doctor came in and in a very matter of fact way told us that they believed our son had a heart defect which was causing his oxygen to go below normal but they needed to transport him to Children's Health Care of Atlanta Egelston because they were the best pediatric cardiac hospital in Georgia and our local hospital could not deal with such complex issues. Only hours after giving birth to my son, I watch him and my husband leave via. Angel Care to Atlanta, GA to see what exactly was wrong with him. I was made to stay in the hospital until the morning so my doctor could give me the ok to leave and make the 2 hour drive to Atlanta. Once there I was met by my husband who said very little and looked rattled with sadness as he clutched some papers in his hand, he lead me to the cardiac ICU where our son was being looked after by a team of nurses and doctors around the clock. The sight of him with IV lines and tubes going into his little body was almost too much for me too handle. A nurse lead me over to him and got me a chair, I cried as I stroked his tiny hand. A doctor came over to me and began telling me what was wrong with my son. It's a very complex defect he said, it's causing his blue and red blue not to mix properly which in turn was causing his oxygen to be lower then a normal baby. He told me it was called double outlet right ventricle with transposition of the great arteries, with a straddling mitral valve and a non-restrictive VSD. I had never heard of such a thing before, a nurse began explaining it to me in terms I could understand which I think only made it worse after I realized the severity of it. What can be done I asked thru my tears, well the doctor which I now know as Dr.Wolf, said we aren't sure just yet, his heart defect is complex we are looking at a few options, one is an arterial switch and the other is called a Glenn shunt. We want to monitor him for a while and see how he does breathing on his own, we may end up not doing a surgery until he is older and bigger. He spent the next 3 days in the cardiac ICU, and was then moved to the cardiac step down unit, where he spent 3 more days. I was sitting in his room holding him when Dr.Majhd Machol, a doctor who I just love and think is the absolute best at what he does came in, he explained to me that they would be sending Colt home to get bigger and a little older before they preformed the first surgery, which surgery that would be they still did not know. I was so happy, but going home meant a lot of responsibility on mine and Robert's end. They set us up with Dr. Jane Todd a cardiologist in our home town that Colt would have to see once a week, he was on meds for swelling, acid reflux and blood pressure, he also required breathing treatments once or twice a day. I didn't care all I knew was that my husband was on his way down to Atlanta with my daughter to take baby Colt home for the first time since he had been born!
Once home we had a wonderful homecoming with balloons and family ready to greet baby Colt. We showed him his room for the first time, and I got to bath him for the first time and put some of HIS clothes on his. I was so happy, the sleepless nights that came along with having a newborn didn't even bother me, I would sit up all night with him if I had to, anything was better than being in that hospital. The next couple of months he did well, he was able to celebrate my husbands, mine, and my daughter's birthdays, all which were in July. On July 30, I got a call from one of his doctors, Dr. Martha Clabby, she was calling to tell me that his cardiologist here in Dalton was a little concerned with Colt's visit the previous day where his oxygen stats had been in the low 70's, they wanted Colt to be down at CHOA first thing in the morning for a cardio cath, so they could see why his stats where dropping. I was so worried, thinking this might be it, time for the surgery. Robert, myself, Colt, and my in-laws made the 2 hour trip back down to Atlanta and this time was way more emotional for me that last time, I cried the whole time, while we were checking in, while we were waiting to be took back to the cath lab and while Robert and I waited with him in the room while a tech did a EKG and ultrasound of his little heart. Colt was tired and cranky because they wouldn't let him nurse and that made it worse on me. They doctor who was doing the cath came in and explained everything to Robert and I, and whisked Colt away. 3 hours later they called and said everything had went good and we could come see him. He was pale, and they telling us he was going to have to have a blood transfusion, so we signed the papers, his breathing was hard and that worried me, I kept looking under his blanket at his chest which looked like it was doing so much work just to take a single breath. They then informed us that Colt would be staying overnight because they wanted to observe him for 24 hours. I broke down because I didn't know if I could handle being at the hospital by myself again, my husband, who was the only one working, had to go back to work the next day. With a heavy heart I said my goodbyes to my husband and in-laws and settled myself and Colt into the all too familar cardiac step down unit. The next day the doctors that I had became so familiar with came and to tell me the plan for that day, a procedure called a balloon atrial septostomy, what that meant was that they would go in through the IV line from the cath the day before and take a wire with a tiny razor blade and go thru one of the holes in Colt's heart to make it bigger so more blood could mix, hoping to by him a little more time before the surgery, they still wanted him a little bit bigger and older. They took my baby away for the second time in 48 hours and I was alone in his room, with my thoughts, which can be a bad thing for me. 3 hours later he was back, asleep but with good news, all had went well with the procedure and he oxygen was staying in the mid 80's and he wasn't on any oxygen at all, that was with him breathing on his own! I constantly sat and watched that oxygen moniter for the next 3 days, it became a love/hate relationship, every time it would get close to 81 or 80 I would say a quick prayer that it would not go below 80! Finally he was able to go home, they told me the next time they say me it would most defintely be for surgery, they keep telling me that this was only a temporary fix. We went home and resumed our "normal" life of cardio visits every week and his round the clock meds, hoping that it would be at least 6 months until we had to go back to CHOA for the surgery. We were wrong again.
On August 31 2011, we were at his cardiologist in Dalton for a weekly visit. The nurse who was checking his oxygen levels looked worried as she read the numbers on the meter, she went and got Dr. Salee. Colt's oxygen was at 61, they said he could not wait he had to go back down to CHOA immediatly via ambulance. So we were off to Atlanta again, I called my family to let them know I would call them as soon as we made it down there and I would let them know what they decided to do. Once down at CHOA Colt was back with the familar nurses and doctors of the cardiac step down unit,the doctor was concerned his oxygen was staying in the 60's and he said they would feel more comfortable if he was in the CICU, I lost it and broke down at the thought of having to spend the night in the waiting room without my baby, but whatever was best for Colt. The next morning I waited on news from the cath lab, and the doctors, hoping that they would decide something for sure. They did. Around 5 that evening after my in-laws had came down to keep me company his doctor told me that they decided surgery could not wait and he would be having his first surgery a Glenn bi-directional shunt the next morning at 6am. I was relieved and devistated all at the same time, I called my husband and parents and told them to get down there as quick as they could. They did and we were all together praying and crying for Colt's safety during surgery, The next morning I was unable to hold him because he was hooked up to so many cords, and IVs. My husband and I walked with him to the door of the OR, kissed him and said our "see you laters". We waited in the surgery ICU, and 3 hours later his surgeon came out to tell us the surgery had been a success and he was resting in the Cardiac ICU and we could all go see him later. We finally got to see him about 2 hours later, he looked so pitiful with his newly bandaged incision and what seemed like millions of IVs and tubes, and a ventilator running thru his tiny body. I stroked his hand and whispered softly that Momma was here. I wanted to take all his pain away and make it my own. My family came in to see him and once they were satisfied that he was going to be ok they all made the drive back to Dalton, where we live. My husband and I stayed and slept in the waiting room until 3 days later he was moved into a regular room so we could be with him 24/7. He was doing so good after such a major surgery, they were letting him bottle feed again, and he was smiling a little. My husband and I figured we would be in the hospital for a few more weeks but much to our surprise only a week and 4 days after having surgery Colt was given the Ok to GO HOME! His doctors were so pleased with his progress, his oxygen was staying in the high 80's low 90's and his incision was healing good. We were a little scared to pick him up seeing as though his breast bone had been cut, but we went thru an after surgery class that told us how to care for his incision and how to and not to pick him up. We also left with about 5 different prescriptions. The first week Colt was home was hard, he was cranky and sore, and cried A LOT! He went and saw his regular cardiologist one week later and they were pleased with how well he was doing with oxyegn at 88 and the EKG and Ultrasound of his heart looked good, we went back down to Atlanta two weeks later to get an X-ray of the breast bone and so his surgeon could check his incision. He was very pleased with how well he was healing and told me and my husband we were doing such a great job with him at home and they hoped they wouldn't have to see him again until he was 3 or 4 for his next surgery which will be the Fontan.
Today Colt is a happy and playful 20 month old. He loves to eat, play with his big sister, and watch Elmo. We have learned how precious and short life can be and now we are so much stronger as a family because of what we have been through. I never take anyone or anything for granted anymore.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Feb. 5- CHD Awareness- Brayden's Story

Brayden was born May 31, 2008 with a moderate VSD, pulmonary and aortic stenosis. He was able to thrive for over 2 years until August 2010. He then became winded very easily and it was discovered that there was a muscle in his heart that was over growing (thickening) and it was causing restriction to the blood flow to his lungs. He was suffocating. On September 24, 2010, he had his 1st open heart surgery to trim the muscle, repair the VSD and the Stenosis(s). For a reason still unknown, his heartbeat never came back after surgery. He was diagnosed with a total heart block. He then had a permanent pacemaker implanted on September 30, 2010. He now is as healthy as he can be. His pacemaker doesn't slow him down, if anything it gives him energy to keep going and going. We call him the energizer bunny, because he really is run on a battery. He is a funny, smart, breakdancing kid!
He amazes us every day with his spirit!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Feb. 4- CHD Awareness Story- Katie's Story

Katie was born on March 28, 2006 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. We knew ahead of time that she would be born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). They were able to see at my 19 week ultrasound that she was missing one of the chambers of her heart. We traveled 3 1/2 hours from our home in Tennessee to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for all 3 of her open heart surgeries and any other care that she may need that deals with her heart. Katie did wel,l for the most part, after her 1st two surgeries with little complications, but the Fontan was definitely a challenge. After the Fontan, we couldn't seem to get rid of pleural effusions around her lungs and even came home with pigtail catheters on each side that we had to drain every day at home. She was on the verge of being placed on the transplant list in Jan. 2010 when finally by the grace of God the fluid dried up. In her short life she has had 3 open heart surgeries, 8 heart caths, a g-tube placed due to a paralyzed vocal cord during her 1st surgery (it was removed on her 1st birthday), migraines, lots of medicine, and numerous hospital stays mostly due to the pleural effusions, She is doing well now. She is in 1st grade. She enjoyed playing softball and is now taking a dance class. She loves doing most things that a 6 year old little girl would do.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Feb. 3- CHD Awareness Month- Wills Story

Feb. 3-CHD Awareness Month- Will's Story

I met this sweet family about a year ago. They were the only family to show up at our family It's My Heart Picnic in the Park here in Atlanta. We had a great time sharing stories about our journey with CHD. Will is such a fighter and his big sister pretty special too!

This is Will's story-

We went for our 20 week ultrasound excited to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. My parents had come along to share in the excitement. As I laid on the table and the nurse let us know that we were going to have a boy, she pointed out that she saw something on the ultrasound and she wanted the doctor to look at it. The doctor came in a few minutes later and let us know that something didn’t look quite right with the ultrasound and that he wanted us to hang around and talk with the cardiac specialist that was in the office that day. It took about an hour to get in with the cardiac specialist, but he basically said that my son’s heart had something wrong with it and that we would have to monitor it the entire pregnancy. All he could identify was a hole is his heart and a possible valve problem. My heart sunk knowing that my perfect baby boy had something wrong with him and I wasn’t even sure exactly what was wrong. I have never cried so much in my life and my whole family was heart-broken finding out the news.

Over the next 4 months I had numerous cardiac ultrasound appointments to monitor my son’s growth and the development of his heart. Each appointment was exhausting and nerve wracking worrying about what else the doctor’s may find wrong with my son’s heart. His diagnosis went from just a hole in his heart with a valve problem to include a problem with his pulmonary vein and a possible interrupted aortic arch.

At one point in the process of monitoring the cardiac prognosis of my son’s heart the doctors informed us that about 50% of the time heart babies can have a syndrome known as Digeorge syndrome. I was crushed thinking that I would have to deal with all this at one time and still try to raise a baby. I am the type of person that has to know so we had an amniocentosis done so we would know exactly what we were dealing with. Thankfully the test showed that his genetic makeup did not show the chromosomal deformity.

My son was born August 11, 2011 and he was a healthy 7lbs 1 oz and 20 inches long. He looked completely healthy and no one would have known otherwise if it wasn’t for the massive amount of doctors and nurses in the delivery room awaiting Will’s arrival so they could scoop him up and take him to the ICU. I think we got about 10 minutes with him as best I remember since it was such a whirlwind. We barely had time to get just a few pictures before he was taken away.

The cardiac doctors had informed us that until he was born they would not know the full extent of his defect. It took over 3 hours before the doctors were able to inform us that he did in fact have the interrupted aortic arch in addition to a hole in his heart, a small valve leading from the heart to the aorta, a problem with his pulmonary vein, and stenosis (narrowing) of his aortic arch.

He was transferred to Sibley Heart Center when he was only a day old and his big sister got to meet him for the first time that day. I think that was one of the hardest parts of the whole experience. I didn’t get to let my daughter have that special moment with her baby brother after he was born, she had to look at him through his travel capsule and she couldn’t even touch him. It broke my heart again.

We waited several days once he got to Sibley to find out when his surgery would be performed. He had the surgery when he was 6 days old. It lasted 6 hours and thankfully it was completely successful. Dr. Kogon performed the surgery and he called it a complete repair of his heart. Will stayed in the cardiac ICU for 7 more days and then he was transferred to the step down unit where I was able to spend the night with him, which was the greatest gift I could have had at the time. I had to learn how to use the feeding tube and care for his wound correctly. He did so great with his eating and recovery that we were able to go home after only two days here.

We have had several follow up appointments with the local cardiologist and thankfully each one has gotten progressively better. This last visit in November, the doctor told us we could go another 9 months before he needed to see us again and that his heart had grown enough that his stenosis has improved a good deal.

We have had to involve a physical therapist after my son wasn’t able to sit at 6 months of age and was falling behind on his gross motor skills. It has been 10 months that we have been working with her and Will has mastered sitting, crawling, cruising, and now walking. I never knew how far behind he was until the therapist intervened. The therapist feels like by the time Will turns 3 years old he will be at the same point as other children his age.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Feb. 2- CHD Awareness- Owen's Story

Owen's journey began when he was just 47 hours old, when he underwent surgery to correct a Congential Heart Defect called Tranposition of the Great Arteries. His condition was life-threatening and required immediate open-heart-surgery to reverse the pulmonary and aorta arteries. He spent 8 days at CHOA-Egleston, where he continued to improve day after day. He pulled through like a champ and the surgeons considered his surgery a success. He will be required to see a cardiologist annually, but his long-term prognosis is good. Owen is now a 3 year old that loves to run, play, and eat lots and lots of chocolate. Owen brings his family much joy and reminds them of their blessings all of the time.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kickin' off CHD Awareness Month-My Hero-Olivia's story

What is a Hero? A hero can be many different things depending on who you ask. To some their parents may be their heros, to others it may be superman or a football star. Often times you see children pretend to be hero’s on the playground. But to me, my hero is my ten year old daughter, Olivia. And she doesn’t pretend to be a hero, she is one. She was born on December 19, 2002. This would be the day that we would learn that she was born with several rare Congenital Heart Defects. The day she was born was the day that she began to fight for her life. She has gone through more in her ten years than most do in a lifetime. She was born with Coarctation of the aorta, pulmonary stenosis, mitral valve stenosis, and an enlarged heart. She endured open heart surgery at 6 months of age to repair two of her defects where she remained in the hospital for 3 weeks and has had her second open heart surgery this past May to replace her pulmonary valve and remove a muscle bundle in the left ventricle-something the doctors have never seen before. Every day she takes numerous amounts of meds and has some limitations on what she can and cannot do. But she always smiles and tries her best not to cry and be brave when she gets a poke or test. She shows so much strength and bravery everyday of her life. She is the toughest little girl I know. In addition to her heart defects she also is going through testing for an enlarged liver and spleen and a possible bleeding disorder. You would never know by meeting her that she goes through all of this every day. She shows her courage, hope and strength through her laughter, tears and all of her energy despite her illness, for that she is my biggest Hero, my warrior. Each child is born and most believe with a predetermined path created by God. Not one journey is the same and I believe when you add the element of a congenital heart defect to a child– you have a Heart Hero. I am reminded that when I get down and feel like giving up of what she goes through and I know that I can get through it. No matter what comes her way she endures it and moves on to the next and never complains, always smiling, a true hero. My heart hero.

Wear Red Day

Today is National wear red day! Today we wear red for all those affected with congenital heart defects and heart disease. Will you wear red in honor of those affected? I wear red for my daughter Olivia who was born with multiple congenital heart defects.

Today also marks the start of CHD Awareness month. CHD is the number 1 birth defect and affects 1 in 100 births. Each day for the month of Feb. I will be sharing a CHD story in hopes of helping to bring awareness. We have lots going on this month so Stay tuned!