CHARLOTTE, NC — Breyanna Barton is grateful for her daughter Journi Heggins, and the family is sharing her story during Birth Heart Defect Awareness Week in hopes of saving lives.
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Journi Heggins was born with a congenital heart defect
Congenital heart defects can be deadly if not caught early
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week runs from February 7-14
Journi, 3, had a congenital heart defect as a newborn called abnormal total pulmonary venous return (TAPVR). The condition prevented his body from getting enough oxygen.
According to the CDC, TAPVR is considered a critical CHD, which means babies with this condition should have surgery or receive treatment before age 1.
Barton discovered the diagnosis three weeks after Heggins’ birth during a routine check-up appointment.
“If I hadn’t taken Journi to the doctor that day, she might not be there,” Barton said.
Doctors noticed Heggins’ nostrils dilating and realized her oxygen level was low, which forced them to rush her to the emergency room.
“It’s very scary and overwhelming. Honestly, I felt like I was dreaming or in a movie,” Barton said.
Heggins underwent two open-heart surgeries as a newborn.
“For her to be alive, thriving, healthy was beautiful, and I’m just grateful,” Barton said. “His nickname is a blessing for everything we’ve been through. I cherish every moment with my baby.
Heggins has a scar from the operations, which his mother tells him to kiss as it shows his strength. Aside from annual visits to the cardiologist, Heggins has no other limitations related to his coronary artery disease.
Barton raises awareness of coronary heart disease with his company, Journi Ahead. In 2020, it became her full-time job to sell skincare products and items for Heart Warriors and their families, including face masks and shirts.
Barton donates a portion of its profits to non-profit organizations. Last year, she supported the American Heart Association.
According to the CDC, signs of coronary heart disease in babies include blue tinted fingernails or lips, rapid or troubled breathing, fatigue when feeding, and drowsiness.
The agency also says survival from coronary heart disease depends on severity, time of diagnosis and treatment received.
Novant Health pediatric cardiologist Dr. Matthew Brothers said that with awareness, technology and new protocols, most coronary artery disease today is detected in the womb and after birth.
He said there are more adults living with coronary heart disease in the United States than children. He added that some people with severe coronary heart disease are monitored for their condition throughout their lives.
“Most patients don’t have any symptoms, which becomes a problem as they enter adulthood because young adults, as we know, always feel fine until they don’t. not. And so trying to get them to understand that yes, you may feel fine. Yes. You have no symptoms, but it’s still important to get routine care,” Brothers said.
This year, Coronary Heart Disease Awareness Week took place from February 7 to 14.