Spectrum Health raises awareness of congenital heart defects


GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Doctors at Spectrum Health say more than 2 million people in the US alone have congenital heart disease; a condition that people are born with.

February 7e marks the start of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, and doctors at Spectrum Health tell FOX 17 it’s important to know the disease can be treated, even if you’re diagnosed later in life.

Willow Eggleston, a 66-year-old woman from the Lansing area, knows this situation all too well.

Eggleston suffers from pulmonary hypertension and began having more severe fatigue and breathing problems over a year ago.

She said, “They said to me a year and a half ago, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to make it Mrs. Eggleston.'”

That’s a prognosis, Eggleston is very happy to say, she was wrong.

She was born with a hole in her heart, but didn’t find out until she was 45, despite having had symptoms her entire life.

Eggleston said seeing the right doctor and talking about his symptoms saved his life.

“Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor. If you have a good cardiologist, go ahead, explain your symptoms, let them know, ”she said.

A hole in the heart is one of more than 360 different subdiagnoses of these defects according to Dr. Marcus Haw, co-director and chief of cardiac surgery at the Congenital Heart Center at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Dr Haw said: “It usually causes flow disturbances in the heart, causing shortness of breath, fatigue.”

Eggleston surgeon, co-director and chief of cardiology at the Congenital Heart Center at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Dr Joseph Vettukattil explained that defects occur before a baby is born and can present soon after. .

Dr Vettukattil said: “If a child is born with difficulty feeding, looks slightly bluer than normal, or takes longer to feed or breathe, or is short of breath, he must be. urgently assessed. “

Sometimes symptoms can show up later in life, said Dr Vettukattil.

“What is important is to look at the early symptoms like if you pass out, have exercise-induced chest pain, have difficulty climbing stairs and are short of breath when doing so. sports activities, or if there is a family history of heart problems, ”he said.

Eggleston came to see Dr. Vettukattil over a year ago.

“She was extremely ill and we had a special device made for her and then brought it here with FDA approval,” said Dr. Vettukattil.

The personalized stent repaired Eggelston’s heart and significantly improved his life. She said she can now go for a walk, enjoy cooking elaborate meals, and go to the store without feeling tired or sleepy all day.

It’s a life change she attributes to her doctors, especially Dr Vettukatil.

Eggleston said: “It has actually given me 20 to 30 more years of quality life and for me now as a senior, to live and enjoy and enjoy my grandchildren.”

Dr Haw and Vettukattil both said findings like Eggleston’s are proof that congenital heart disease can be treated in so many different ways at any point in life.

Dr Haw said: “Electrical treatment, drugs, surgery or cardiac catheterization, and it’s a transformation for patients who can’t get down to Meijer, who can’t walk on the beach, all of a sudden. they are capable of doing all of that. normal things they could do 10 years ago.

Dr Haw said most congenital heart problems are now found before a baby is born and Spectrum Health offers comprehensive, streamlined care immediately, including surgery and monitoring a patient as they age. until adulthood.

Spectrum’s Congenital Heart Center has also partnered with Michigan State University to research and track data on congenital heart disease.

Since the program began at the hospital in 2012, MSU has reported a 43% drop in the death rate for children born with the disease in the western Michigan area.


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