Action Alert – Educate Congress About CHD!

It’s Time to Educate the New Congress about CHD!

A new Congress not only brings new lawmakers to Washington D.C. but a whole host of new staff members, as well.  Many of these folks have only a little knowledge of CHD, at best. With the current conversation about our nation’s healthcare system, it is important that they have at least a basic understanding of this common and costly disease.

Please take this opportunity to educate those new to their offices, and refresh the minds of those who’ve been around for a while.

Just last week, the CDC published great new information about healthcare costs related to birth defects indicating that hospital costs for congenital heart disease exceeded $6 billion in 2013, which should also be of interest to your lawmakers.

Sending an email is simple!!

  1. Find your legislator’s contact information.

 a) Visit senate.gov or house.gov
b) If this is your first time reaching out, use the contact form on the legislator’s website to send your email.
c) If you have identified the Health LA, or had a previous contact with your member or a member of their staff, please feel free to use the direct email address you were given.

2. Copy and paste the paragraph below and personalize

a) Include your legislator’s name
b) Add your own personal story where indicated
c) Sign with your name, city, state and contact info

3) Send it!

—— EXAMPLE——-

Dear Congressman/Senator [name],

In light of the current conversation about our nation’s healthcare system, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a particularly vulnerable population and share with you a recent CDC publication.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect and the leading cause of birth defect-related infant mortality. Nearly one third of children born with CHD will require life-saving medical intervention such as surgery or a heart catheterization procedure. With improved medical treatment options, survival rates are improving with a population of 2.4 million and growing. However, there is no cure. Children and adults with congenital heart disease require ongoing, costly, specialized cardiac care and face a lifelong risk of permanent disability and premature death. As a result, healthcare utilization among the congenital heart disease population is significantly higher than the general population.

In fact, last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published key findings that report that hospital costs for congenital heart disease exceeded $6 billion in 2013. (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/features/kf-hospital-stays-costs-birthdefects-2013.html)

Congenital Heart Disease is common and costly, and attention to the needs of this community is critical.

We urge you to

  • protect affordable access to health care for this population
  • support robust research and surveillance to help understand the natural history of CHD and related healthcare utilization to improve outcomes and value, reducing overall and individual health care costs

The high cost of CHD has impacted my life: [ONE-TWO SENTENCES]

Ex: My husband owns his own small business and we reached our $10,000 insurance deductible due to the medical care Nicholas needs to make sure his heart isn’t getting any sicker, and instead he can continue to be an accelerated middle-school student with dreams of being an engineer and owning his own business.

Someone you know has been impacted by the most common birth defect and the high price tag associated with it.

Join us as together, we are #ConqueringCHD

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address

JJ Merryman

JJ Merryman was born on November 10, 2015. At four weeks old, he was diagnosed with coarctation of aorta, requiring emergency heart surgery. At 11 months old, he was diagnosed with recurrent coarctation of aorta. His aorta had narrowed again and he had a balloon angioplasty cathaterization. JJ will be followed his whole life by a cardiologist.

Harper Wooton

Our daughter Harper was born on January 16, 2015. We knew before she entered this world with us that we would be faced with some challenging situations. Harper was diagnosed with HLHS at 25 weeks before birth. We knew she would have to overcome many obstacles, but not once did we lose our faith that God would take care of our girl. She was born 7lbs. 7oz. 18 inches at 2.09 pm @ Vanderbilt. She was exactly what I imagined she would be beautiful and rosy pink.

When she was three days old she underwent her first OHS known as the Norwood. During this time waiting to see how she was doing we were informed by our Cardiologist Dr. Mettler that her heart was the poorest they have seen in a very long time. They didn’t think she would make it through the night. But our God came through and she was put on ECMO for about 14 days. During those 14 days she underwent all sorts of different procedures trying to give her the best shot to come off ECMO. She finally did and we were so proud God pulled through for us once again. She did well and looked amazing for 7 days.

During the 7 days they did many ultrasounds to make sure all was well with her and it was, but they didn’t predict what would happen next. We went home just to get a good nights rest with her older brother Gavin. I kept telling my husband (Josh) that something just was not right with her. I had that feeling. I kept telling the drs but they assured me that they didn’t suspect anything form all the tests they had ran. But early morning I called to check on her before heading back and the nurse reassured me she was doing well and had a great night. But 15 minutes later they called back and she had went into cardiac arrest. I knew it I said and I flew up to Vanderbilt. When I arrived I knew that feeling that she was not going to be ok from now on. She immediately went back on ECMO and sustained being on that machine the rest of her time.

After cardiac arrest they did numerous test EEG, EKG, and ultrasounds. They even took her back again for another OHS to try and remove the clot but it was gone and we thought our prayer was answered then. But little did we knew it just moved around in her little body messing every organ up that stood a chance. During the next couple of days we watched her to see how she would progress. They decided they would take her back for another OHS to redo what they did in Norwood and just rerun her bt shunt straight to her lungs. I thought ok this is it we got this. But over time her progression just seem to worsen and we as parents had to dig deep and come to a conclusion that God needed her and we were so lucky to have her as long as we did.

Days to come she was put on dialysis to get the fluid off. She just was not doing well at this point. They told us during many meetings with them that a time would come when we would have to call family to come see her. So we called every close relative to come as soon as they could. We waited out three days of visits just to make sure everyone got to see and hold her as best as they could.

On the 15th of March at noon they would slowly turn down the ECMO machine to see how she would do. Within minutes we all knew that this was it for Harper. Her lips turned blue instantly. We prepared at that second a time we thought we would never have to face as parents. I held her in my arms and as my husband sat beside us as we watched her pass in my arms. I know that God was right there with us the whole time. Harper lived for 59 days but most of her life was spend on ECMO except 7 days.

Callie Morefield

We heard the words no parent wants to hear at our 20 week appointment, “there’s something wrong with her heart”. After many doctors appointments we found out our sweet baby girl had Truncus Arteriosus. This was not only a severe CHD but a very rare one at that. We did lots of research and educated our selves, we interviewed both Dr Metler and Dr Bichell and ended up loving both of them. Dr Bichell did Callie’s surgery 8 days after her birth. It was a success with one complication Callie’s pulmonary arteries are very small and she now has pulmonary hypertension as well as mild aortic stenosis. Callie is now 5 months old and we are preparing for her first heart cath. This journey has been the scariest thing our family has ever been through, but it has defiantly made us stronger. Our daughter shows us everyday what a true fighter looks like.

Eli Schurrer

Our son, Eli was diagnosed pre-natally at the 20 week ultrasound with a congenital heart defect. We were absolutely devastated and terrified at this news, especially when we learned that he would undergo open heart surgery quickly after birth. His surgery, at one week old, went well and he came home in 17 days. At 4 months old, we realized that he wasn’t growing and under doctor’s care we altered his diet. We were relieved that he quickly turned a corner.

In March 2016, he had his second open heart surgery and came home in just 72 hours! Less than a week after surgery he was jumping off couches (his mommy was both relieved that he was himself, yet terrified that he wasn’t resting enough.)

Eli celebrates his 4th birthday in February 2017 and is a rambunctious, charming, affectionate, energetic pre-schooler who loves to draw, play soccer, give lots of kisses eat chocolate chip cookies in two bites. But having a heart defect is a lifelong condition and it affects our entire family. Our daughter, who is almost three years older than him, adores her brother and has a tendency to worry.

We are confident that he is receiving the best care and try to truly enjoy every day with our strong little family. Our family has been very active within the heart community, committed to supporting families like ours, while always building awareness of congenital heart disease within our community. Eli’s mom has already been to D.C. once to advocate for CHD families and she plans to go again in 2017.

Caleb Sams

After what appeared to be a picture perfect pregnancy, we were so excited to head to the hospital for our first child, Caleb, to be born.  This day, which began with excitement and joy, would turn into a roller coaster of emotions.

After hours of labor, it was apparent that Caleb was in trouble. His heart rate kept dropping.  Finally his heart rate dropped and would not come back up.  I was rushed back to do an emergency cesarean. When he was born, Caleb’s oxygen saturation never went above the 60s. A normal person’s oxygen saturation is usually above 95.  I kept asking to see him and the nurses kept replying, “we just need to pink him up a little.”  As naive new parents we accepted this explanation.  However when they finally showed him to me, they told us something was wrong and he would need to be taken back to the special care unit.  After a couple of hours of trying to diagnose the problem, it became clear the complication was related to Caleb’s heart and he would need to be transferred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Caleb was brought to me in an incubator where I was finally able to touch his hands and feet.  While I tried desperately to soak in these brief moments with him, the transfer team explained to us that something was wrong with his heart and that he would require open heart surgery most likely within the first week of his life.  My husband then went with our son, while I had to remain at the birthing hospital.  At Children’s Hospital they diagnosed Caleb with a Congenital Heart Defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries.

Only three days later our sweet newborn son had open heart surgery to save his life.  Kissing our son and sending into an operating room with doctors and nurses we had only just met the in the last couple days was one of the most excruciating moments of our lives.  After hours and hours the surgery was finally complete.  Caleb did well in the surgery and recovered quickly with very few complications.  

Looking at our son now still amazes us sometimes.  He has needed some extra help in areas because of developmental delay and he does have a couple complications with his heart that his cardiologist is monitoring.  But over all Caleb is a typical little boy.  He plays basketball, loves playing outside, and can tell you anything you want to know about his video games.  Our miracle boy fills our lives with joy and laughter.  He has changed our lives forever and reminds us every day to focus on what is truly important.

Ruby Schupbach

Ruby Jane Schupach _ SmalAt 24 weeks pregnant, we learned that our 4th child had a congenital heart defect – we were diagnosed with Pulmonary Atresia with VSD. We decided to transfer our care to C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital after the initial diagnosis, as we are located in Lansing.

Four days before we were scheduled to be induced at Mott’s, my water broke in the middle of the night, so we rushed to Sparrow and awaited meeting our newest addition. Ruby Jane was born on October 23, 2015 and weighed 6lb 3oz. When the doctor said “It’s a girl” we started crying- I had wanted another girl to name after my beloved Grandma and we had 1 girl and 2 boys already. Ruby spent the first 3 days of her life at Sparrow in the NICU because they did not know how to take care of her, and because she was born on a Friday, we had to wait until Monday to be transferred to Mott’s. We did not get to hold her until later in the evening on her birthday, and that was extremely difficult. Her brothers and sister only got to meet her through Facetime until we got to Mott’s. 

Ruby spent the first week of her life at Mott’s for observation and then we were able to go home and let her just be a baby. At one month old, she had her first open heart surgery by Dr. Romano to place a shunt in her pulmonary arteries to help them grow. We only had to stay in the hospital for one week before being discharged. At 5 months old, she had a brief scare and we were rushed to Mott’s for observation and a heart cath. It was then determined that she needed a larger shunt, so we were scheduled for our next open heart surgery 3 weeks later. Ruby has had 2 heart caths and she is scheduled for another heart cath at the end of January. For the moment, we are at a standstill and just waiting for her to grow so she is ready for her full repair. 

Ruby is a little behind in her milestones, but overall she is doing great. She just started walking and she loves ice cream! Overall, we are so amazed at how strong she is, just like all heart babies. There are not enough words of thanks to Dr. Romano, Dr. Goble, or any of the other doctors and nurses at Mott for saving our baby girls life.

Ava Petz

Ava PetzThis is Ava. After an exhausting pregnancy, we were excited to welcome her on February 17, 2013. The joy was short-lived, as the nurse heard a heart murmur during her exam. My husband and I each held her for a few minutes and then the nurse took her to the nursery to be checked further. She never came back. After what seemed like hours I had my husband, Marc, go there to see what was going on. He came back and said that they were still working on her. I immediately had a terrible feeling that something was very wrong. On my way to recovery from the delivery room, my nurse took me to the NICU to see Ava. She was hooked up to many lines and cords and had an oxygen hood over her head. Her oxygen level was only in the upper 70’s despite being on the oxygen. My visit there was a blur but I do remember a very angry Ava kicking her feet as the nurse was trying to poke her foot for a blood draw. It was overwhelming and scary.  Around 3 am, Dr. Grifka came into my room and told us that Ava had Pulmonary Atresia with Intact Ventricular Septum as well as an Atrial Septal Defect.  Her right ventricle was small and her Tricuspid valve was small and malformed.  It was absolutely devastating.  We had no idea that anything was wrong during the pregnancy.

 

She was airlifted to University of Michigan Mott Children’s hospital right away the next morning and had her first open heart surgery at 3 days old. After almost 4 weeks at Mott’s we were home! She had a bumpy road after coming home. She developed an infection in her incision, formula and reflux issues, as well as tubes in her ears at 3 months. But she has shown her strength and feistiness from the very beginning.  She had her second open heart surgery at 13 months and is now thriving. She will be turning 4 soon and you would never know she has a CHD.  She is full of LIFE, energy and spunk.  She definitely keeps me on my toes and does not let her CHD define her!

Owen

Owen was born on July 16, 2012, a healthy baby boy. He passed all his newborn tests and we were both sent home with the elation of new parents.

After a few weeks, I noticed that nursing was getting quite difficult, as Owen would nurse for only a few minutes, then fall asleep. As soon as I would burp him, he’d wake up and cry because he was hungry. I was literally nursing him every 45-90 minutes.

I had a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right. I took him to see our pediatrician and she discovered he was not gaining any weight, approaching failure to thrive. She suggested I give him a bottle of pumped milk after nursing and come back in a week, which I did, and he had gained over a pound! At that point, we just assumed I wasn’t making enough milk for him.

Our pediatrician then did a once over on him, since we were so close to his 6 week well child check up. It was then she heard a slight heart murmur. It was so slight she wasn’t even sure she heard it, but she insisted that we go see a pediatric cardiologist.

Miraculously, we were contacted by the cardiologists office the very next day, asking if we could come in due to a cancellation. We decided to go in, thinking this would be a quick visit. Well, we sure were wrong! After an EKG and an ECHO, it was determined that Owen had aortic stenosis and coarctation of the aorta. It was so severe, they couldn’t detect a pulse on the bottom of his feet!

We were immediately referred to Motts Children’s hospital in Ann Arbor, MI and surgery was scheduled for 5 days later. We were in shock as we headed to Ann Arbor, but somehow we both survived the 5 hour open heart surgery. He had the Ross procedure done to correct the stenosis. We were told that his current conduit pulmonary valve will need to be replaced again around his 5th birthday.

We are so very grateful to Dr. Ohye and his team, as well as the nurses at Mott’s for saving Owen’s life, and putting up with crazy, uptight parents full of questions every 5 minutes! So far, Owen has had a great life- full of energy and not showing any signs of slowing down! He has his yearly cardiologist appointment in February, where it will be determined when or if he will require another open heart surgery to replace his conduit pulmonary valve.

Caleb Dougherty

Caleb Dougherty 1

We found out that our fourth child was going to be born with a heart defect when we learned that his twin had miscarried. Caleb was diagnosed with Tricuspid Atresia and Double Outlet Right Ventricle that resulted in a hypoplastic right ventricle. Caleb was born at U of M Mott Children’s Hospital and had his first surgery at two days old. Things were pretty rough the first week and it was decided that he needed another surgery to replace a shunt a shunt that wasn’t working for him. One week later, he got some new plumbing. After the second surgery, he was stable, but still unable to come off the ventilator. It was determined that the left side of his diaphragm was paralyzed, so the next week, he had surgery to hold the left side of his diaphragm down. He was finally able to come off the ventilator, but he was still in heart failure. After about two months in the hospital, it was determined that Goldilocks needed another tweak to his shunt. The first one was too small, the second was too big and the third was just right. We were able to go home 10 days after downsizing his shunt.

Caleb did very well with his second stage surgery at 5 months old. We struggled with feeding issues, but were finally able to eliminate the NG tube when he was nine months old. He rocked his Fontan surgery at 2 1/2 years, coming home in just 7 days. We joke that he is getting better at having heart surgery.

Now, Caleb is doing amazing! He is a very strong, active and happy six year old. He loves dirt, mud, trucks, and destroying things. He is in kindergarten and loves gym and recess.