November 30 is Newborn Heart Defect Screening Awareness Day. I think it is very important to spread this awareness, especially since congenital heart defects (CHD) are the number one birth defect in babies. CHD affects 8 out of every 1,000 newborns and is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defect. A simple screening, which is done via pulse oximetry done within the first 24 hours of the baby's life, could prevent such deaths from happening. One such death was a five-day old baby named Cora.
I was born with a congenital heart defect and nobody knew until I was about five or six months old. My mom began noticing that the simplest act of eating from my bottle completely wore me out. And when my lips and fingernails began to have a bluish tinge to them, she knew something was very wrong. Unfortunately at that time we lived on an Indian reservation in Wolf Point, Montana so there weren't a lot of specialists in the area. The closest one was in Great Falls and that doctor told my parents there was nothing that could be done. Thankfully, my parents took me to a pediatric cardiologist in Bismarck who confirmed I had a heart defect and that I needed surgery.
Things are so much different than they were in the 1970s. At the time, there was hardly any available information regarding congenital heart defects and the technology was not there to detect such defects. Times have changed and since these screenings are now available, I strongly suggest that if you have a newborn or are going to have a baby get him or her screened for a heart defect.