Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Become a CHD Advocate!

When you are a survivor, or a parent of a child that is or was affected by a CHD, you often feel helpless in a sea of insurance, legislation and lack of information. Many many of us never knew that 1 in 120 children born each day are affected with CHD before we received a diagnosis. And almost everyone affected wants to change that.

Many groups across the U.S. are working on providing support and comfort to people affected by a CHD diagnosis. But who is working with our legislators and government agencies to bring about desperately needed change? How can we create a better future for CHD survivors?

The answer? The National Congenital Heart Coalition. Formed just over a year ago, this coalition is the culmination of six major, US national groups' efforts to create a climate of change for our disease. We seek to create better avenues of awareness and advocacy, which in turn will lead to greater focus on research and technological advancements that will save lives through earlier diagnosis, better screening, advancements in quality of life and surgical breakthroughs. Consisting of the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA), the Children's Heart Foundation (CHF), Children's Heart Information Network (CHIN), Mended Little Hearts (MLH), Saving Little Hearts, It's My Heart (IMH) and Little Hearts, this newly founded organization is already making strides in unifying our cause. Current projects include the creation of a unified message, creating a presence in government agencies who monitor CHD and distribute funds for research and, most recently, a unified effort in lobbying our government for a central registry of CHD statistics.

Lobby Day has been a significant effort undertaken by the ACHA over the two years. This year, the entire National Coalition (NCHC) is behind the effort, and YOU are invited to help us make a difference! You are welcome to attend the lobby day, which will be held on February 10, 2009 in Washington DC. Or, you may learn how to participate in your own local area.

Online registration is now open and available at:

Monday, October 20, 2008

CHD Death Incidence in Infancy

Source: Patient Health Information, 13 October 2008

MedWire News: A significant number of babies are dying soon after birth because of undiagnosed congenital heart disease, a US study suggests.

To examine the extent of the problem, researchers from the University of California used the California death registry for the years 1989−2004 to assess data on 898 infants who died of congenital heart disease between birth and 1 year of age.

They found that, in total, 152 of the babies had a missed diagnosis of congenital heart disease. The average age at death was 14 days and more than half of the babies died at home or in the emergency department, indicating that they had been discharged from the postnatal ward. The team concluded that current screening methods are inadequate.

That's roughly 1 in 8 deaths with a condition previously undiagnosed that died at about 14 days. It is not clear that these children could have been saved if they had been diagnosed on time. Only time, and the creation of an adequate registry for CHD, will provide these answers.

This is one front that all CHD organizations, large and small, should be united on - creating an adequate survey of patients, births and deaths related to CHD, so that we can truly begin to understand this series of anomolies.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Moral Obligation to Give Back

If you haven't yet subscribed to Adventures of a Funky Heart, (written by an adult CHD survivor and packed with humor and insight), I highly encourage you to peruse the interview he recently conducted with Amy Verstappen, President of the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) and a survivor of Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Great Arteries. In her interview with Steve, Amy discusses her "moral obligation" to give back to the CHD community after her personal experiences as an adult survivor. Her personal story is an interesting one, but the action she has taken is nothing short of inspirational.

In the past year, the ACHA has recently joined with several other Congenital Heart Defect organizations to form the National Congenital Heart Coalition. Amy is actively involved in creating new legislation to bring much needed research and attention to CHD issues.

“I am 100% positive that in the long run we will have an integrated, high quality care system for all survivors,” Amy says in the interview. “Our really long term goal is to have a very unified system with research, a registry, a way to quantify outcomes, all the centers talking to each other, sharing information and building knowledge together...”.

Ms. Verstappen is determined to educate parents on the long-term needs of CHD patients. She tells Steve that she “...presented a pilot version of [a new brochure designed by ACHA specifically for parents] to a group of Heart Moms - all leaders of some of the advocacy groups for children - three of them told me that no one had ever told them that their child was going to need this level of care.” Amy goes on to describe some of the questions that parents of children with a heart defect should be asking.

I can tell you, as one of those moms who didn't know or understand the long term implications (I have a child with Transposition of the Greater Arteries who I was told was "fixed!"), that the information provided is valuable and too important not to take a moment to read.

I highly encourage you to take a minute and check out the latest entry at Adventures of a Funky Heart! Not only is it a great personal story of one of the movers and shakers of the CHD community, but it is also a great source of information for parents, teens and adults alike!