“Your daughter has a heart defect” is something I didn’t
expect to hear after delivering my second child. I had assumed she would
be born without any health issues just like my first child who is now
two years old. Although I’m a physician, when it’s a member
of your family, any abnormality is difficult to process. The diagnosis
of atrial septal aneurysm and patent foramen ovale, a rare cardiac defect
that is essentially a “door” between her right to left atrium,
should seal as time goes on. Dr. Kip of Children’s Heart Center,
delivered the finding to our family. As shocking as this was, receiving
the information from a trusted professional eased my mind.
Coping with the fact that my newborn has a defect in her heart, even if
it’s likely to remain stable or resolve over time has been extremely
difficult – something that is a constant in my mind. My perspective
on congenital heart defects has completely changed in my profession as
a family physician. I am more aware of potential heart defects when examining
my patients. Some symptoms may include pale gray or blue skin, rapid breathing
and swelling in the legs or abdomen. Luckily, my daughter was diagnosed
before any of these scary symptoms occurred.
My daughter’s cardiac defect was initially found due to a standard
recommendation to evaluate for cardiac disease based on my history of
lupus and a clotting disorder. This created a potential for associated
neonatal cardiac issues that can develop. Knowing you family history and
obtaining health screens based on your personal or family history is extremely
important. What if myself or my doctor were not proactive and didn’t
request the test? What would happen to my daughter in the future because of this?
Now six-months-old, my daughter has remained stable and her follow-up appointment
revealed the defect is still present, requiring additional follow-up.
I believe every parent expects to hear their baby is completely healthy.
As a family, we are more aware of congenital heart defects and the importance
of continued evaluation with her pediatric cardiologist. My daughter is
a normal, happy baby and I have hope she will continue along this path.
I hope the cardiac defect will heal on its own, like so many with this
I will be raising both of my children to know what it means to be “heart
healthy.” I will make sure they know their family history and make
healthy choices when it comes to diet and exercise. In 2017, Saint Mary’s
Health Network in partnership with the American Heart Association of Northern
Nevada, kicked-off an initiative called Little Hats, Big Hearts to support
this idea. This program was developed by the American Heart Association
and the Children’s Heart Foundation, where red hats made by volunteers
are given to newborns to raise awareness of heart disease and congenital
heart defects, while educating on the importance of heart health from
birth to senior. Every baby born at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical
Center will be given a red hat in support of this program. Together we
can help educate our families on the importance of heart health through
For more information about the Little Hats, Big Hearts program, visit
Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell oversees Saint Mary’s Medical Group’s
urgent care clinics and is instrumental in enhancing the patient experience.
She is passionate about family medicine and collaborating with her team
and patients to provide quality medical care. Born and raised in northern
Nevada, Dr. Curry-Winchell is a wife and mother of two beautiful girls.