ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Every February doctors across the country push to spread awareness during heart health month. They focus on a healthy lifestyle and heart disease prevention.
However, one percent of babies in the U.S. are born with a weak heart. Now, a Fort Polk mom is working to inform more parents about Congenital Heart Defect, the most common birth defect.
Amanda Mills and her husband Frank are parents to three boys: Kyle, 9, Samuel, 3 and Noah, 2.
Their sons keep them on their toes, but 3-year-old Sammy didn't always move so fast.
"He was a couple months old, I started noticing different signs," Amanda Mills said. "Something just wasn't right. He wouldn't make a lot of eye contact, he would get very tired. He would sweat a lot."
Sammy's doctors ruled out a heart condition because his heart looked healthy at birth. But, X-rays found something worse when Sammy came down with a lung infection.
"It was a very large hole that was in his heart," Mills said. "It was forcing blood in an opposite direction towards his lungs. That's why he was always making a blank stare. His brain wasn't getting the oxygen it needed."
The hole was a Congenital Heart Defect, which means present at birth. According to the CDC one percent, or 40,000 newborns, have this defect each year. Twenty-five percent of those babies don't see their first birthday.
"As bad as it sounds, a large hole sounded a lot better than losing him," said Frank Mills.
Sammy had open heart surgery at 17-months-old.
"We had never heard of CHD before," Mills said. "It's a very scary moment."
However, after a successful procedure, Sammy was unrecognizable, with loads of energy.
"The way I describe it was, getting him dressed to come home from his heart surgery was like getting him dressed for the first time," Mills said.
Now, both parents want to see more CHD research.
"It's like mother's intuition," Mills said. "I always knew something was there. They just need to look more into when babies are born."
February 7-14 is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. For more information about CHD visit the attached links.