I’m Caitlin, born in November of 1989 in New Jersey and am the youngest of 3. I have pulmonary atresia with an intact VSD. Shortly after my birth a nurse noticed that I was blue, the neonatologist thought that it was fine. Nonetheless, the wonderful nurse decided to call the pediatrician who ordered an EKG and chest x-ray, both came back abnormal. My cardiologist who I stayed with until I was 25, did an echocardiogram and eight hours after my birth I was rushed over to the hospital via ambulance. At three days old I had a catheterization and the doctor noticed that I had sinusoids all over my heart, which was a concern.
There was a risk that the blood would go to the sinusoids and not to my right ventricle, which would cause me to have a heart attack on the table. The anesthesiologist told my father that anesthesia was the “least of my problems”. My parents were told that an extremely experimental and risky surgery was my best shot at a normal life. My pulmonary valve was blocked so they put a Blalock shunt in my heart and opened it just enough to allow the right ventricle to function properly.
The surgery was successful, but my scar got infected and I grew keloids on my scar, which I had removed a few years ago. I had my second surgery when I was six months old because I was having difficulty breathing. They had to balloon the shunt further in order to resolve this. I had my last surgery (for now) at 11 months old, where they took the shunt out and put a patch on the valve. They also repaired my Atrial Septic Defect and my tricuspid valve. I stayed very active in my childhood by dancing, and playing softball, basketball and field hockey, but will need surgery in the future to replace the patch on my valve. They are waiting for what they feel will be the best time in my life. I stay healthy by walking my dog and doing hot yoga a few days a week, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water. My life would appear from the outside to be fairly “normal”, which is what I always wanted.
I Go Red to help inspire others and to show that congenital heart defect patients can do more than just survive, but they can thrive and live lives that others would deem “normal”. I Go Red to inspire myself, to learn to be grateful and thankful for each day. I Go Red to help parents see that their sick children can grow into beautiful and smart children who have no limits. I Go Red for my family, to say thank you for the sleepless nights and the stressful days that suffered when they didn’t know what would happen. I Go Red to show my brothers, that I am grateful for never letting my heart defect be an excuse. I Go Red to show other young girls that scars are beautiful, that scars have stories and that stories shape your life in countless ways. I Go Red for the hope that in the future the American Heart Association can continue to provide research, so that one-day defects can be fixed and there are no more blue babies!
The Go Red for Women Luncheon is a beautiful opportunity to meet other survivors and learn about the growing technology in New Jersey, new treatment, and ways to continue to stay healthy. It is always a fun and exciting environment where everyone can let their hair down and feel beautiful! It is a chance to spread news and talk to medical professionals and spread the word and reasons why we all Go Red!
To join the movement or attend a luncheon, visit www.goredforwomen.org.