A year and a half ago, an 18-year old girl from our NPH Dominican Republic home was dreaming to climb to the top of the tallest mountain in the country, Pico Duarte, with a group of other NPH children and a guide.
To confirm that the group was in good health and physical shape, they had their regular (annual) medical checkup. At this time the 18-year old told the NPH doctor that sometimes she feels short of breath when she walked very fast, though she wanted to go on the hike anyway. This complaint along with the findings in the physical exam, was the reason for our doctor to do further tests. The result was that she had a congenital heart condition with three components: a hole between two chambers or ventricular septal defect, engrossment of right cavities and tricuspid valve regurgitation. She needed surgery and the sooner the better.
Thanks to the support and network of members of the local NPH family and the Dominican Branch of Heart Care Foundation, she was a candidate for surgery which was performed on Friday, July 31, by the best cardiologist team in the country. She is already recovering from surgery in the NPH clinic.
Congenital heart conditions, also called defect or abnormality, are quite common among children and adolescents in general and in particularly from poor families in developing countries. In some cases the longer a person is not diagnosed, the function of the heart gets worse and to repair it is more complicated and dangerous. Repairing defects during the first months of life is a lot easier due to the impact that the defect has on other organs or systems.
Congenital means existing at birth as a result when the heart blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally. The range of defects varies in severity from simple problems such as a “hole” between chambers in the heart, to very severe malformations such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves. Some need rapid surgery right after birth and others can wait years.
Having a congenital heart defect also increases the risk for developing certain medical conditions and or associated conditions such us pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, etc. Not all require treatment and some may need just observation. Others may need to reduce the defect or repair the effect with surgery.
The NPH Medical Services team and local healthcare staff look for every opportunity to help our children reach their full potential so they can climb a mountain, or achieve any goal that they have.
Medical Services Team