AWARENESS: Undetected congenital heart defects

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While you've probably heard of babies born with holes in their hearts, did you know some of these congenital heart defects may go undetected until adulthood?

In four years of marriage, Mike Dimaggio has gladly accepted the role of caregiver for his wife, Kelly.

"I was born with a complex congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Essentially means I was born missing [the] left side of my heart."

But recently, Mike went form Kelly's caregiver to the patient in a heartbeat. When he passed out at home after a minor surgical procedure.

"He was as white as a sheet, drenched in cold sweat and I was hysterical."

An ER doctor ruled out stroke and cardiac arrest, but told Mike to see a cardiologist.

He made an appointment with Kelly's doctor.

"On the ultrasound, we were able to find a hole between the top two changers of his heart which is called an atrial septal defect," said Dr. Stacy Fisher.

One in 100 babies is born with a heart defect. Mike's is one of the more common defects, but it may never be detected in some people.

"The hole between the top two chambers of the heart can be very hard to hear, it's fairly silent, so often people don't find it until they have a problem with it."

The hole was damaging Mike's heart, so he had a catheter procedure to close it.

Mike's recovering quickly and Dr. Fisher credits his 60 pound weight loss in recent years, and improvements to his diet and exercise regime, with dramatically improving his outcome.

"It made the risk of his procedure less, it made his recovery easier so he could get right back up and start walking."

The Dimaggios made the lifestyle changes together to improve Kelly's health.

Turns out, they became crucial to Mike's as well.

"Had that not happened, I don't think he would have been nearly as lucky as we were."

Dr. Fisher says warning signs for an atrial septal defect include shortness of breath, heart palpitations and fluid retention on the legs or belly.

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a medical professional.

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