MIAMI (CBS4) – These days you see hearts all over the place, in cards and store windows promoting Valentine’s Day. But when you see those hearts, please remember that this is also Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week.
On Tuesday, a special luncheon was held at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami for children born with congenital heart defects and their families. Every February, Sonia Perez, the founder of Angel’s Pediatric Heart House, puts together the gathering.
“It’s really a celebration,” Perez said. “We are celebrating their lives.”
It’s also a time for the kids to be reunited with the nurses and doctors who helped save their lives.
Vilson Francois, 13, is so thankful because not too long ago he couldn’t run, play sports, or even climb the stairs without getting out of breath. Now after his open heart surgery that he had over Christmas, he can do all those things.
“Most of the world doesn’t know much about congenital heart disease,” said Dr. William Harmon of Holtz Children’s Hospital. “But everybody here certainly does.”
CBS 4 News Anchor Shannon Hori was the keynote speaker for today’s event. One of her four year old twin boys was born with a congenital heart defect and had open heart surgery when he was two days old. While still recovering at Holtz Children’s Hospital, Colt had a cardiac arrest at three weeks old and doctors had to reopen his chest and manually pump his heart to get it going again. But today, he has no problem keeping up with his brother Cade.
About 9 out of every 1,000 children are born with a congenital heart defect. In many cases, with proper medical care, the children can have full, normal lives.