MIAMI (CBS4) – CBS4 news anchor Shannon Hori was shocked to learn that her son Colt had a rare congenital heart defect that required open heart surgery when he was just two days old.  Since that time two years ago, she has learned how many families are impacted by congenital heart defects.

Eight out of 1,000 children are born with a congenital heart defect.  In fact, it’s the number one birth defect and twice as many children will die from congenital heart defects as in all childhood cancers combined.

Sonia Perez is the founder of Angel’s Pediatric Heart House, a non-profit organization which offers support to families with a child with a congenital heart defect.  She started it in 2004, shortly after her husband Dr. Angel Perez died.  He was a pediatric cardiologist.

We caught up with her at Jackson’s Holtz Children’s Hospital as she was delivering care packages there to children with congenital heart defects, something she does every month at three South Florida hospitals.

“I believe they’re (the families) so brave and courageous,” Perez said.  “Everything they go through and they inspire me.”

The Jatib family has been through a lot.  Their son Zach, 5, has had three heart surgeries.

“Never thought in a million years that he could have a heart defect.  I didn’t even know much about heart defects,” said Zach’s mom Dayna Jatib.

But thanks to organizations like Angel’s Pediatric Heart House, they’ve now met other families going through similar situations.

“You definitely enter into a new family because you’re not alone. You’re not alone,” said father Omar Jatib.

Anyone can have a child with a congenital heart defect.  Sometimes, likes in Zach’s case, the defect is diagnosed before the baby is born. Most of the time, the cause is unknown. The defects can range from mild to severe.

Dr. Marco Ricci is the surgeon who performed the life-saving heart surgery on Shannon Hori’s son Colt.  He works at Jackson’s Holtz Children’s Hospital.

“The reality is we can’t help everybody.  The prognosis has improved substantially.  Able to go to school, do things every other child can do,” Dr. Ricci said.

As for Zach, he says that the one thing he’s learned is what his Mommy and Daddy have taught him.

“I’m blessed,” he said.


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