Brinley Holmstrom | CHD Awareness Week
For day five of CHD Awareness Week we are highlighting Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) through brave Heart Warrior, Brinley Kristin Holmstrom. Brinley came into the world on February 19th, 2014. It wasn’t until two weeks later that she was diagnosed with TOF. In her short three years of life, Brinley has undergone two open-heart surgeries and stayed four weeks in the hospital. She will likely have to undergo two more open-heart surgeries, one as a teen and one as an adult. When talking about Brinley, her parents describe her as spirited, smart, empathetic and a leader. In their words:
Right now, Brinley is so happy and carefree, so this is more our struggle and story, but overtime, it is slowly becoming hers. She asks us to tell her stories about her surgeries. She also asks if she has to have another surgery and we hate having to say, “We don’t know.” But we believe God is telling a better story for her life than we could ever write. We take comfort in knowing that God doesn’t just know her future, he has already been there and paved her way. We pray that Brinley will be blessed because of her special heart and that she will be a blessing to others.
About Tetralogy of Fallot
Tetralogy of Fallot involves four heart defects in one:
- A large ventricular septal defect (VSD)
- Pulmonary stenosis
- Right ventricular hypertrophy
- An overriding aorta
Ventricular Septal Defect
The heart has an inner wall that separates the two chambers on its left side from the two chambers on its right side. This wall is called a septum, which prevents blood from mixing between the two sides of the heart. A VSD is a hole in the septum between the heart’s two lower chambers, the ventricles. The hole allows oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle.
This defect involves narrowing of the pulmonary valve and the passage from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. Normally, oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle flows through the pulmonary valve and into the pulmonary artery. From there, the blood travels to the lungs to pick up oxygen. In pulmonary stenosis, the pulmonary valve cannot fully open. Thus, the heart must work harder to pump blood through the valve. As a result, not enough blood reaches the lungs.
Right Ventricular Hypertrophy
With this defect, the muscle of the right ventricle is thicker than usual. This occurs because the heart has to work harder than normal to move blood through the narrowed pulmonary valve.
This defect occurs in the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. In a healthy heart, the aorta is attached to the left ventricle. This allows only oxygen-rich blood to flow to the body. With TOF, the aorta is located between the left and right ventricles, directly over the VSD. As a result, oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle flows directly into the aorta instead of into the pulmonary artery.
TOF is a very rare defect, occurring in about 5 of every 10,000 babies, affecting boys slightly more than girls.