Every year, 100,000 babies don't make it to their first birthday because of CHD.
Krista Laine | Heart Warrior of the Week

Krista Laine is your Heart Warrior of the Week! She was born on April 15th, 1994 and describes herself as positive, cheerful, ambitious and a bit of a perfectionist. Krista has had a unique journey with CHD - she wasn’t diagnosed with atrial septal defect (ASD) until last year at the age of 23. She was having some testing done because she thought she might have Marfan Syndrome. She was sent to a cardiologist as part of her testing to ensure everything with her heart was okay... it wasn't. It turned out she didn’t have Marfan Syndrome but she did have an ASD.

Initially they thought they would be able to eliminate the hole in her heart with a closure device via catheter, but it was later recommended that she undergo a much more serious surgery due to the location and size of the hole. Just 6 months after her diagnosis, Krista underwent open-heart surgery on October 5th, 2017. Like many who are recovering from open-heart surgery, she experienced some complications – two hours after being closed up, she had an additional procedure as a precaution because there was too much blood coming through the drainage tubes in her chest.

She spent a week in the hospital recovering, but her journey wasn’t over. A few weeks after being discharged, she found out she had pericarditis (an infection in the tissue lining the heart) and she spent an additional five days in the hospital. The pericarditis wasn’t giving up, but neither was Krisa, it returned once again in January which resulted in another four night stay in the hospital.

Today, she is happy to report that she is fully off of all medications for her heart and there will likely be no need for any additional surgeries! Krista talks about her battle with CHD in her own words...

Because I was diagnosed so late in life, I thought I didn’t face any restrictions due to my heart condition growing up. Thinking back now, it is clear that my heart defect did have an impact on my body as a kid. I was always ill and had trouble keeping up with my friends. I tried pretty much every sport, even showing some talent in a few of them, but my progress was always slow. In my mind, I never thought I was good enough; knowing what I know now about my CHD explains so much. As for my defect affecting my adult life, my recovery has been tough and riddled with many setbacks. My second bout with pericarditis left me in poor condition and I was on bed rest for 2.5 months; my recovery is still in progress.

It was just a little over a year ago that I found out about my ASD – the diagnosis came out of nowhere and was quite a shock for me and my family. I felt very alone processing this news and had no idea where I could turn for information, support, and help. Everything happened so fast that I didn’t have the time to deal with it emotionally and that’s something that I’ve had to work on post-surgery. The emotional and mental side has definitely been the hardest part of this journey.

Dealing with chronic pain, fatigue, and heart problems can be a vicious cycle because they all affect one another, and if you don’t look sick, people don’t always believe you are. It’s easy to cover up your scars, but I’ve decide not to do so. Sharing awareness for CHD is so important and I feel it’s my duty to do my part.

 About Krista’s Heart Defect

Anatomy: This defect occurs when the heart’s inner wall (septum) that separates the left atrium from the right atrium has a hole or multiple holes in it. 

Complications: This defect allows oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium to leak into the oxygen-poor blood in the right atrium, this can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the arterial blood that supplies the brain, organs, and tissues.

Symptoms: Shortness of breath especially during exertion, fatigue, swelling of legs, feet or abdomen, heart palpitations or skipped beats, frequent lung infections, stroke and heart murmurs.

Treatment: Most ASD’s close on their own with time, but larger ones will require catheterizations or open-heart surgery in which a patch is placed over the hole.

Prevalence: This is a common CHD, accounting for 13% of all congenital heart disease. It occurs in approximately 2 out of every 1000 live births worldwide.

October 04, 2018 by Lani O'Gorman

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