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

Your Heart Warrior of the week is adult CHDer, Yvonne-Marie Valladares! Yvonne’s mother had gestational diabetes during her pregnancy which might’ve been the reason why doctors paid close attention to her pregnancy and she was lucky enough to get a prenatal diagnosis of truncus arteriosus.

Yvonne was born on September 25th, 1990 and thus her lifelong journey with CHD began. She has undergone 5 open-heart surgeries:

  • Shortly after birth
  • Age 3
  • Age 6
  • Age 13
  • Age 16

As if that weren’t enough, she has also had over 12 catheterizations, the most recent of which was in May of 2018 where doctors placed a melody valve. Yvonne has been preparing her body for motherhood and the obstruction in her old valve would have made it incredibly dangerous or impossible for her to carry a child.

As an adult CHD Warrior and with a career in healthcare as well, Yvonne has gotten to see and experience the advancements in medicine for treating congenital heart disease.  Up until recently, the type of valve replacement she received could only be performed as an open-heart surgery, but now doctors have found success doing this via catheterization, which is a much less invasive procedure.

Throughout her 17+ surgeries and procedures, Yvonne estimates that she has spent about 4-5 years in the hospital between pre-op appointments, recovery, and regular check-ups. In addition, she will likely be on medications the rest of her life to keep her heart in good working condition. She reflects on a time in her life when she refused to take her medication in a rebellion against her doctors and the disease – a common occurrence for those who have the CHD. She says she learned from that experience that she was the only one who has the control and carries the responsibility for what happens to her body. While many CHD patients never know when their heart will take a turn for the worse, Yvonne is hopeful she won’t need any more surgeries in the future.

Although doctors warned her parents about overexertion, Yvonne never faced many restrictions during her childhood – she was an avid sports player and dancer throughout most of her adolescence and young adulthood. Her biggest battle has been in her adult life with complications in trying to have a baby.

Yvonne describes herself as ambitious, kind, and determined. She shares the following about her experiences with congenital heart disease:

I went through a rebellious period where I was determined to find out how I could get my heart into shape through holistic medicine. I went vegan, did a lot of yoga, and felt amazing for a long period of time. I won’t lie, the experience of going through surgery after surgery made my childhood a little nuts, but what I got out of it is a great career where I get to give back to other patients like me and those with chronic illness. For 2019 I have set a goal to raise money and awareness for CHD and the chronic community. I plan to offer courses with the information I have gathered through my own experience that will teach patients how to effectively use their health insurance so they are not left with ridiculous amounts of debt after treatment and hospital stays.  I am lucky that I have never had to pay a hefty bill when I had my open-heart surgeries (Thanks Mom!) but there are so many that do. I want to help others worry less about medical bills so that they can focus on their health.  

More information on this can be found at thepicadillomix.com or by contacting @thepicadillomix on Instagram.

About Truncus Arteriosus

Anatomy: When one large artery instead of two separate ones carries blood to the lungs and body.

Type 1
Characterized by origin of a single pulmonary trunk from the left lateral aspect of the common trunk, with branching of the left and right pulmonary arteries from the pulmonary trunk.

Type 2
Characterized by separate but proximate origins of the left and right pulmonary arterial branches from the posterolateral aspect of the common arterial trunk.

Type 3
The branch pulmonary arteries originate independently from the common arterial trunk or aortic arch, most often from the left and right lateral aspects of the trunk. This occasionally occurs with origin of one pulmonary artery from the underside of the aortic arch, usually from a ductus arteriosus.

Complications: When a person has truncus arteriosus, the blood leaving the heart does not follow a normal path. It only has one vessel, instead of two separate ones for the lungs and body. With only one artery, there is no specific pathway for blood to travel to the lungs for oxygen before returning to the heart to deliver oxygenated blood to the body.

Symptoms: Cyanosis, fatigue, sweating, pale or cool skin, rapid or heavy breathing, rapid heart rat, congested breathing, disinterest in feeding or tiring while feeding, and poor weight gain.

Treatment: Truncus arteriosus must be treated with open-heart surgery. In some cases, a catheterization procedure can be done instead.

Prevalence: Truncus arteriosus accounts for 1-2% of all congenital heart defects, occurring in 5-15 out of every 100,000 live births.

Leave a comment