I am one out of 100, born with a congenital heart defect, the most popular heart defects in children. I was diagnosed with ASD (Atrial Septal Defect) also known as a hole in the heart some months after I was born.
I am the last born for my mum and I was scheduled for an operation when I was about 5-6 years of age to close the holes, but my parents didn’t think it was necessary to have it, believing the holes will close on its own.
At that time, there was little or no information, awareness and resources on congenital heart defects.
There was a lot of misconceptions and myths about holes in the heart.
People mainly believed that holes should close on their own as the child grows older.
If I was able to grow to 5-6 years of the age with no major health crisis, then it shouldn’t be so bad and it should close on its own. That’s what we thought.
Mine wasn’t the case, my holes didn’t close and it caused other complications.
Growing up in my teens, I had a lot of symptoms like breathlessness, palpitations, chest pains and I was so small. I weighed so little and adding weight was a huge challenge for me. I think I got used to the symptoms and I kind of adapted my life around it.
But the symptoms were getting worse as I got older and I still wasn’t adding any weight. The things I did with ease before became more challenging and I was fatigued a lot.
I went back to the hospital to get my heart checked and get suggestions on how to close the holes. But I was diagnosed with severe pulmonary hypertension, a rare disease that affects the lungs and heart. It is one of the complications of congenital heart defects.
My holes couldn’t be closed again, and I was to manage the complicating disease which has no cure.
That’s why congenital heart defects awareness and information are highly important in Nigeria.
With better knowledge, maybe I won’t have had pulmonary hypertension complications.
Till now there is still a huge gap in awareness, information and care of congenital heart defects patients in Nigeria.