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Valentines for CHD Awareness Week

Hearts and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand, and sometimes even broken hearts. This week a group representing actual broken hearts is sending a valentine of their own.

Five year-old McKinley Owens made extra Valentines for her “heart” friends this year.

“She’s done really well,” said Lisa Owens, McKinley’s mom. “We’ve been really lucky.”

McKinley was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) or more simply, her heart never formed correctly.

Lisa found out during her 20-week ultrasound.

“My doctor wasn’t very knowelegable,” said Lisa. “He said she would live two weeks.”

That lack of knowlege is exactly why this week is CHD Awareness Week.

“What better week then around Valentine’s Day, when hearts are all around anyway?” said Lisa.

Dr. Shannon Jenkins sees about 30 to 40 babies born with a CHD at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center each year…

“Most of these babies are born, and the parents didn’t do anything wrong. It just happens,” said Jenkins. “It’s very, very sad and shocking to the parents.”

Although CHDs are rare, they are more common than you might think. From minor to severe, about 1 in 100 children are born with a heart defect.

These heart warriors aren’t alone in their battle. They use the Internet to connect families.

“Guaranteed. no matter what you’re going through, someone’s been there and done that,” said Owens.

The good news is technology is getting better.

“Sometimes with the technology we have you can pick it up before they’re born,” said Jenkins.

“There’s a lot of kids who go undiagnosed through their lives they get to high school and they’re playing sports and don’t ever know,” said Owens.

But it’s not perfect yet.

“Unfortunately, even with the best technology before birth, these babies are missed,” said Jenkins.

. Jenkins says there is nothing you can do to prevent CHDs, but drugs and alcohol can sometimes play a role. However, in most cases, the parents did nothing wrong.

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