Getting to the heart of the matter

Shannon speaking at American Heart Association event.
Shannon serving in her role as American Heart Association spokeskid.

When she looks at the large scar on her chest, it doesn’t bother Shannon.  She knows she is a living miracle.

Shannon was born with ventral septal defect (VSD), with holes in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart. In normal development, the wall between the chambers closes before birth. When a hole does not close, it may cause higher pressure in the heart or reduced oxygen to the body.  VSD is the most common heart birth defect, affecting about 1 in 500 babies.

Leigh McIntosh, Public Outreach in the Williams Pittsburgh office, explains that her daughter showed no signs of VSD for most of her life. But this past spring, she noticed something was different. After a visit to the cardiologist, it was confirmed that it was time to repair the holes in Shannon’s heart. And, after two open heart surgeries in five days over the recent holiday break, Shannon is back in school and doing very well.

So well, in fact, that she is ready to return to another important part of her life – being a spokeskid for the American Heart Association. Together with her parents, Shannon volunteers at heart walks, heart balls, Go Red events, and has even spent time in the state capitol to support the passage of legislation that made pulse oximetry testing – a painless method for testing how well oxygen is circulated to parts of the body furthest from the heart – mandatory for all newborns in Pennsylvania.

“In the United States, about 40,000 children are born with congenital heart defects (CHDs) each year. Shannon and her parents have put their hearts into supporting the American Heart Association and helping us build heart-healthy lives. And, we are grateful for the support of Williams, who supports its employees volunteering to give back to organizations that they are passionate about. Together, we are making progress, with the rate of deaths from CHDs decreasing by 37.5 percent since 1999. We need to continue these efforts so that amazing children like Shannon can continue to strive and thrive,” said Karen Colbert, Senior Director of Communications & Marketing with the American Heart Association in Pittsburgh.”

To learn more about the American Heart Association, its Go Red for Woman campaign, educational information and volunteer opportunities, see the organization’s website. February marks American Heart Month, a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health.

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