When you find out your child has a heart defect, you may feel overwhelmed with emotions and lost on what next steps you need to take. Dr. Divya Suthar, a pediatric cardiologist at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology, has this key advice for any parent who just learned their child has a heart defect.
The news about your child’s heart condition may come as a surprise, but the first thing to understand is not to feel overwhelmed. “As doctors, the first step we will take is to explain what your baby’s heart condition is and what that means going forward,” says Dr. Suthar. “Whether those next steps are surgery, taking medications, or monitoring at routine visits with a cardiologist, we will have a clear plan outlined for your family.”
If you do find out your baby has a heart condition when you are pregnant, the advice is still the same. “Don’t blame yourself for his/her condition. There’s a one percent chance of heart defects in newborns, and it’s not because of anything you did. We can take this as an opportunity to prepare before your baby is born, and together we can determine what next steps we need to take after he/she is here.”
Ask Questions (and Write Them Down)
Never hesitate to ask questions. “These heart defects are complex and you may not understand all the details, so ask questions which help you comprehend what’s going on with your child,” says Dr. Suthar.
“During that first appointment when you learn about your baby’s condition, we know it’s a tough thing to hear as a parent. You may not have questions at that moment, but once you go home, questions will come up. That is why it is important to write them down so you don’t forget.
You are an integral part of the team in making health care decisions for your child, and it is important for you to get all the information you need.”
Trust Your Doctor
No parent should ever feel uncomfortable with their child’s cardiologist, and this is something that Dr. Suthar cannot stress enough. “You need to trust your doctor and if you don’t, then you need to find someone you do trust. There needs to be open communication between you both, and you have to believe that your doctor has your child’s best interest at heart.”
Educate Your Child
While it is important to educate yourself about your child’s condition, it is just as crucial to teach your child as well. They are likely going to see a cardiologist for the rest of their life, and they need to understand why.
“I have seen many children with congenital heart disease that are in their teenage years and have no idea what’s wrong with their heart or why they are seeing a cardiologist for routine visits. With this in mind, we have started engaging children at a young age (as early as seven to eight years of age) in understanding their cardiac condition, so that they can grow up to make responsible decisions about their health,” says Dr. Suthar.
With the help of modern medicine and the research conducted at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology, we are learning more and more about congenital heart defects and how to prepare for them. No matter your child’s specific diagnosis, remember that you are not in this alone and the team at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology is here to help you any way we can.If you have any other questions about your child’s condition, please make an appointment with us today.