Lowcountry family shares heart health journey in hopes of helping others

February is American Heart Month, and this is Congenital Heart Disease or CHD Awareness Week. It’s a condition 10-year-old Ben Burkholder and his family know well. They want to spread awareness to help other families.

Like most ten-year-olds, Ben Burkholder loves sports. “I like to play basketball, and go to the driving range with my dad and hang out with my friends,” says Ben.
Ben has faced medical challenges along the way. Maryanne Burkholder,Ben’s mother says, “When I was five months pregnant, we went in for a routine ultrasound. The doctors could tell something was wrong with his heart. They sent us to a specialist. They diagnosed him with Tetralogy of Fallot.. with Pulmonary Atresia, which is multiple defects, structural defects present at birth. The important one being he did not have a way for the blood to pump between his lungs and his heart. They took him when he was about two hours old by ambulance at the children’s hospital. He had surgery two days later, and came home from the hospital, and he went back for surgery at seven months old, more extensive open heart surgery where they did a complete repair is what they call it.”

According to the American Heart Association one out of every 100 children are born with a Congenital Heart Defect. Ben has had three surgeries over the course of his life, and will have to have another in a few years. “He’s doing really well. He goes to the cardiologist. He’s down to once a year now,” says Maryanne.

The Burkholders are ambassadors for the upcoming American Heart Association Heart Ball. Maryanne says, “I just want to get the word out that its important. It’s important to give money to the American Heart Association and money to other organizations because the research makes such a difference.”>

The fourth grader hopes sharing his story will help others. Ben says, “I get to show other kids that I went through that and give them advice about what happened.” “I think he’s so brave. I don’t think he realizes what he’s been through. It’s very unique. It’s a difficult path for all of us. We just have to be strong, and have faith in the doctors and faith in God, and just go from there and live our lives.”

The American Heart Association’s Heart Ball will be held on Friday, March 23rd. For more information on CHD and how you can help the American Heart Association, click here:  http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Charleston-and-Coastal-SC-Home-Page_UCM_MAA005_AffiliatePage.jsp



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