Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) refers to birth defects of the heart. These can range from holes between chambers of the heart to hearts that fit wrongly in the chest–with vessels going everywhere except the places they should.
Once a CHD is diagnosed, it usually requires some form of treatment. In the simplest cases, this may simply be medication that prevents harmful effects until the child’s heart heals itself. Slightly more complicated cases can be treated by minimally invasive procedures called catheterizations in which the defect is corrected via a catheter, without the need for open-heart surgery. But in most cases treatment of CHD requires a complex open-heart surgical correction. Children with these severe heart defects comprise a large portion of cases in Iraq. It’s these who go untreated year after year.
Depending on the specific type of heart defect, children with CHD may live less than one month or more than 10 years. But for almost all children there is an ideal window for operation, and children can become inoperable if surgery is delayed.
The fact that so many cases of CHD can last for years, stealing oxygen, energy and exercise from children contributes to the soaring backlog of children in Iraq waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery. They need surgery, but doctors must triage the most urgent and many kids are made to wait another year, further burdening the system. As tens of thousands of Iraqi children living with CHD get a year closer to inoperability or death, thousands more are born with the same problem. The only solution–the only Remedy–is for us to train pediatric cardiac care teams throughout Iraq.
CHD is the world’s #1 birth defect, naturally occurring in
6 of 1,000 births.
In some Iraqi cities babies are born with CHD at rates 11x higher than world norms.1
Many CHD children require multiple surgeries.
A charitable surgery outside Iraq still costs up to 5x more than a family’s annual income.