Thursday, March 13, 2014

What does YOUR heart sound like?

Earlier this week, I sat on the floor with the two oldest preschoolers casually snuggled up on either side of me. We were reading a story together (am I the only one who always thought it was weird that Nicky Bunny had to strip down to his underwear at the doctor's office as if that were just normal routine?). At one point, the story describes Nicky Bunny's heartbeat: thump-thump, thunp-thump. And then (spoiler?) Nicky gets to hear the doctor's heart go thump-thump, thump-thump. 

The two children enjoyed all the thump-thumping, and we repeated it together a few times. One said "That's the sound your heart makes!"

"Well," I replied, "my heart actually makes a different sound, because I was born with a heart that is a little bit different from most people's hearts."

I saw two heads turn sharply towards me from other parts of the classroom. One belonged to a big brother whose baby sibling had heart surgery at birth. The other head belonged to the child who underwent a procedure to repair a hole between heart chambers this past autumn. The two children sitting with me looked at me with a little bit of awe. 

"What sound does your heart make?" asked the one.

"My heart sounds more like thumpa-dump, thumpa-dump," I told her.

"Oh," she said, "My heart goes thump-thump, thump-thump."

"Yes," I agreed, "Most people's hearts go thump-thump, thump-thump."

"Not mine!" proclaimed my other story-reading companion.

"Oh. What sound does your heart make?"

He thought for a moment, then made a wiggly gesture with his fingers. "My heart goes squiggy-squiggy!" 

We had a giggle together over how silly it would be if hearts actually went squiggy-squiggy, and returned to our story.

This subject is very dear to my heart (har har); I was, indeed, born with a congenital heart defect called a bicuspid aortic valve. Thankfully, there were no complications, as it was not detected until I was an adult. Our little childcare community happens to be quite strongly affected by congenital heart defects -- there are two staff families and two enrolled families which include people born with heart defects, and we find ourselves talking about hearts quite a bit around here.

Congenital heart defects affect about 1% of the population. They may cause no trouble, or they may be immediately life-threatening. Congenital heart defects cause more children to die each year than all forms of childhood cancer combined, but cancer research receives more than five times the funding that congenital heart defect funding receives. If you would like to help improve early detection rates, treatment options, and quality of life for the 180,000+ Canadian children and adults living with congenital heart defects, please consider supporting the Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance (CCHA). Your support could save lives (and maybe find out why young Mister Preschooler's heart goes squiggy-squiggy!).

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