When you think of heart disease, you might picture the patient as a middle aged man. But heart problems can affect people of any gender, at any age.
Research is going a long way in helping all of them. Four-year-old Megan Putnam is an energetic example. She was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. Parents Julie and Damon Putnam say that was shock enough, but then doctors told them she had three heart defects.
Simply put, Megan had holes in her heart and a vessel didn't close properly. Doctors initially thought they might heal on their own, but Julie and Damon could tell something was wrong.
Julie remembers how she would sweat every time she ate, and Damon remembers the blue color around her mouth and the cold fingers and toes, where blood was flowing properly.
Megan also couldn't fight off infections. After two stays in the hospital with pneumonia, the Putnams finally took Megan to a cardiologist at KU Medical Center. On his advice, at seven months of age, Megan underwent surgery at Children's Mercy. The difference was immediate.
Damon says Megan was up and moving around. "She wasn't sick," he said.
Julie and Damon say this happy ending wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the continued advances in heart treatments.
"She wouldn't be here," Julie said. She said doctors told her without treatment, Megan likely wouldn't have lived past age 20. Instead, thanks to modern medicine, the sky's the limit.
"She's healthier," Damon said. "She's definitely going to have a better life."
"She's wonderful," Julie said.
Megan is the ambassador for this year's American Heart Association gala. The fundraising event is coming up February 12 at Washburn University's Memorial Union. Call 228-3435 for ticket information.