By Hillary Haenes
Mended Little Hearts of Bakersfield was established in 2006, with the help of Joy Byrom, whose son Jake was born with a severe heart defect call Tri-Cuspid Atretia. The mission of Mended Little Hearts is to support other families who have children born with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), the most common birth defect among one in every 110 babies born.
This local chapter is part of a national support group, Mended Little Hearts, that was founded in 2004 with the help of the longstanding adult support group Mended Hearts, which was started more than 60 years ago, to give hope to heart disease patients, their families and caregivers. When the Bakersfield group was started, there were only about seven or eight groups nationally, but over the last several years, there are more than 70 Mended Little Hearts chapters nationwide.
“Most families find out about the defect right when their baby is born and a large majority of them have to have open heart surgery right away. It is a terrifying thing to deal with, especially when you have no idea about it beforehand, and you are expecting a normal experience,” said Joy Byrom, coordinator of the Bakersfield chapter.
For the past two years, Byrom has put on large fundraisers that have helped raise more than $50,000 for research and local families. For instance, the group donates $200 for any of their affiliated families whose child has surgery; some of the money is used for meetings or any fun gatherings like their holiday parties; and they have also sent a few local kids to heart camp. The rest of the money is donated to hospitals in Los Angeles and Fresno, where the kids go to have their surgeries.
“I believe we have made a difference in the community just by letting people know we are here to support local families affected by CHD, and that they are not alone,” said Byrom. “When my son was born, we had never even heard of CHD, let alone, knew anyone with it … Doctors and nurses are great, but no one understands what you are going through better than another parents.”
Every year the Bakersfield support group, which is made up of about 40 people and a few volunteers, celebrates Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week (Feb. 7 to 14). They set up a table at Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins and also sell CHD bracelets at a few local schools to spread the word and raise funds for their group.
Factoids on Congenital Heart Defects shared by Mended Little Hearts of Bakersfield
- Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are the most common birth defects in the United States.
- One in every 110 babies born is affected by CHD.
- Approximately, 25 percent of children born with CHD will need heart surgery or some other intervention to survive.
- Most causes of CHD are unknown.
- An approximate 100 to 200 deaths are due to unrecognized heart defects in newborns every year.
- The cost for inpatient surgery to repair CHDs exceeds $2.2 billion per year.
- There are an estimated 2 million CHD survivors in the U.S.
The future goal of Mended Little Hearts of Bakersfield is to make the public more aware of CHD, and to continue to raise money for much needed research to prolong the lives of these special children.
HOW YOU CAN HELP MENDED LITTLE HEARTS OF BAKERSFIELD
To help this cause, here are a few ways your family can get involved:
- Volunteer for local Mended Little Heart events .
- Make a donation to MLH National or MLH of Bakersfield chapter by visiting mendedlittlehearts.org.
- Support the local American Heart Association by participating in the Heart Walk on Oct. 13, 2013.
- Provide items for care bags for families with a child in the hospital.
This year will mark the third time that Mended Little Hearts of Bakersfield will have a booth at the Healthy Bakersfield Expo, which will be held March 23 at Rabobank Theater, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.