A walk with heart

Leaves are falling, and with the help of Capital District residents, so will heart disease mortality rates.

The American Heart Association is holding two events this month to help raise money and awareness to battle heart disease.

The Capital Region Start! Heart Walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Harriman State Campus in Albany. The following weekend, on Oct. 25, the North Country Start! Heart Walk will be held at the Saratoga Race Course.

One doctor, who has a direct and personal link to heart disease, is now an avid supporter of the walks and a board member of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Caitrin Navarro, a physician with Schoolhouse Road Pediatrics, has a 3-year-old son, Padraig, with a congenital heart defect known as ventricular inversion, a condition where the left and right ventricles in his heart are on the wrong sides.

He had surgery when he was 14 months old to correct blood flow obstructions.

Navarro recalled what it was like to wait six hours in the waiting room during Padraig's surgery.

You can't understand it until you've been there, she said. "It came as a complete shock. His condition is extremely rare."

About 35,000 children are born with congenital heart disease in the United States. That is slightly less than 1 percent of all newborns, according to statistics from the March of Dimes.

The statistics state that 5 to 10 percent of those children will die, making it the No. 1 cause of death for children under 1-year-old.

Navarro said that AHA research has contributed to the drop in the mortality rate of birth defects from 30 percent in the 1970s to where it is now.

Padraig is doing well, and Navarro said he has "absolutely no restrictions."

"I understand the anatomy of the heart better than a parent with no medical background, but everything changed when it became my own child," she said.

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