Mid-Michigan doctors help patients with heart disease live longer

“We go in and we open up the artery that’s causing the heart attack and by doing that there’s much less heart damage.”
Right now, more than 120 million Americans of all ages are living with heart issues.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:29 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Emily and Justin Brown remember the time their new baby girl spent in the hospital after being diagnosed with a rare heart defect.

“And the period between those two was pretty rough,” Emily Brown said. “It was measuring every ounce, every milliliter that she ate, every gram that she gained or lost.”

When you think of the face of heart disease, you typically don’t think of a little baby. Right now, more than 120 million Americans of all ages are living with heart issues. Lifesaving research and access to affordable care are changing the way people in Mid-Michigan are living with heart conditions.

14-month-old Rosie Brown doesn’t have a care in the world – her parents make sure of that, despite Rosie’s heart defect.

“She has what’s called pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum,” said Brown.

It’s a condition that stops blood from flowing properly to the lungs.

“It causes a condition called hypoplastic right heart syndrome where the right ventricle of her heart did not properly develop and it’s very small,” said Brown.

Congenital heart defects are present at birth and can impact the way the heart grows and functions. The Brown family said Rosie’s already had two surgeries to help her live a long, healthy life.

“We still have to monitor, kind of in general, what’s she eating, how much is she drinking – we have to be hyper-vigilant,” Brown said. “It’ll be more important as she gets older to make sure that she’s getting a lot of fruit and vegetables and not a ton of fat.”

Doctors in Mid-Michigan stress the importance of fiber intake and exercise to reduce heart disease. Doctor Timothy Shinn at Henry Ford Health in Jackson said he’s noticing more young people with heart issues.

“We are seeing patients come in earlier and we are now doing what’s caused primary angioplasty, which is where we go in and we open up the artery that’s causing the heart attack and by doing that there’s much less heart damage,” Shinn said. “People are living longer because they’re getting less heart damage. And more importantly, they’re living better.”

Emily and Justin said Rosie’s last surgery is coming up later this year.

“I’m just excited for this chapter - I mean it’s never going to be behind us there’s no cure, it’s not going to fix her heart it’s just working around what’s already there. It’s working around the problem not fixing the problem but just being past that third surgery so we can relax a little bit,” said Brown.

And Rosie can enjoy being a happy 14-month-old.

February is Heart Month. Medical experts hope shining a light on these issues will have Americans make changes to their lifestyles to address heart health.

According to the CDC, one person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from heart disease. In 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Ingham County had 542 heart-related deaths compared to 456 deaths in Jackson County.

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