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Heart Week proclamation brings awareness, support

It is American Heart Month, and Williams County is recognizing congenital heart conditions by declaring Feb. 7-14 “Heart Week” thanks the advocacy of a Bryan mother, Amanda Hoover.

Hoover’s son Bryson was born premature on Oct. 16, 2015. His oxygen levels were low, but doctors didn’t know why.

It took two weeks after his birth for doctors to discover a hole in Bryson’s heart that should have closed after birth but didn’t. He was diagnosed with Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR), meaning his veins connected to the right side of his heart rather than the left.

At the time, Hoover told The Bryan Times, “The only reason why his heart is still beating is because (the hole) didn’t close. That’s what’s leaking the blood from the left side of the heart to the right side of the heart to keep it balanced.”

Bryson spent 36 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors told his parents Bryson would need open heart surgery, but he needed to become stronger first.

In January of 2016, doctors performed two open heart surgeries on Bryson to sew up the hole in his heart.

Now, Bryson is eight years old and thriving, and Hoover has a newfound support system in other local heart patients. She has dedicated the past five years to raising awareness for congenital heart defects.

Because of Hoover’s advocacy, commissioners have signed the proclamation for five years.

“There’s just not enough people that know about it,” Hoover said of heart conditions. “And the reason why we do so much awareness is, partly that it needs to be known, but also for support because we’re in a rural county in Ohio.

“If we stay quiet and don’t do anything, we’re not going to get anywhere,” she added. “With awareness, we can get more fundraising and medical advancement, quicker and easier ways to deal with defects and hopefully, more people will have a better outcome.”

In the proclamation read by Williams County Commissioner Bart Westfall Thursday, he stated 40,000 babies each year are born in the United States with a congenital heart defect. He added many times, those conditions are not diagnosed for months or even years.

Beyond proclaiming Heart Week, Hoover and her son take additional measures to raise awareness.

“We also deliver red hats to the labor and delivery unit and heart blankets,” Hoover said. “So here, in Williams County at Parkview if you have a baby during the month (of February) you will receive one of the homemade hats or blankets that my mom made for support and awareness.

“Previously, I’ve been involved with distributing kits to (Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo), the NICU there, toiletries and different things you may need when you find out your baby is diagnosed with a heart defect,” she added.

Hoover said she has met many families since beginning her advocacy — some dealing with conditions similar to her son’s, and some not heart-related at all.

She described the yearly proclamation signing and group photo as a reunion of sorts, with other local families she has met along the way returning every year. There are new faces each year, too, not just from new diagnoses, but from families that didn’t know the support existed.

“I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, my son was also born with this defect,’” Hoover said. “And we just kind of talk back and forth. It’s like a support group.”

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