Greenville teenager talks about signs of congenital heart defect

Greenville teenager talks about signs of congenital heart defect
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:52 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Congenital heart defects affect about 1 in every 100 babies born in the U.S., according to the CDC. But some may not even realize they have it.

Brantley Metcalf has been golfing since she was six years old. She loves the sport, but didn’t realize it would actually save her life. At the age of 12 she needed a sports physical to play on the team.

“While I was there my doctor told me he heard a heart murmur and requested that I see a cardiologist before he signed off on my physical,” Brantley Metcalf said.

A cardiologist diagnosed her with a congenital heart defect known as atrial septal defect. It means she had a hole in her heart. She immediately needed open heart surgery. Brantley says she had some odd symptoms as a child, but her family never connected the dots.

“There were some subtle signs, but we never considered that to be a heart issue,” Brantley said.

As a child she experienced migraines, would get tired randomly and was often out of breath. Her doctors later told her this was likely because there wasn’t enough oxygen getting to the brain due to her heart defect.

“I would get a white light in front of my right eye and then my head would start hurting really badly,” Brantley said. “It was to the point where I couldn’t focus. All I wanted to do was lay down and my stomach would hurt.”

After open heart surgery, Brantley noticed a major difference.

“I was able to walk up hills better and I didn’t feel out of breath,” Brantley said. I didn’t realize they were issues until they were solved.”

Her doctors said if she had continued to go undiagnosed she could have experienced heart failure.  It’s why she has this advice for others.

“Just being aware that if you heart doesn’t feel right, go to the doctor, when you are coughing, go to the doctor, when you have blue lips go to the doctor because all of these things can point to a heart defect,” Brantley said.

According to the CDC some common symptoms of congenital heart defects include blue tinted nails or lips, trouble breathing, and tiredness. Adults with the condition can also experience irregular heart rhythms and swelling of the feet or hands. Heart defects are often diagnosed through a echocardiogram, which is a ultrasound of the heart.