RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Jimmy Kimmel made headlines after his emotional monologue during Monday night’s show when he revealed his newborn son recently had to go through life-saving surgery after birth when it was discovered he had a heart defect.
“They did an echocardiogram, which is a sonogram of the heart, and found that Billy was born with a heart disease,” Kimmel explained.
A tearful Kimmel described the moment he found out his newborn son was born with the defect. It’s bringing to light a frightening disease that affects millions of Americans across the country.
“I can definitely relate to that,” local mother Rachel Johnson told 8News Reporter Mark Tenia.
Johnson’s 4-year-old son, Henry, was also born with a heart defect. Johnson was told Henry would eventually have to have surgery following his birth, but doctors said there was no rush. She says it wasn’t until she got to the Children’s Hospital of Richmond to start preparing for surgery that her family realized the situation was a lot more serious than they first thought.
“That week, while we were trying to figure out what was going on, was incredibly scary,” Johnson recalled.
Cardiologist Dr. Kerri Carter says catching a heart defect early on, even before a child is born, can be critical.
“There are certainly life and death implications of making these diagnoses prenatally and huge emotional implications,” Dr. Carter said. “Some of these babies look absolutely perfect.”
Dr. Carter says it’s a disease that’s more common than people may think.
“It’s really not rare,” Dr. Carter explained. “Almost 1 in 100 babies are born with some sort of congenital heart defect. It’s everywhere.”
“Almost 1 in 100 babies are born with some sort of congenital heart defect. It’s everywhere.”
“It really doesn’t matter how famous you are, how much money you have,” Johnson said. “This can happen to anyone.”
Today Henry’s future looks a lot brighter.
“He is growing and he is active and he’s able to go to school,” Johnson said.
And while Johnson says she wouldn’t wish this on anyone, she’s glad the disease is getting much-needed attention.
“And having a celebrity involved with it is a great thing,” said Johnson.
Click here for more information about congenital heart disease.