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  • Here's One Worrying Scenario If Your Newborn Has a Heart Murmur

    The experience of TV host Jimmy Kimmel and his wife shows how attentive hospital staff is crucial after a baby is born.
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
Here's One Worrying Scenario If Your Newborn Has a Heart Murmur
PHOTO BY screengrab from Jimmy Kimmel Live/Youtube
  • No matter how much we plan, there will always be things that we cannot foresee and it will be challenging to handle. Parenting has many of these moments, and some of them happen as soon as your baby is born. American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel had experienced this recently when his son, Billy, was born last April 21.

    With a trembling voice and barely able to hold his tears, Jimmy told the audience of his show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, after his wife, writer and producer Molly McNearney, gave birth, their son “appeared to be a normal, healthy baby.” 

    Three hours after birth, a nurse, whom Jimmy thanked profusely during the monologue, noticed the baby's heart murmur (often called "innocent" or "functional"), which was common and often harmless in newborns. However, the nurse also noticed that the baby was purple-ish in color, which set off the red flag that something was wrong.

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    “My wife and I assumed it would be nothing. Our daughter had a heart murmur, too. And we didn't notice that he wasn't the color he was supposed to be,” Kimmel said. “It is amazing that this woman noticed that. So many people have told me, ‘You're very lucky she noticed that.’”

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    After doctors determined that there wasn’t fluid in the baby’s lungs, they went on to check Billy’s heart where they found the problem -- there was blockage and holes in his heart. Billy was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

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    After an echocardiogram had been done on Billy’s heart, they found that he was born with a congenital heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. In Billy’s case, the pulmonary valve in his heart was completely blocked. Also, as explained by Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was a guest on the show, “the muscle between the two main chambers of the heart is not formed.” Because of this, the "dirty" blood and clean blood that are supposed to be kept separate, get mixed, added Dr. Oz, a prominent heart surgeon. The "dirty" blood then gets distributed all over the body including the brain. 

    Surgery was necessary, so at barely 2 weeks old, Bill had an open-heart surgery. “Babies born with TOF with pulmonary atresia need surgery to correct the problem, usually before 6 months of age,” according to Boston Children's Hospital. The operation corrected one of two defects in the baby’s heart, and Billy will need another open-heart surgery in three to six months, to close the holes in his heart (some kids have more than one hole), added Kimmel, who described the successful surgery as "the longest three hours of my life." 


    Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in babies, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. About one in four of these babies will have a critical heart defect and will need to undergo surgery or other procedures within their first year of life. Heart defects are the most common cause of death in babies with congenital conditions, with death often occurring in the first 28 days.

    Thankfully, due to advancements in medicine and technology, babies with congenital heart defects grow up to have an active childhood, said Dr. Oz. “[Billy] should grow up completely normal with no limitations,” he reassured Jimmy. 

    Watch Jimmy Kimmel tell the full story below:

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