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Spotlight: Johnna Kendall, Kentucky

by Cresha A. on Monday, July 1, 2013

Johnna Kendall Kentucky

At 28 years old, I am a survivor.  I was born with the congenital heart defect tetralogy of Fallot.  Unfortunately, my defect was not discovered until my one month check up.  My mom told me that the heart murmur was found before I left the hospital but no further testing was done. The woman in the room next to my mom also had a baby with a murmur. That baby was tested and no further issues were detected. I was discharged from the hospital by the pediatrician as a blue baby who was just “cold.”  My parents knew something wasn’t right and insisted at my follow up appointment that I be checked by a cardiologist. I am grateful for my parents’ persistence. It saved my life.

 At 4 months old I received the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt in order to increase blood flow. Before this procedure I could not even cry without passing out. One year later (at 17 months old) on November 15, 1985, I underwent open-heart surgery to repair the VSD and remove my pulmonary valve.  The doctors estimated I would return for valve replacement surgery before entering kindergarten. I am now a college graduate and have never needed the additional surgery! 

During a cardiac catheterization in 2007, doctors discovered an aneurysm on my pulmonary patch; MRI’s are now a routine test for me to monitor its size. I am also living with an arrhythmia now, so avoid stimulants (including caffeine and decongestants) that could aggravate my rhythm. I have always been limited physically. I cannot participate in competitive sports, but my dad always made sure I was included. I may not have any tee ball trophies, but I do have a scar down my chest to prove just how strong and courageous I can be. 

I am proud to announce that I am now on staff at the American Heart Association—my heart has truly led me to this organization.