BY SARAH FEDELE
Ask any parent and they will say that 15 years can go by in the blink of an eye. Fifteen years filled with birthdays, accomplishments and celebrations. For Charlotte and Todd Crotts, it has also meant 15 years of heart.
Their daughter, Caroline, entered the world without any signs of heart issues. At two days old, her chest sounded loud and an echocardiogram showed that she had a medium-sized ventricular septal defect, or VSD, which is a hole between the two ventricles in the heart. Surgery was not necessary at the time since doctors believed the hole would close on its own as Caroline grew. However, at her three-month check-up, doctors discovered that Caroline also had pulmonary valve stenosis, a condition where the valve was too small, and the flaps wouldn’t fully close. At seven months old, Caroline had open-heart surgery at Brenner Children’s Hospital to repair the valve and fix the hole in her heart.
Today, Caroline is a beautiful and confident 15-year-old who is in 9thgrade. She doesn’t have any physical restrictions and loves archery and horseback riding with the American Heritage Girls.
The Crotts Family’s focus on heart didn’t just extend to Caroline. Her sister, Elizabeth, is also living with a congenital heart defect. Elizabeth was diagnosed with a cleft mitral valve, and she had open-heart surgery at two years old at Brenner Children’s Hospital. Thankfully, Elizabeth is also doing wonderfully. She is now 12 years old, loves dance and is on her way to becoming a top chef. Just ask her about her egg drop soup!
Congenital heart defects are the world’s number one birth defect. In the United States, about 40,000 children are born with a congenital heart defect each year – that is about eight out of every 1,000 children. The exact cause is not fully known, but congenital heart defects are most likely due to multiple genetic and environmental factors. The American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation have joined forces to fund $20 million through 2021 for congenital heart defect research.
Caroline and Elizabeth also have a younger sister, Katherine, who has a clean bill of heart health. Together, all three girls participate with American Heritage Girls and they stay active at their YMCA.
Caroline’s recent visit to her cardiologist in August, her first visit in three years, brought Charlotte Crotts’ focus on heart and her drive to support the American Heart Association back front and center.
“We just found out that Caroline is going to need a full heart valve replacement in the next five years. We have also known that Elizabeth will most likely need a complete valve replacement later in her 30s or 40s,” said Charlotte. “When people ask me why I walk in the Winston-Salem Heart and Stroke Walk, my answer is easy. We walk because the money we help to raise for research, can lead to the next newest technology or procedure, which can mean making the procedure my girls may need in the future much easier, less invasive and maybe even avoidable altogether. In five years, maybe Caroline’s procedure could be done during a catheterization and she would not need to undergo another open-heart surgery. In 20 years, maybe the technology and advancements could exist to where Elizabeth may not even need the procedure at all. Research is the key for a healthier, happier life for my girls.”
This is also the 15thyear that the Crotts Family will be participating in the Winston-Salem Heart and Stroke Walk. They will be walking with the Wake Forest Baptist Health team where Charlotte works. The 2019 Winston-Salem Heart and Stroke Walk will take place on Sunday, September 29that Wake Forest University BB&T Field. Sponsored by Wake Forest Baptist Health and MedCost, the festivities will begin at 1:30 p.m., and the walk begins at 3 p.m. A survivor celebration, the annual Mascot Dance-off and Puparazzi Parade will all take place.
All the funds raised from the Winston-Salem Heart and Stroke Walk benefit heart disease and stroke research and prevention education in the community. The American Heart Association is currently funding $1.3 million in four research projects being conducted at Wake Forest University, UNC Greensboro and North Carolina A&T. To learn more about the Winston-Salem Heart and Stroke Walk or to donate to Charlotte Crotts’ Team, visit www.winstonsalemheartwalk.org.