Living with Tetralogy of Fallot, William

William's Story

William with his mom as a child on a hobby horse

William was born with a critical congenital heart defect (critical CHD), during a time when children born with critical CHDs typically died before their first birthday. William survived, and now as an adult living with a critical CHD, he shares how important continued medical care and ongoing research are for others who live with critical CHDs.

I was born with a heart defect, tetralogy of Fallot, in 1954. My parents were told that I would not survive even a year. At that time, the option of surgery was new and very few doctors were skilled in this type of procedure. In 1966, at the age of eleven, I had corrective surgery. The medical care had advanced and I was very lucky. I was doing well until May of 1969, when we discovered that my heart rate was dangerously low: less than 30 beats per minute. So, on May 21, 1969, I got my first pacemaker. Again, because of new developments in medical care, I was lucky. Advances in pacemaker technology have continually improved my quality of life. Today, I am 58 years old and have an implanted cardiac defibrillator, a small device that helps treat irregular heartbeats.

Due to the advances in medical care, today, children can get the care they need within the first few weeks of life. If I was born today with the same heart defect, the surgery would be done at 4-8 weeks of age. As the medical community learns and moves forward, people with heart defects have and will benefit as a result. Now, we live longer, healthier lives. However, our surgery is not a total cure, and, as we age, we still suffer effects of these conditions. Continued medical care and ongoing research is vitally important to each of our lives.

Thank you for supporting research in congenital heart defects.