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Stories From Main Street: 12-Year-Old Brings Awareness About Congenital Heart Defects

Stories from Main Street (credit: CBSNewYork)

Stories from Main Street (credit: CBSNewYork)

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HARTSDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A young Westchester County girl got action and helped raise awareness about congenital heart defects after petitioning her town board.

Jennifer Reilly, 12, from Hartsdale was born with tricuspid atresia, meaning she does not have a tricuspid valve in her heart.

As WCBS 880′s Sean Adams reported, Reilly is on a mission to raise awareness about congenital heart defects. She had five procedures by the time she was 4.

“I had two open heart, one closed heart surgery and two catheterizations,” she told Adams.

The catheterizations reconfigured the way her heart pumps blood.

She’s in good health now and figure skates in her spare time. But earlier this month, she spoke before the Greenburgh Town Board to petition for an awareness week.

“We’re going to be designating today Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week in the town of Greenburgh,” town supervisor Paul Feiner said earlier this month.

The issue is important to Reilly.

“One in every 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect,” Reilly told Adams.

Reilly shares her experiences with the hope that other families will be able to cope with the shock of a congenital heart defect diagnosis.

“It’ll be OK. Just think of positive things and just think of the great things that could come out of it,” she told Adams.

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Jennifer’s mother Lynda found a support network called Little Hearts, which tries to educate parents and teach them the warning signs.

“If you see that your child might have breathing problems or get out of breath very easily,” she told Adams.

Tom Reilly said advocacy isn’t his daughter’s only good work.

“Another is collecting comic books and markers and bringing those to the hospital for kids that are in the hospital during the holidays,” he said.

Jennifer Reilly is an honor student who, in addition to figure skating, likes to play the piano. She doesn’t let her congenital heart defect slow her down.
“I like science,” she told Adams. “I want to be a doctor.”

Feb. 7-14 was designated by Feiner as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.

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