Hearts Don’t Lie: Kids’ Doctor Visits Make a Difference

“Just a routine health exam. Everything will be fine,” my wife and I thought as we buckled our newborn daughter Brooke into her car seat for a doctor visit. The ride home was not as worry free, but we were sure glad we went.

During Brooke’s exam, our family doctor checked her heartbeat and heard something that didn’t sound quite right. The doctor told us to not be worried but she wanted to run extra tests. After looking at the test results, her suspicions were confirmed: Brooke had a heart defect which was a small hole in her heart.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of children in the U.S. are not getting preventive care. It may seem strange to take a seemingly healthy child to the doctor, but doctor visits like this – also known as well-child visits – are an important way to help your child become, and stay, healthy. In addition to helping doctors track your child’s physical growth and making sure they’re up-to-date on immunizations, the visits can help uncover health issues parents can’t see, like Brooke’s heart defect.

Pro tip: Prepare yourself and your family members for doctor visits. Print our office visit checklists for adults and children and take them to your next check-up.

We learned that Brooke’s heart might heal on its own so we watched the situation for a few years under the supervision of her doctor and pediatric cardiology team. When we hadn’t seen any improvement by the time Brooke turned 5, we made the decision to have her heart repaired. Thanks to medical technology, a new outpatient procedure for the repair was available. It was a success for Brooke and she was able to come home the same day.

Today, Brooke is a college student studying to be a teacher. She still needs to get some tests every few years but is healthy ­– thanks in part to a routine checkup a long time ago.

Did you learn about an existing or potential health issue at a regular checkup? If so, send your story to balancedliving@hap.org.

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