TV host Jimmy Kimmel’s son, William, was born on April 21st, 2017. But soon after birth, the baby boy started to turn blue. He was suffering from a rare birth defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) with pulmonary atresia—and had to have open-heart surgery at the ripe age of three days old in order to save his life. This defect occurs in about five of every 10,000 births.
In this congenital heart defect, the passages from the heart to the lungs are blocked. Very little blood is able to get in and receive oxygen, and the normal cycle of blood flow throughout the body is interrupted. It’s actually a combination of four heart defects—a ventricular septal defect, pulmonary stenosis, right ventricular hypertrophy, and an overriding aorta. Put it all together, and what does it mean?Without enough oxygen distributed throughout the body, your cells can’t breathe. If untreated, your organs will slowly suffocate from this lack of oxygen. This defect HAS to be treated by surgery, usually within the first six months of life. It’s also a lifelong condition.
The Cost of Birth Defects
Thankfully, in this day and age, medical science has advanced significantly and hospitals can treat most birth defects. No longer are they an automatic death sentence. Of course, the costs of major surgery can be astronomical—the New York Times estimated the cost of the first “fix” surgery for TOF at $100,000. Multiple surgeries, however, will almost certainly be necessary throughout the life of an affected individual.
One study for the Centers for Disease Control showed that overall hospital costs for people with a congenital heart defect were about $1.4 billion in a single year. That doesn’t even include the time-off-from-work, sleepless nights, or gut-wrenching emotional devastation suffered by victims and their families.
It’s important to note that health policy experts, pursuant to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, confirm that any baby that needs emergency surgery will get it. But unless the family has a low enough income to qualify for Medicaid, they will be billed directly for the newborn’s care.
What Can Be Done?
Preventing birth defects, if possible, is the key. Many defects can be prescreened before birth by doctors, nurses, and trained hospital staff. Certain medication that may cause birth defects should NEVER be prescribed to expecting mothers.
For mothers: Don’t drink; don’t smoke; get proper nutrition (including folic acid, which cuts down on neural tube defects); and listen to your OB/GYN. However, doctors are not infallible. If any medical mistakes, misdiagnoses, or “failures in the standard of care” were committed, that doctor can be held monetarily responsible for the resultant birth defect.
Jimmy Kimmel used this horrible experience to reach out to other parents and citizens of America. No matter what your situation, you are not alone in it. If your child’s birth defect could have been predicted or avoided by medical staff, please contact the Chicago birth defect lawyers of Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC.