1-year-old Bay Village boy’s heart disease discovered in utero

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BAY VILLAGE, Ohio (WJW) - A Bay Village family says their life changed in an instant during a prenatal exam.

Brandon Chesla and his wife Jackie McNamara say they were stunned to learn their son Bennett Chesla, now 1-year-old, appeared to have a serious heart illness in utero during a fetal echocardiogram.

"I remember needing to be outside for fresh air and just saying, 'Okay we'll take it as it comes and we'll deal with it.' But it was very scary to begin with, to be honest," said Brandon.

Bennett's mother says he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis and, if left untreated, it could lead to additional serious medical issues. Dr. Erenberg says the illness was detected around 5 months into McNamara's pregnancy. 

"His heart disease was picked up while he was still a fetus so before he was even born," said Dr. Francine Erenberg a pediatric cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

In some cases, babies born with this condition require surgery soon after birth. Bennett had one procedure so far and could require more in the future.

"If he did not have a surgery he probably would have gotten quite sick and one could even die from it," said Dr. Erenberg.

McNamara believes sharing her son's health journey will serve as a reminder to parents about the importance of prenatal exams and the life-changing health information that can be learned about babies in utero.

"The American Heart Association has worked with us to help us understand the importance of prenatal care and how we can really encourage people to never miss an appointment," said McNamara.

February is American Heart Month. According to the American Heart Association, congenital heart defects are the "top killer" of newborns with birth defects. 

Click here for more on congenital heart defects.

More stories about heart disease, here.

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