Monday, 24 June 2013

Celebs with Congenital Heart Disease

Think having a life-threatening disease means you sit at home all day crying? Well what if I told you there's plenty of famous people with congenital heart disease. They may have fought for life in their youth but they can definitely be considered successful now.

Firstly we have Jessie J here in Britain. A very successful singer and judge on the singing competition The Voice UK. Jessie was actually treated at the same children's hospital as I was, she even stayed in the same ward as me. There's a good chance we were there at the same time as she said on Children In Need (a British charity event) that she practically lived there when she was young and I was there enough for it to be my second home too. Jessie suffers from Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which is a heart disease that effects the electrical currents in the heart. 

Another singer, born in the US but rose to fame in the UK is Jimmy Osmond part of the successful band The Osmonds and brother to Donny Osmond. He had a stroke in his forties due to undiagnosed CHD and a hole in the heart, which he was born with. 

Next is an American actor, John Ritter, who starred in the tv series Three's Company and film Bad Santa among others. John sadly passed away in 2003 from undiagnosed CHD. 

One for you American readers, Shaun White, a two-time olympic gold medalist in snowboarding (2006 and 2010 Olympics) has a CHD called Tetralogy of Fallot.

There are also some famous parents of children with CHD:

Slyvester Stallone's daughter (one of the three in the picture) has CHD. You will probably know Stallone from his films, which include: Rocky, The Expendables and Rambo. His daughter has an atrial ventricular septal defect (see my last blog post for information on this) which I also have. She has also had heart surgery. 

Another CHD child of a famous actor is Katherine Heigl's adopted daughter. You may know Katherine from the film Knocked Up and the tv series Grey's Anatomy. The child was adopted from Korea and underwent open heart surgery when she moved to America. Katherine has said in interview that after heart surgery the child is now "perfectly fine" but I doubt that is true. CHD is incurable and life altering. I suspect Katherine is attempting to keep the press off the subject. 

In terms of celebrities this was all I could find. I have to admit, I was expecting to find more knowing how common heart defects are in new born babies. However I think this has shown that the severity of congenital heart diseases varies greatly and just because you have heart disease does not mean that you don't have a life or that you're not going to be successful at something. It also shows that congenital heart disease can be found in people who seem perfectly normal on the outside. It is an invisible disease. The result in it remaining undiagnosed is often death or a near death experience as can be seen with the cases of Jimmy Osmond and John Ritter. 

People with CHD can lead ordinary lives. Anyone you pass on the street could have CHD or other invisible diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis and many other illnesses. It is something that is both a blessing and a curse to those who suffer from things that cannot be seen. We are often called lazy or expected to do things that are difficult for us but we feel obliged to do when we have been asked. I myself had such trouble getting out of P.E. at school (I believe you call it gym class in the US) and had quite an argument with a teacher who couldn't understand why having a pacemaker exempted you from contact sport. But having an invisible illness does have it's advantages. You can blend pretty easily with normal people if/when you're not in a wheelchair. There's no staring and pointing or anything like that. You can pretend to be normal and healthy. But on the other hand it's part of who you are so why shouldn't people know about it? It's quite hard to figure out if it's a good thing looking healthy when you're not.

I hope this has been enlightening in some way, or interesting at least. 
Thanks for reading!

(I do not own any of these pictures) 


  1. Thank you for sharing

  2. Hi Sara,

    British athlete Roger Black has a congenital heart disorder (leaky, regurgitating aortic valve); the late Jill Dando had a VSD and obstructed pulmonary artery (?pulmonary stenosis?) Rik Mayall's sudden death this year might have been precipitated by a hidden congenital heart disorder... They're a few others that speeding to my mind. Also, footballer Kanu has a congenital arrhythmia disorder (possibly WPW, but I can't recall)... There are many of us out there!! Thanks fire sharing. God Bless you x

  3. *spring to mind, not speeding to mind... Gotta love autocorrectingpredictivetextery at 05h00!!!

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