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Parents encourage testing for Congenital Heart Defects

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Mason Tilley's scars on his chest show his amazing strength.

He is one of nearly 40,000 infants in the U.S born each year with congenital heart defects, the most common birth defect.

"You take it as it comes, one day at a time, one minute at a time and pray," says Mason mother Kari Tilley.

"Nothing prepares you emotionally to hear your child is sick and he'll be sick for life."

Mason has undergone two surgeries with one more planned after being born with two large holes in his heart.

He spent the first two and a half months of life at Brenner Children's Hospital.

Many parents don't find out their child has a heart defect until they are home from the hospital.

Test like a simple pulse oximeter, which measure oxygen in the blood, can detect problems with an infant’s heart.

The test is routine for newborns in some states, but not in North Carolina, something Kari and her husband Robert hope to change.

Tilley also encourages expecting moms to ask during ultra sounds for details about their child's heart, its valves and chambers.

"Parents can ask these questions, they need to know to ask.  I didn't know to ask."

Mason's heart defect is something he'll have to deal with for the rest of his life.

There is no cure, but a lot of support groups are available to help families prepare emotionally and physically, which is why the Tilley’s are urging parents to ask for these test so they can plan.

"Mason has definitely taught me unconditional love and prayer."

To learn more about these test and support groups in your area log on to