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Family going through tough heart battles

PITTSBURGH — At the end of Heart Health Month, Channel 11 is taking a look at a family going through a tough battle, together.

The Toplovich family is no stranger to the halls of a hospital. Alaina Toplovich and her brother, Hunter, have spent their entire lives in and out of UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, getting pacemakers, open heart surgeries and defibrillators.

That's because they share a genetic defect passed along from their mom, Keturah. Thirty years ago, she was in their shoes.

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"Never thought I'd have to go through that again," Toplovich told Channel 11 morning news anchor Katherine Amenta. "I thought it was just myself."

Among the three of them, their conditions vary. They've dealt with holes in their heart walls and rhythm issues. While congenital heart defects in children are fairly common at 1-in-100, this family's cases were all caused by genetics.

Luckily, Dr. Jackie Kreutzer and her cardiology team at Children's were able to identify the link fast, which helped address problems before they turned into bigger ones. That is giving the Toplovich family a chance to be advisors to other families facing issues like this. Alaina and Hunter shared one of their mother's sayings with us.

"Day by day, that's one of her sayings, she always supports us going through it," said the children.

Doctors told there are some signs any parent can look for when it comes to heart issues. They advised looking for trouble keeping up with activities, shortness of breath, change in color or feeling dizzy and light-headed.