During February, also known as American Heart Month, the public will hear a lot of information about how to keep our hearts healthy and prevent heart disease.

While important, I want to shed light on the 2 million to 3 million people in the U.S. who live with congenital heart disease. It may come as a surprise that CHD is the most prevalent birth defect throughout the nation. Almost 1 in 100 babies in this country are born with a heart defect -- and I was one of them.

When I was 9 days old, doctors discovered I was born with tetralogy of Fallot, a rare condition of four heart defects that causes low oxygen levels in the blood. To date, I have had three surgeries that have extended and improved the quality of my life, but I am not cured and never will be. As I age, my heart will require care from doctors who specialize in treating adults with CHD.

I consider myself lucky because I am able to get the care I need from an adult CHD center, but fewer than 10 percent of adult CHD patients actually receive the specialty care they need.

We must do better.

With greater awareness, all CHD patients can get the care they need at every stage of their life. Help us spread the word about CHD by visiting the Adult Congenital Heart Association at www .ACHAheart.org for more information.

Marilyn Petrosie