Marie Riley, 42, was born with a defective heart that has caused numerous health challenges, along with several surgeries, including two open-heart surgeries.
“Riley has a set of four heart defects, known collectively as Tetralogy of Fallot,” according to an article on HeraldNet.com.
It wasn’t until six years ago that she even thought about why she has a heart condition. After her mother heard an ad on the radio by a law firm looking for aerospace and electronic industries workers who had children with birth defects, Riley joined two other plaintiffs to be represented by Waters Kraus & Paul, which specializes in birth defect litigation.
The three plaintiffs alleged that their birth defects are linked to chemicals their parents were exposed to while working at Boeing Company facilities in the Puget Sound area. When Riley’s mother was pregnant, she worked on circuit boards in the Electronics Manufacturing Facility at Boeing.
In October 2022, Riley agreed to an undisclosed out-of-court settlement, while the other two plaintiffs’ lawsuits currently remain pending.
Her Birth Defect Has Led to a Lifetime of Health Challenges
At age three, Riley had her first open-heart surgery.
In her teens, Riley began experiencing fainting spells, which began with an incident that could have been the end of her life. After playing outside, she was sitting in a chair when she passed out in her home. A doctor speculated that her fall forward onto the floor kicked her heart out of its irregular rhythm, resetting it to its regular beat. If she had simply fallen backward against the soft chair, her heart could have stopped altogether.
It turned out the electrical impulses from her brain that tell the heart when to beat were bouncing around on the scar tissue that resulted from her heart surgery, causing her to faint.
Throughout her teen years, Riley underwent several unsuccessful surgeries in which doctors tried to cauterize the heart to reroute her brain’s electrical impulses.
When she began college, Riley had to show her roommate how to use an external defibrillator in case she needed to be revived. In her 20s, she had a small defibrillator implanted in her chest.
“Sometimes I can minimize some of those things,” Riley said, “because it was just how I had to live.”
Her concern for her health got more intense when she began having children.
“You’re not living for yourself anymore,” Riley said. “I don’t want my kids to ever not have a mom.”
The defibrillator wire in her chest broke when she was 30 weeks pregnant with her first child. “If anything happens, save my baby,” Riley said to her doctors before the emergency repair surgery.
When she was 33, Riley vividly remembers saying good-bye to her two daughters, who were one and three years old, before undergoing her second open-heart surgery to replace an atrophied cardiac valve.
What Does the Future Look Like?
Eventually, Riley will have to replace the valve and the defibrillator.
“It’s hard to relive some of those moments,” Riley said. “It sucks. You get one life. This is the card I was dealt.”
How We Help Birth Defects Victims
Seek justice with the help of our experienced birth defects attorneys. Our alliance of birth defect victims’ attorneys has represented people like you affected by birth defects caused by toxic exposure at Boeing, aggressively fighting the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy, we can help.