Ten years ago I was 14, and I was tired. As I walked up the stairs I would pant and gasp for breath. I would come home from school I would sleep until dinner time. Playing softball was my passion and I had to give that up because I could no longer keep up and my heart would skip beats anytime I exerted myself too much. And I needed a new pulmonary valve.
I was born with a heart defect called “Tetrology of Fallot” and had already had two open heart surgeries, one when I was one and the next when I was six to repair what was needed to survive. When I was born, my very loving parents had five children all under the age of nine. They had just moved to Utah from California and were starting up a new business here. While everyone had insurance, as soon as I was born and the insurance company found out I had a heart condition they dropped me from the plan. My siblings couldn’t have friends over because I could not get sick ever, I literally couldn’t cry because if I did my heart couldn’t pump the blood to my lungs and I would pass out–so my mother had a newborn she couldn’t let cry. She also had four other children at home and my father was at work most of the time trying to get their business up and running. Can you imagine what my family and parents were going through? If that time doesn’t take years off their lives I will be very grateful.. and impressed! Everything worked out back then. They got me on government insurance for the time being and I developed well as a kid!
When I was a year and a half old, and 20 pounds, I could finally get my first surgery. This was major open heart surgery and the surgeons did so much repair to my heart. They fixed the hole in my heart, did some general repair, and worked on my pulmonary valve as well. I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks but was still a happy baby!
My next surgery I was six, and my heart was pretty oversized. My main issue has been my pulmonary valve, that’s the valve that pumps blood to your lungs. So energy and breathing were always harder to come by once my heart started to go down hill. They replaced my pulmonary valve and put in a valve from a cow! It never seemed weird to me but it really is an amazing situation.
(Poor best friend Lindsi! She probably had to go to counseling after seeing me all poked and bent!)
Then when I was 13 my heart started to go down hill again. Pumping blood to my lungs was getting harder and harder. I was an officer in jr high so I was very active and bubbly and so I could tell things were changing. They like to wait as long as possible before doing surgery. My sisters good friend/our neighbor happened to be a surgical technician and asked if she could be in the room with me and I was happy she could! The morning of my surgery my mom drove me to the hospital and my sister came along too. My dad met us there and I got prepped. I remember being more scared because I knew what was going on this time. My anesthesiologist came in and listened to my heart and said, “what you got, a washing machine in there?!” He had me listen and my heart really did sound like a washing machine, not like the regular “thump”. I walked down to the OR and don’t remember a thing after that really!
I got into surgery and they opened me up my valve was “thrashed” according to the surgical technician. She came out to update my parents and let them know that the surgeon was shocked I hadn’t been on oxygen and that I even walked into the surgical room. Most people in my condition would have needed to be pushed around in a wheelchair. Their were three flaps on my valve, two were calcified shut and the other had a rip in it. But surgery went great, they put a pig’s valve in to replace my old and beat up valve! I woke up in the ICU and one of the first things I asked a nurse was to let me listen to my heart. That desired “thump thump” greeted me lovingly and I was so happy.
I don’t want to boast about myself or make you feel bad for me. This post is really just because people ask me a lot about my scar that runs the length of my sternum. And because I’m pretty proud that a decade has gone by since my last surgery and this valve still looks brand new even when doctors thought it might last ten years to begin with! I’m proud of that scar and I’m happy for it. I’m so blessed I was born now and not some pioneer crossing the plains. I’m so blessed that I have parents in heaven and on Earth to love and watch over me. I’m so blessed each and every day that Heavenly Father knows what I need and how much I can handle. Hard things in my life have led me exactly to where I need to be and that’s something to be proud of and to celebrate! Ten years ago was a tumultuous time in my life. That time passed and I’m all the better for it. I know that God will continue to lay the best path ahead of me, even if that means that I’ll face hard times. I know I can get through them because God got me through this.