February is For Hearts

Hey Cats!

So a few weeks ago, my dad was telling me about an organization he saw on the news called Amazing Little Hearts (http://www.amazinglittlehearts.com/). It is a support group for parents and families of children born with Congenital Heart Defects, and I think it is an awesome, much-needed resource. As you may know, February is Heart Awareness Month, and this week, February 7-14, is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. This is something that is very important to me, because I was born with a CHD, pulmonary atresia. With pulmonary atresia, the pulmonary valve does not exist, and the blood cannot flow from the right ventricle to the lungs, causing the blood to be unable to become oxygenated. To be honest, I don’t really know all the technicalities behind my heart defect because I was only a baby when I had my surgeries. To correct the problem, I had a series of three surgeries known as the Fontan Procedure, the first when I was born, the second when I was one year old, and the last when I was two. My family and I spent plenty of time at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and the Ronald McDonald House, and I am so thankful for both of those places. As for my recovery, I cannot explain it other than through God’s grace and love. According to my cardiologist, whom I visit every year, many children born with pulmonary atresia and other similar CHD’s are very limited in their physical activity. Growing up, I never really experienced any trouble that I can remember, and I took dance for many years, played one unsuccesful season of tee-ball, and took gymnastics classes. However, when I entered middle school, my parents didn’t allow me to play sports like volleyball or basketball (which didn’t really break my heart, see tee-ball reference) but I did try out for cheerleading and made the team. Throughout middle school and high school I was a cheerleader and was able to tumble, run around, and do stunts and jumps with the best of them. Yes, I had to stop when I was tired, which was a lot more often than the other girls, but that was okay. My cardiologist told me that she has never seen anyone with my defect be able to be as physically active as I am, which just completely blows my mind. While my CHD definitely limits me in some areas and is really scary sometimes, I am so grateful that I have it. I have learned to be very open about it, and it has taught me so much about myself, the fascinating organ that is so vital to life, being different, overcoming obstacles, and, most importantly, God’s grace and love. Congential Heart Defects are not necessarily preventable, because they are birth defects, but thankfully they are repairable. This week, I will be praying for all the babies with CHD’s and their families, and I would encourage you to do the same! Until next time!