Erin here with the second blog post for Erin’s Fund! Because of the emotional nature of living with a congenital heart defect, some of the blog posts are going to be more personal, such as this one. This specific one is going to discuss similar topics to my speech at an international cardiology convention hosted by CHOP in 2016 (you can check out the video for that on our Facebook page!).
When I was around 8 years old I had a life-changing epiphany. Yup. You read that right. While most children in elementary school are concerned with things like their ever-changing favorite color and what game they were going to play at recess, I was developing a mantra that I use to guide my life, even to this day.
Despite all of my health issues, my mother raised me as though I had never been a “sickly” child. I was treated as equal to all of my siblings. Things like having a cardiologist or two open heart surgeries were just normal to me. In fact, I was confused as to why my friends didn’t have “heart doctors”. As I got older, I began to hear and understand more about my uneasy first few years, but nothing changed: it was all still my average life. I couldn’t see any drastic differences between my friends and myself.
One day, however, my world came toppling down around me. Somehow, with all of my third grade wisdom, I realized how serious my heart condition was, that without the advances of modern medicine and the amazing care from CHOP I wouldn’t be alive. This newfound awareness shook me to my core. Was my heart really that fragile? That weak?? I started panicking. I was no longer a “normal” kid. In a moment I had gone from an average bubbly third grader to a breakable little child, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I became terrified of my heart.
As I started to breakdown, my third grade wisdom kicked in again and the second part of my life-changing epiphany occurred. I realized that being able to overcome all of the obstacles I had faced as a baby must have meant that I was basically a superhero. I mean come on, only someone with the strength of Superwoman (and a little bit of luck) could have had two open heart surgeries in their first year of life and not only survive, but still be capable of doing everything a “normal” kid could.
This realization brought a new wave of pride, I wasn’t weak, I was a survivor. I was given a second chance at life and I was not going to waste it. Since that exact moment, I have worked towards leading a life centered around helping people whenever I could. To this day, I continue to live my life by this motto created by my 8 year old self.
Living with a congenital heart defect is not always easy. There will always be ups and downs, some harder than others, but they can help shape you into the person you are today and the person you want to be, as they have done for me.