One day I was on the internet and came across the Congenital Heart Disease Information and Resources web site. I had no idea there were other kids out there who shared similar life stories. I was very excited to read about them. It makes me feel better to know, I am not alone.
I am 19 years old and a college student. I was diagnosed with an Atrial Septal Defect at age four, and had open heart surgery. The doctors were able to repair the hole in my heart with no complications or medication, but I developed a mild speech problem and some physical limitations. My life since then has been challenging.
I was raised in Rochester, WA., a very small community where everyone knew me and were very supportive and understanding of my disabilities. When I couldn't play sports because it was too physically exhausting, my family and friends started thinking of alternative activities for me. Instead of running or jogging, I would walk, and instead of aerobics, I would ride my stationary bike. When I was eight years old I was asked to be a cheerleader mascot. It was enough to keep me physically fit without the physical exhaustion.
For two years I cheered for the high school during football and basketball games. Also, I was later on the school dance team for four years. I felt normal with the help of my family and friends.
Having a disability doesn't have to be a negative experience.
My other major challenge was my speech problem due to the surgery. When I spoke, I would sometimes mix up my words and not annunciate them properly. It was really noticeable when I would get in front of the class to talk or meet new people.
It was suggested to my parents to get me into voice lessons. I started singing at age seven. I took to it like a duck takes to water, and have been singing ever since. Singing helped me annunciate my words and helped my speech become more fluid. I have performed at malls, fairs, restaurants, talent shows, a cruise ship, and auditioned for Star Search twice. I am now pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree specializing in Youth Drama and a minor in Vocal Presentation at Central Washington University.
My biggest fears were turned into positive alternatives and solutions.
I want other kids who have a CHD to know that they should not give up. There is hope. You can do a lot with a support group of family and friends. Stay positive, don't let anyone get you down, and always set higher standards.
Remember, you are not alone.