I understand most people do not care about my birthday. Thousands of people are born everyday. It is not unique. However, growing up with a congenital disease makes you appreciate each birthday you celebrate just a little bit more. It makes you thankful for another year and truly appreciate how far you’ve gotten in life because you are constantly aware at any moment life can end.
On July 7, 1993, I was born. I had holes in my heart and my heart valves were deformed. I was born with congenital heart disease. I was born with the same disease my father and grandfather were born with. Growing up I saw my dad live a full life despite this disease, but I also saw him get open heart surgery and be rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night with abnormal heart beats. I grew up constantly visiting doctor’s offices. I was told I had to quit playing a sport I loved. I was not allowed to participate in gym class. But I was “stable” and was told by the time I would need surgery everything will be done by lasers and it won’t be a big deal. Well . . . They were wrong.
During winter break of my senior year of college, I was told I needed open heart surgery because my heart aneurysm had grown. It was necessary to do surgery before it became an emergency situation. My surgery was scheduled for one month after my college graduation : June 1, 2015. I not only watched my dad struggle with heart complications, but lived through the struggle myself. Now, I have a mechanical heart valve and take warfarin everyday and will take it for the rest of my life. I have to test my blood every two weeks and still cannot play contact sports. But I am still living. Growing up with a condition which made me different from my peers allowed me to gain a different perspective in life. I celebrate my birthday each year with true gratitude for life. I am thankful I have made it this far in my journey. I am happy to have friends and family who support me. And I am lucky to have been given the means necessary in life to be able to get the life-saving medical care I need.
We live in a scary world which can be very cruel, but I try to wake up each morning and simply be happy I woke up. Some days that is much easier said than done, but some days it changes my outlook and allows me to be a much more positive person. I know what true struggle and pain feels like, and I try my best to not allow small short term problems stress me out. Every year on July 7th I will celebrate being alive until I am no longer.