Oprah is not your friend

I occasionally see a web page or get an e-mail petition imploring TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey to do a show about kids with Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs). I’m convinced these pleas are a wasted effort – Oprah Winfrey is not going to come riding to the rescue.

Why? It would seem that CHDs would be a perfect topic for Oprah’s show. The majority of her audience is female, most of them in their childbearing years, and CHDs occur in 1 out of every 125 live births. It sounds like a perfect fit.

But to understand why CHDs will never be featured on Oprah, you have to understand how that type of show works. No matter the subject, the writers approach it in a limited number of ways. The most used approach is The Host Has All The Answers. Typically, a guest will have have a problem. Oprah is going to listen, and then suggest a course of action. She’ll then call on an expert seated in the audience, who will agree completely. After all, The Host Has All The Answers. It’s all nice and neat and we can be on the way to a better existence in an hour.

Heart Defects aren’t solvable in an hour. A lot of times there aren’t answers – we have ideas about why children are born with bad hearts, but nothing is certain. My mother followed all of her doctor’s suggestions, she didn’t smoke or drink (Never did and still doesn’t, so it couldn’t be due to “residual effects”) and yet I was born with a defective heart. Many other people can say the same thing. So, Oprah, how do we prevent Heart Defects? We can’t follow that line of thinking  – because then, our host won’t have the answers.

Another popular approach is I Have A Problem: The host acts a conduit to connect a person with an unsolvable problem with an expert in the field. (Our host will make the initial suggestion or their staff will search for the expert, a variation of the Host Has All The Answers technique.)

That won’t work because a CHD at birth, even if expected, triggers a crisis response. The instant the child is born, the clock starts ticking. Get Oprah involved? I’m sorry, we’re heading for the helicopter pad right now. As soon as we land at University Hospital, we’re going straight to the Operating Room.

I’m highly doubtful that open letters, web pages, or petitions will influence Oprah to present our stories on TV. And I’m worried that if we were to appear, we would be presented as Victims or with a “You poor thing!” attitude. If that were to happen, don’t invite me – I don’t attend pity parties. They never serve good food and the music is crappy!

So no, appearing on Oprah is not high on my priority list.

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7 Responses to “Oprah is not your friend”

  1. Linda D. Says:

    Yeah, I hear you. When I tell people about Gabby, I sometimes get a “poor dear” kind of response. But she’s doing really well! Sure, she has some residual stuff and will always have to be monitored (& is facing 1 or 2 more major surgeries), but I want her to do what she is capable of in all facets of her life. She’s really smart, very loving, incredibly pretty (I keep on getting stopped by strangers in public who want to comment on how pretty both my girls are), and her cardiac issues are just part of who she is. We were kind of talking about it the other day (as best as you can with a bright 3 1/2 year old), and to her, this is just the way that she is. And, I keep on trying to remember that Shaun White, the olympic snowboarder, was born with the same defect she has (ToF), had 2 open heart surgeries before his first birthday, and now he competes in the Olympics. Just shows what CAN happen with CHD’ers.

  2. carolyn compton Says:

    My husband talks about this idea that some people have told him when they ask how Clarry is, that “it’ll be alright, doctors do amazing things these days” and he wonders how they know? He thought they’d asked HIM how he was…not the other way around! He thinks they are making themselves feel better!

    That’s the point isn’t it? TV shows aren’t really real and can’t express that feeling that you are freefall-skydiving without the fun or its like you have a hat on around your ears and eyes and you can’t take it off, no matter how hard you try or how frustrated you get. BTW Clarry is good. Thanks again Steve.

  3. portalite Says:

    Come on, give her a break. She’s only 1 person. I am sure she’ll get to this.

    I happen to worship Oprah. I even painted her some time ago: http://portalite.blogspot.com/2007/04/operah-winfrey-portrait.html

    Hope to see this issue on the Oprah show one day,

    • Steve Says:

      Her show has only been on the air 20 years, I think she would have at least mentioned it by now. Face facts: Oprah is not interested in Congenital Heart Defects. We act independently and do not play the part of the victim enough for her.

  4. Lisa Says:

    Completely agree, Steve. There have been CHD packets sent to Oprah for years.

    People don’t want to hear that you did everything right and still had a baby with CHD. They don’t want to hear that it can happen to ANYONE without rhyme or reason.

    CHD is not a condition that Dr. Oz can sit and rattle off a to-do list for prevention. And that’s what the Oprah show focuses on.

  5. Sue Says:

    I don’t know if Oprah will or will not do a show on Congenital Heart Defects. It would be nice if she did, just to raise awareness amongst both childbearing women and the greater community who supports non-profits, etc. I do think that Saving Tiny Hearts being located in Chicago and growing in size and recognition may be something that can attract her attention. But, what I wanted to comment on is this resentment of people who have a “poor dear” response – I don’t know if it is so much a “pity party” as it is an empathetic response. I would just hate for people to resent someone who could possibly be an advocate or donor or whatever – its a matter of changing your response to one of “yes, it is horrible that more isn’t known about this #1 killer of children – my child is doing great, but its my hope that we can do more to raise awareness and research funding in this area…” and then figure out an agency or an event you can tell them about. This way, you may be able to turn that empathy into something useful to the greater good. I really find people resort to “pity” when they feel helpless…if you can make them feel helpful in some way, then they feel empowered and positive toward your situation. Just a communication instructors little soapbox speech! 🙂

  6. Hero in the Halfpipe « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] had heart problems,” he said on The Oprah Winfrey Show – the closest she has come to discussing CHDs in 25 years. HAD? I thought. What happened? Where did those “heart problems” […]

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