I’ve spent all week sorting through what I want to say about last week’s Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Symposium in Durham; it has taken me this long to try to come up with words that don’t sound so corny that my readers throw up their hands in exasperation. I’m not sure that I have been successful, but here it is.
I have never been to the hospital at Duke, they they have a very reputable Adult Congenital Heart Defect Clinic and I have always kept them in the back of my mind as an alternate in case I needed a specialized Cardiologist and my team at Emory wasn’t available. Their facilities are very impressive; if you were to pick your hospital based on appearance alone Duke would be a contender. Very clean and wee kept, and modern facilities. I smiled when I got onto the elevator and saw one floor marked as the Jim Valvano Day Hospital. Duke and N.C. State fought some wars on the basketball court; and you know that even though they won most of their contests, the Duke faithful were glad to see Valvano and his team load the bus and drive away. Now they can’t get rid of him.
The sessions were interesting and informative – even the session that I didn’t quite “get” for Funky Heart readers. Perhaps it was late in the day, or perhaps it was that I was looking for any signs of abnormal brain development in myself. I’ve always been a bit forgetful, one of those people who needs to write something down if they expect to remember it. I’ve always been that way, for as long as I can remember – and with a pulse oxygenation level of 80%, I just have to wonder.
But on to the important part: I had a strong feeling that I would be speaking mainly to Heart Parents, and used that group as my target audience as I wrote my presentation. I was correct; the attendees were mainly heart parents, and the oldest child I saw was about 7, I believe. And the parents were all young – my age and almost certainly younger. (There was one older couple, who I assumed to be Grandmother/Grandfather) It struck me that I could very well be the first adult with a heart Defect that these people had ever met – in a way, I represented what they hoped for and dreamed about for their children.
I got emotional several times as I spoke, but had promised myself not to break down completely. Not because Heart Defects can’t be an emotional subject, nor did I think some of the audience would think I was fishing for sympathy. I was supposed to be there speaking as a CHD Survivor, I could stay home and have a good cry! I wanted to use the limited time I had wisely. But I was able to get the audience to laugh, also, and humor is supposed to cure a lot of ills.
We broke for lunch after my session, and many of the parents thanked me profusely for coming. They were glad I had spoken, and I seemed to have encouraged them.
And it encouraged me, too. I felt like I was walking on air, just glad to be there and happy to contribute in some little way. I think that standing up helped me see another side of myself, and it helped me just as much as it helped those parents in attendance.
This is something we Heart Warriors need to be doing a lot more of – encouraging the parents of young Cardiac Kids. This is something I personally need to be doing a lot more of. So I am activity looking for more opportunities to speak. I’m still here, and although I have my fair share of the little bumps and bruises that life dishes out, I’m enjoying my life. Maybe I can say something that would show you how to help your Cardiac Kid thrive, too.