Oh no you didn’t!

We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people. This is a time for serious people, and your fifteen minutes are up.” – President Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglas)  The American President (1995)

Some people just make my brain hurt.

Katherine Heigl, star of TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, recently adopted a daughter born in Korea. At first the child was described as a “Special Needs” child but it was later revealed that the baby had a Congenital Heart Defect. Little Naleigh had heart surgery in her homeland before coming to the United States.

Then – during an interview for Harper’s Bazaar – Miss Heigl made not one, but two ill-considered statements about heart defects:

“Her heart is 100 percent fine now. She has a scar, so she won’t be wearing bikinis, which is fine by us.”

Oh my word, where do I start? Obviously Miss Heigl is not a Funky Heart! reader, (Shame on her!) because if she was, she would know that no one with a CHD is “fine” after surgery. A person living with a Congenital Heart Defect has issues that surgery can not correct – even though their heart functions well enough to sustain life, there are still underlying structural defects in the heart itself. These need to be monitored throughout your lifetime.

Her second comment can be interpreted in two different ways. I can find no reason why an 18 month old girl needs to be wearing a bikini, so if that is what she meant, I agree. But Miss Heigl strikes me as someone to who appearance means a lot. She is in a business that places a great value on physical beauty, after all. (“I try, but I’m not nailing the baby fashion. It’s intimidating,” she said later in the interview) I am afraid that Naleigh is going to grow up thinking her heart surgery scar is a mark of shame.

And that is not true. Scars are a mark of battles fought – and won. I have stripped my sleeve and shown you my scars right here on this blog. A woman won’t just show the world her scars, but she sees them in a mirror. And if she is fortunate one day that special someone will ask her why she has a scar. Hopefully at that moment she won’t hold her head in shame, but rather talk about how she won the battle and tamed a monster.

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10 Responses to “Oh no you didn’t!”

  1. Andrea Says:

    I read that article myself and was astounded! She is doing her daughter a disservice if she thinks that her scar is something to be ashamed of. I made a choice when my son was 18 months old to teach him that his scar is a mark of courage and bravery. We were at a swim party with people who didn’t know our story yet. The thought crossed my mind to keep his shirt on, but I decided then and there that it was a part of him, evidence of the brave battles he had already fought. We took that shirt off and have never looked back. And it was a great opportunity to share about CHDs and our life with some people who have since become our very good friends.

  2. stefenie Says:

    Hmmmmm. That is very sad to hear that she has been ill informed on her adopted child’s condition. That can wind up being very devastating to Miss Heigl some day if her child does develop complications later in life.

    When our son had his first open heart surgery we were told that he wouldn’t need surgery for 5-10 years and that he would be like a normal child. Wow did that statement ever come back to bite us six months post op when we learned that our son was going to need another surgery soon and odds were that he was going to need more than they originally plan. Our dreamy naive thoughts that our child would be “normal” were quickly ripped away from us. It was harder to take than when our child was diagnosed. If you allow yourself to be lulled into some sort of false reality it is devastating when it is taken away from you.

    Hopefully someone will handle her with kid gloves and tell her the truth about heart defects. There is plenty of hope for our kids but it is a lifetime battle with the monster.

  3. Laurie Says:

    Amen and again I say AMEN. I have worn halter tops, bikinis (no, I wouldn’t now, I’m 48 and it would be quite unsightly, but not because of the scars). I have always been proud of my battle scars, proud to beat the odds, proud to be my age (especially since I wasn’t supposed to reach this age). Shorts have been a little more of a problem because of numerous catherizations, atrophied legs, etc. But usually I forget about the scarring until I’m asked “Ew, what happened?” But other people have been in wrecks, have had operations, accidents at work and have scars in other places.
    I actually have more trouble with people asking why I use a handicapped sticker on my car, and I bite my tongue trying not to say “Would you like that chronologically or alphabetically?”

    THank you for your article!!!!!!!

    PARENTS OF CHILDREN–teach them they are SPECIAL, normal, strong, and more in tune with themselves and life than many (who don’t go through these issues) and that makes them very fortunate because they have wonderful parents like you who care!!!

  4. Lisa Butler Says:

    I too saw this but on Extra last night….I was so ANGRY!! She is clearly misinformed and downplaying it…..I pray she’ll get over it and accept it and then realize how special her daughter is with or without a heart defect. She had a prime opportunity to be a role model and a hero to the CHD community by FINALLY bringing light to this type of heart disease…she failed………I hope that she realizes this …..I really do…..

  5. Teri Says:

    I don’t actually agree with you since I feel one you are taking things out of content. As for the special needs thing in the Vanity Fair article she said that women who smoked during pregnancy children were put on the “Special Need List” which she was pretty much saying that alot of babies who are not considered special needs is on the list.

    “Her heart is 100 percent fine now. She has a scar, so she won’t be wearing bikinis, which is fine by us. A lot of children don’t find forever homes because they’re on that special-needs list, even if it’s because of something as simple as her mother smoked cigarettes for a month, not knowing she was pregnant.”

    Also she did announce on Twitter that they were PDA holes that were closed and we are all born with a PDA that should closes. Yes it is a CHD but se isn’t really wrong saying that she is a 100 % fine now certain PDA never need follow up.
    As for the bikini thing well I have heard allot of heart parents say that and they are saying as a joke which I think she is doing. Plus I don’t blame her I am sure many magazines would love to get pics to blow the scars and do an exposé on her. I think as a mom she is just protecting her child from being the cover of a tabloid.

  6. Kristine Says:

    I agree her statements were wrong. But, her daughter just had major surgery. She might have just heard the phrase “congenital heart defect” for the first time herself. And, he comments seemed off hand. I think she mispoke but also think she needs support and love from the CHD community.

  7. Tracey Says:

    I will admit that I too have made those same remarks about my daughter. HOWEVER, I was also thrown into it without REALLY KNOWING what it means to have a daughter with CHDs. We were lead to believe that she would only have 1 surgery with yearly followups. She has now had 2 and still finding issues. While these issues are on the minor side of CHDs (she still has full function of her heart), she is looking at yet another surgery. So much for that 1 surgery…

    I also said that she wouldn’t be wearing bikini’s. I’m not one to be worried about looks, scars, etc. I don’t think they are something to hide. I’m not against her wearing bikini’s either. Again, as being newly thrown into the CHD world, you really don’t think about these things. Would I say those things today? 2 years, 2 OH surgeries and staph infection of the incision really make a person think… No I wouldn’t say those things today.

    Give Heigl a chance to REALLY understand and learn about CHDs. Maybe her kiddo won’t need the follow-ups. One thing I’ve learned during this journey is that each is different.

  8. Lisa@All That and a Box of Rocks Says:

    I saw this, too. This is wrong on so many different levels. Either she is totally misinformed or she’s in denial. (On all counts!)

    Sadly, this is a common stance on both issues-CHD and vanity.

    *Sigh*…..

  9. Brooke Says:

    She’ll probably be asked about her scars far before she’s asked about them by a “special someone” about them – the necks on women’s clothes aren’t designed to go as high up as they are on men’s. My scar shows when I wear a regular t-shirt necked shirt.

    …I bought my first bikini at age 25 and wore it for the first time at the ACHA Conference in Philly with a bunch of ACHDers. I haven’t switched back to a one-piece since. I’ve gone to water parks and pools, etc. Yes, I do get people who stare at my scar, especially in long lines at water parks, but it’s one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done! 🙂

  10. Jackie Rose Says:

    I don’t have a CHD but I do have a number of scars. After seeing the four scars on my abdomen from having my gallbladder removed, my mom and sister offered to help me find one-piece bathing suits. I encountered this sentiment again, to cover up my scars, when I fell off a roof last year and broke my face and nose and shattered my arm. Right after the accident my mom talked with me about seeing a dermatologist to reduce the appearance of the scars on my face and people bought me cuff bracelets for Christmas to cover up some of the scars on my arm.

    What I’ve learned from all this is that most people are ignorant. They don’t understand what its like to live with a scar, and misunderstood things are often seen as negative. In general too I’ve found that women who see my scars talk about covering them up while men who see them are excited to hear how I got them.

    It’s a societal issue that needs to be changed. I don’t believe Katherine Heigl should be hung out to dry for her comments. She needs to be educated a bit more, and I can only hope she’ll be supportive of her daughter, whether she decides to show her scars or not.

    Oh! The comment that her daughter is fine….Everyone says you’re fine if you survive an operation, regardless of whether its true or not!

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