My Heart Journey

When I was just a few weeks old, I was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, an abnormal narrowing or tightening of a valve or blood vessel, and my parents were told that I needed to have heart surgery to correct it. Of course, this is not what any parent wants to hear, but the doctors at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh reassured them that I would be okay.

Sure enough, I was going to be more than okay, and I experienced my curious baby-life and terrible two’s just like everyone else; the only difference is that I had more doctor visits than my peers. Although no child usually wants to go to the doctor’s office, I was bribed with stuffed animals and cheery faces with every check up, so life was good!

Just a few short years later though, I needed another surgery. My parents packed me up, and off we went on our next adventure to Children’s Hospital, new stuffed animal in hand. I barely remember going to sleep on a giant bean bag, and I woke up in a new room with my parents close by.

I recovered rather quickly, and was out playing (and of course fighting) with my sister as if nothing happened. My parents made sure I didn’t go beyond my limits, but let me play as much as I wanted otherwise!

My doctor said I would most likely need another operation or two before I turned 20, but here I am at 21, and have yet to have any further complications. My doctor attributed this to my active lifestyle, and the fact that I didn’t see myself as limited. Throughout grade school, I played softball, ran track and field, volunteered at various events in the community, rode horses, and even finished first in my graduating class.

I then started at the University of Pittsburgh for engineering, but quickly realized that my love of medicine and animals would lead me on a pre-vet avenue. As I began shadowing my local vet, I learned that she volunteered at Children’s Hospital with her two golden retrievers, and that’s when I knew that I would love to give back to the hospital that saved my life. I soon began volunteering in Austin’s Playroom, and then in the radiology department where I was able to put a smile on the kids’ and parents’ faces just like they did to my family all of those years ago.

I currently have taken a break from volunteering though, because I graduated a semester early, and have decided to use my time to have fun and gain more experience horse riding in other countries around the world. Without Children’s Hospital, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be so active and adventurous. Without my parents’ and doctor’s support, I wouldn’t have the courage to live my adventures.