My Mother saved my heart. February is National Heart Month, and I’ve shared my story in honor of this national educational initiative, dedicated to cardiovascular health awareness.
Every evening for over two months, my frail six-year-old body would sit in that white hospital bed waiting to hear those magical “click-clack, click-clacks” coming down the hallway. That beautiful sound belonged to my mother and her high-heeled shoes. While I was hospitalized for my congenital heart defect, she had to go home in the evenings to help my three brothers with homework, dinner, and simply love them. So, in those hours that she was gone, I waited patiently to hear those “click-clacks” because it meant my mom had returned to help heal me.
National Heart Month: Twins Born with a Heart Defect
You see, I was born with a congenital heart defect called a VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect). Essentially, my twin brother and I were born with a couple of holes in our hearts, mine much larger. His closed up and was quite healthy as a newborn and child.
My mom, however, knew immediately upon holding me for the first time that something was desperately wrong. A mother’s intuition, I guess.
I was force-fed for the first year of my life, but with the love of my three brothers and parents, I flourished. By the time I was one, I had caught up in my milestones, but the hole in my heart still lingered. My early childhood years were filled with good health until I turned six. I had acquired Bacterial Endocarditis – an infection of the heart that can be fatal. This is when I spent months in that white hospital bed, my parents praying for my very survival.
National Heart Month: The Magic of Mom
Those magic heels of my mom and God himself saved my life. My mom slept in a chair every single night refusing to leave me. One dreadful night in the ICU, I vividly remember staring at the window into the nurses’ station, the bright fluorescent lights, and my mother frantically throwing both blankets and herself on top of me. This is the moment, my parents almost lost me.
Now that I am a mother, I simply cannot imagine going through this experience with one of my own children. Being in the hospital over Christmas, visitors, and pain from IVs are some of my only memories, but my mother’s love and devotion will forever be remembered.
Months and years later, she never treated me differently. My mom didn’t keep me in a bubble trying to protect my every move. She urged me to play sports. In high school, she nagged me to death about not partaking in typical reckless teenage behavior. Those nights in the hospital were incredibly difficult and agonizing for her, and she was not shy to remind me of that when I got caught smoking cigarettes on spring break. Sorry, mom. In all seriousness, though, I am glad my parents didn’t shy me away from living an active lifestyle.
National Heart Month: Strengthening your Heart through an Active Lifestyle
Like my brothers, my parents encouraged me to be a tough, scrappy little athlete instead of shielding me from everything. They also knew that an energetic lifestyle is good work for the heart. The heart is the most important muscle that needs working out, ladies. This is why I do my best to exercise it today.
I know that heart health is imperative because I am aware of my defect, but unfortunately, heart disease can affect anyone at any time. So, when it comes to exercise ladies, your heart needs it just as much as your waistline. I need to work that heart of mine so that I can be around to raise my own children.