Friday, June 8, 2012

Part of mending a heart is healing the metaphorical heart - dealing with the feelings that come from the hurdles we go through. I was 40 years old before I met another CHD survivor - I'm  now 46. The introduction was a gift - my surgeon, a man who figured out that heart patients, and specifically a demographic virtually passed over by the medical community, needed some kind of support or connection to patients with similar backgrounds. As a CHD kid/adult I lived my first 40 years relatively alone with my CHD. I didn't really notice much that I was alone even after I had to have OHS a 2nd time when I was in my late 20's. It wasn't until the most recent OHS in 2005 when I finally realized what I had been through was traumatic and that connecting with someone who had been there, too, seemed imperative. And, to be honest, until my doctor offered the connection, I had no idea how I would have made one with another CHD patient.

But once the connection was made, pieces of my life began to make sense and I started to feel like what I had been through could be healed. This amazing heart patient I was introduced to, is now a very important friend to me and the reason I am writing about CHDs and mending hearts. She called me shortly after I had returned home from the hospital and we spent over three hours on the phone with each other almost completing each other's sentences. We were both amazed at how similar our lives had been, even how similar our family experiences were. There is a dynamic in a heart family (I suspect all families who have a chronicallly sick child) that can happen, in fact, probably cannot be avoided by no fault of  the family and my friend and I discovered our families fell into this dynamic. We were able to talk about our fears, our guilt, our role in the family, our concerns about our futures, our medical experiences, our feelings about how we had turned out, and how we had survived. Don't get me wrong, our families were amazing given the circumstances, but until you have your sternum cracked open, you just cannot relate to what we went through. Subsequently, talking to them about the things we were able to share with each other was not an option. Some things, your parents don't want to hear you say.

I look back on the introduction and I always say a prayer of thanks for Dr. Mainwaring and his insight for offering the opportunity to connect with another CHD survivor, it changed my life. It was like the other half of my 'heart' was found and restored. There is someone else in the world with whom I can share the burden of my 'broken heart'. While this first introduction was profound for me, I have met many more CHD survivors and each time I am given the honor of that meeting, I am humbled and further restored by the power of that connection.

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
"What! You, too? Thought I was the only one."
~ C.S. Lewis

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