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Advocate Spotlight: Jeremy Aylward Family

Blessings are why ... 

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I believe that I have been undoubtedly blessed in many ways throughout my short existence, but with a blessing being a gift I had to find a way to share my gratitude. Therefore, I fashioned the blessings bestowed upon me into a way to help others learn, live, and grow by becoming involved with AHA many years ago as an advocate and sharing my story. 

However, my personal story changed within the last year and now has become OUR story. My journey physically started at birth with a congenital heart defect; however, the official journey didn’t start until diagnosis during that time of uncertainty we have all experienced – adolescence. After diagnosis, I progressed through the years with checkups, appointments, scans, echos, monitors, pokes, and more until I reach the ripe old age of 18. April of 2003 was ushered in with an open heart surgery, and I ushered it out the same way with my second surgery. I healed, coped, understood, and landed back on my feet. My foothold was temporary as then the insurance powers that be decided it their turn to roll the dice. I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and trudged on for a little while longer. Nevertheless, my foothold was again tore out from under me a short while later when a notice came in the mail informing me that I was no longer a covered individual on my insurance. Long story short, I went uninsured for some time until I graduated college and could get full time employment. 

All of the parts of my journey certainly helped shape me into the person I am today, and looking back the tribulations only seem like minor bumps in the road. Opening up about my journey and using it as a tool of hope, inspiration, and support over the years has also helped me learn more about myself and about the precious journey of life. I was at the point in life where my journey seemed like a past chapter in life that I would just go back and visit from time to time; however, about eight months ago that changed as I entered into a new era of uncertainty – parenthood. 

I felt like I was ready even though I knew life was changing, and I wasn’t quite sure the true metamorphosis it would take. The experience was truly a miracle and blessing showcasing the amazing tenderness and beauty of God’s creation.  I became a dad in May of 2014 and it was darn near impossible to wipe the smile off my face as my wife and I had prepared, researched, gone through the high-risk screenings due to my history, and much more. However, one person (whom I do not blame, but rather thank) knew just how to slap that smile right off my face, and that person was my cardiologist. Our precious daughter was born with a bicuspid aortic valve (one of the same congenital heart defects I was born with), and a ventricular septal defect. 

When the diagnosis hit me, my entire being was flooded with emotion - emotions that I haven’t enough room to share here. My personal journey raced through my mind over and over and over again - I had not even been a dad for a full day, but I was crumbling on the inside as I never, ever thought my daughter would have to possibly endure a similar experience. Thankfully, Nora's VSD has closed on its own, and her valve looks good and is functioning well.  My mechanical valve and my heart also look good, and the mechanical valve is still functioning as it should be.  We are grateful for those good reports! 

Daily, I think about the gifts I have been given in life, and I owe many thanks to those who helped saved my life, helped me cope, and helped me understand how to take care of my health into the future.  However, it is no longer my story rather it is OUR story - the story of how God’s greatest gifts, my wife and daughters, will keep me motivated and on the journey that I know all too well.   

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