Small but healthy. That’s what the doctors thought when I was delivered via emergency C-section a month early in July of 1992. That thought was short lived when a few hours after I was born my feet were solid black. I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis causing a lack of lower extremity blood flow, as well as a bicuspid aortic valve, pulmonary stenosis, a ventricular septal defect, and so many holes in my heart the doctor said it looked like Swiss cheese.
I was life-flighted to Shands Children’s Hospital where it was determined I needed open heart surgery. I was given a 20 percent chance of survival, and at that time was the smallest baby Shands had ever performed surgery on. During that surgery, I was given a pulmonary arterial band to even out the blood flow between my pulmonary arteries, and a left arm shunt where the main artery in my left arm was rerouted to feed my aorta. I underwent my second open heart surgery 13 months later in 1993 to remove the pulmonary band. In August of 2004, I underwent aortic angioplasty and have been stable ever since. I still have a valve that leaks, and at some point may need a valve replacement, but I am so thankful for the healthy, active lifestyle I have been able to enjoy for so many years.
At a very young age, I became involved with my local American Heart Association in Tallahassee, Florida and am proud to say that 18 years later, I just celebrated my one year anniversary as the Assistant Director for the Panhandle and South Georgia communities. I whole heartedly stand behind our mission and love being able to say that I work for an organization that I feel truly makes a difference in the lives of others.