Living On Oxygen for Life
I was born as the middle child of two sisters. Both are healthy.. thank goodness! Growing up, I was restricted from certain gym class activities; things like running, jump roping, or anything that made me breathe hard from exerting myself too much. What was so great was that my family, especially my sisters never treated me like I was a fragile flower. In a way, that made me stronger inside. Even though I was born with serious heart and breathing problems along with the scoliosis that had me wearing a Milwaukee brace, I was still a kid who rode a bike chasing after the ice cream man, played two years of girls’ league baseball (wasn’t very good), and I was even in a bowling league. I’m sure wasn’t suppose to do all that because of my health but my parents tried to let me experience life as close to normal as possible. There were times where I had to sit out from the fun because it was just too beyond my capability.
I was born and raised until I was 12 in Fort Wayne, IN. My cardiologist was in Indianapolis, IN and my Orthopedic doctor was in Minnesota. So there was some traveling for doctor appointments and surgeries. The doctors kept putting off my open-heart surgery to patch the Ventricle Septal Defect (the hole in the wall between the ventricle chambers of the heart) because my pulmonary function was so bad (remember my deformed ribs?). They didn’t think I’d make it through the surgery. By the time I was 10 years old, my step-father convinced the doctors to go ahead with the surgery. For some reason, I knew that I’d be okay but my step-father was worried. Before the surgery, he paid for us to take a ride in a helicopter (he was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam war) and then he played catch (baseball) in the hospital courtyard with me. I knew what he was doing. I made him a bet before the surgery that I would be in the hospital a total of 7 days. Three days in ICU and four days in regular ward. I think I surprised the pastor of the hospital who came to pray with me before the surgery. I knew in my heart that I would be okay. If I won the bet, I would get a Hershey candy bar. Well, I won and I got my candy bar.
It wasn’t until high school that my lungs and heart started showing more signs of trouble. My CO2 was too high and my O2 was too low. I would get tired fast, forget what homework I had to do, I had headaches, and then I got pneumonia. That’s when the doctors figured out that I needed oxygen at night when I slept. It helped some but it didn’t prevent the occasional blackouts I started to have. Those were scary, especially when I started driving. Then depression hit me hard. I became suicidal but never acted on it. I thought about it all the time. I wanted to be normal but I wasn’t and I just had to come to terms with that. After the final car accident I had because I blacked out and totaled the car, my parents revoked my driving privileges for a year. I didn’t KNOW what the blackouts I was having were.
After graduating high school, I took a year off from everything and just lived with my parents and got my head on straight. I grew as a person without all the stress of school and no set requirements of daily activities besides living. Then I went out in the world, got a job and found the man who will always love me. I can say I’ve survived a lot in life. I feel as if I’m a survivor. In my opinion, to become a survivor is to live your life in a way that makes you happy even with setbacks in your life. You have to go out in world and find that thing that makes you happy as a person despite your challenges.