October 16th, 2001

October 15th, 2001 was probably the scariest day of my life. It was the day I found out there was a heart for me. After months of searching, they had found a match.

At the beginning of June 2001 this whirlwind showed up in my life. It stole my air. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sleep. It was stealing my life. Before I had any time to understand what was happening to me, I woke up in a foreign hospital, surrounded by mostly unfamiliar faces asking me a flurry of questions and accusing me (that’s how it felt) of having amnesia. I didn’t understand how I could have amnesia. I had been asleep! How could they have expected me to remember things while I was asleep? I was soooo insulted. My 13-year-old pride was being tested. Turns out, I had not been asleep. Those days are the only days of my whole life that don’t exists to me. I guess I did have amnesia. I didn’t know how I got there. That wasn’t the hospital I started out in 3 days before. But, it was the one that would save me. And those faces that I didn’t particularly appreciate in that moment, would be some of the reasons why I’m still here.

2001 is now 19 years ago. It’s been 19 years since the scariest day of my life. One day of fear has brought 6 940 more days of whatever I’ve wanted. 6 940 days of more challenges and opportunities, of more fear and also excitement, of tons adventure and lots of learning. Most importantly, it’s brought 6 940-plus more days of dreaming and growing.

Until about 3 years ago, I was embarrassed to tell anyone I had had a heart transplant. I still talked about it but regretted it every time. I felt exposed if I ever told anyone. I didn’t want to be known as the girl who had the heart transplant. I was incredibly embarrassed by it. I thought I was weak for getting sick. I had been perfectly healthy before. Now, here I was being taken down by a virus like the invading aliens in “War of the Worlds”. Except I couldn’t even survive on my own planet.

What the last 6 940 days have taught me is that getting sick or being sick does not make you weak. I wasn’t weak because some horrible virus attacked me. I was strong for fighting back. I was strong for wanting to beat it. I was strong for not letting it win. Being sick doesn’t make you weak but continuing on and getting through it does make you strong. I had been confused for so long. I thought the virus killed my essence. I thought it took my soul. I had tried mourning the thing that made me, me. I was mourning the person I was before. But I was doing it all wrong. I was still here. Nothing could take away the thing that makes me, me. I was still that person from before. I needed to mourn the organ, not my soul. I needed to let go of a squishy, bloody, sick, enflamed, piece of meat (Happy Halloween folks!) that was only slowing me down.

I’m still figuring that out now. Even as I write this, I still feel some pangs of embarrassment in my stomach. I still feel nervous to share, I still feel like I’m exposing my deepest darkest secret, and I still feel a little bit like an alien that’s marooned on the wrong planet. The one thing that’s different though is that even though it’s hard to talk about, I now believe that I’ll be better off for it.

On October 16th, the day of the actual transplant surgery, I awoke and rose in all my Frankensteinesque glory, the most ready I had ever been for Halloween (the best time of the year). They had me get up and walk around immediately. 10 days later, I walked out and I’ve been terrorizing the towns folk ever since. Just kidding! Unlike Frankenstein (or his monster), I have been living my best life! From watching Halloween movies that scare me enough that it takes me pretty much the rest of the year to recover, to spending time with family, going on adventures and much, much more. Best of all, I get to continue being me 🙂