Category Archives: Health

CHD | Growing up scarred

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There is not a time that I can’t remember having a raised, silver line running down the center of my chest. It’s as though I was born with it. It is as much as a part of me as my arms and legs are.

Throughout my time I have acquired quite the collection of scars. The majority of them are from having open heart surgery. I have a scar running right down the middle of my chest. Then another starting on my boob, trailing under my right arm and almost reaching my spine. Along with these I have smaller scars scattered across my chest where the doctors inserted drains after my operation. They’re not the prettiest of things, but I do recall my mum telling me it was where I was ‘Kissed better’ in order to make my younger self accept them more.

Whilst growing up I managed to gather all of the childhood scars. From gashes in my knee from falling over in the playground. Scratches on my arms from my pet guinea pigs and scars along my forehead that happened when I ran into a birdbath and had to have my head stitched back together – along with numerous other ones that don’t have stories to them or are from the dreaded chicken pox.

To add to the assortment, two years ago I had my appendix removed which again, decorated my body with another four silver lines around my stomach. If you joined them up like a dot to dot game, they’d create the perfect kite shape.

I think you can agree that I have my fair share of battle wounds.

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My scars didn’t really bother me until I started to hit the puberty age. I’d say I began to notice I was different than everyone else at around the age of ten. I remember being in Primary school and people would ask me what it was, why I had them, what they meant… They made their own assumptions and told me what they thought my scars looked like. One comment that has stuck with me for all this time is when someone compared them to the likes of bird muck. It was a great simile, especially for someone so young, but it was such a great simile that it hurt so much and is something that I’ve never forgotten.

Then came high school.  This is when it really struck that I had scars and the majority of other people didn’t. I used to hate getting changed for PE. Partly because of the fact I’d have footballs thrown at my head and snide comments thrown in my direction (yeah, I was the nerd at the butt of everyone’s jokes), but having to get into my kit meant having to reveal my scars. And this terrified me.

Again I’d have curious comments asking why I have them. But no one was too brutal. I have no idea why, but I just felt so self conscious and different, which drove me to hating my scars (something I’ll never forgive myself for).

I remember times where I would get so upset and cry about the way I looked. I’d use make up to try and cover them up… but because the top part of my scar healed quickly, it has left it bumpy and raised, which meant makeup only drew more attention to them.

There were days I felt so low that I would consider having plastic surgery to make them smaller.

Social events such as prom were on the horizon and honestly, choosing the dress and trying to be happy with the way I looked felt like torture. It wasn’t just the way my scars looked, but if you have a scar you will know how strange it is to touch them. It is numb and weird and I just really hate the way it feels. So to have someone prodding around with pins and fitting my dress was not the most pleasant experience.

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Prom is supposed to be the time when you dance with your high school  sweetheart and forget all of your worries. But I never had a high school sweetheart and prom made we question whether I could ever be loved when my body is covered in scars. It made me sad and feel extremely unattractive.

When going to college I swore that I wouldn’t let me scars get me down, but oh how I broke this promise to myself. Everything was fine until I was asked out by some boy – of which I declined – and his best friend decided to use my operation against me. He called me ‘heartless’ and named my scar a ‘demon wound’. I get that he was standing up for his friend, but I feel as though I’d be more heartless leading him on than going on a date with him. All this is behind us, and the guy who asked me out is probably one of my closest friends right now and has been in a relationship with another girl for almost two years. I don’t talk to the other guy though, there comes a time in your life when you realise what kind of people you should surround yourself with, and someone who called my scar a ‘demon wound’ is not one of them.

I still get down about my scars from time to time, even last night I didn’t wear this top because it showed off too much of one. I guess I’ll always have good days and bad days with them, that is only natural, but I am learning to love my scars more and more. They are what have kept me alive and so are the greatest gift I have ever received. I doubt I would be the person I am today without them, they have made me stronger and braver than ever. My scars are what makes me, me, and even though it has taken time, I’m starting to see how beautiful they really are.

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❤️ CHD | My Story ❤️

I think I’ve written a similar post like this a couple of years ago, however as it is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness week, I thought I would once again let you into  huge part of my life that has shaped the person I am today.

My parents didn’t know that anything was wrong with me until the day I was born (although my mum’s body had produced a lot more water in her pregnancy in order to protect me whilst I grew. It’s amazing how nature knew there was a problem and yet no one else did). I was soon diagnosed with a condition called Fallot’s Tetralogy. This is where there are four defects found with the heart:

  1. Pulmonary Stenosis (A narrowing of the Pulmonary Valve).
  2. Ventricular Septal Defect (A hole in the heart).
  3. Right Ventricular Hypertrophy (The left side of my heart over compensated and meant the muscle thicker than it should be).
  4. Over-riding Aorta (The Aorta lies over the hole and allows some deoxygenated blood to be taken around the body).

I really don’t want to get too scientific, but if you want to,  you can read up further on the condition here.

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Although I was born with the condition, I was too small to operate on and so I had one operation around the age of one to put me on until I could have the full open heart surgery at two years old. I am so glad that I was very young when I had the operation as I barely remember any of it. However it pains me to think what my parents were going through, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to see your child hooked up to numerous monitors. They really are the bravest people I know.

Luckily everything went well during my operation. I made a fast recovery in hospital and when it was time to go home, I was watching Teletubbies and didn’t want to leave!

I don’t really have that many memories of being in hospital. I mean I was two years old so it is a very long time ago! Though there are three snapshots that have stuck with me. One was when my Grandad came to visit. I had my operation in December and so there was a Christmas tree on the ward. He got me out of my bed and walked me over to it. I know it doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, but it is the small moments like this that are the most precious, especially when it was shared with my Grandad. He is such a special person  in my life who I have the utmost respect for, and I know this memory will stick with him too.

Something else I remember is when I went for a bath we found a toy plane on the side. I think it belonged to another child there on the ward, but I remember playing with it.

The last thing I remember is more of a scent than a memory. There was a dad and his daughter on the ward next to me and she had apple scented hairspray. I think he gave my mum a bottle for me or told her where to purchase it from because I am sure that when I left the hospital I still had this hairspray with me. I just know that it smelt amazing.

Having the operation has saved my life. If I hadn’t have had it, I probably wouldn’t have made it past my tenth birthday, and if I had done, I could be in a wheel chair right now – which is so terrifying to think about. It has meant that I can lead a completely normal life. I’ve taken dance classes, achieved my Black-Belt in Taekwondo, been in numerous plays. Even had to do cross country at Highschool… as rubbish as it is running around a field in the freezing cold, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I still have trips to the hospital for check ups and echocardiograms (kind of like an ultrasound on my heart). I’ve even been told that I may have to have another operation in years to come – though my Grandad is adamant that this wont happen. But if it wasn’t for the scars on my body, it would almost be impossible to tell that I have a Congenital Heart Defect.

I am super grateful to all of my doctors and surgeons who have taken care of me throughout the whole of my life and my parents for being the most patient, understanding, loving people on this planet. They have been with me through thick and thin, and if it wasn’t for them I have no idea who I would be right now. I owe them everything.

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If you or your child are going through the motions of having open heart surgery, please know that it can and does get better. I know everyone’s conditions are different and in my case I thank God every night for how lucky I have been. You have to stay strong and positive and realise you are not alone and things will pick up.

I’m no expert on the disease, but I have been through it, so if you want to drop me an email and talk to me about my experiences or what you’re going through then please don’t hesitate. It would be great to hear from you!

❤️ ❤️ ❤️

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Five celebs you didn’t know are affected by Congenital Heart Defects

It’s amazing how many people who have such a big influence on our lives have some way been affected by Congenital Heart Defects. Here are just five of many celebrities who have someway been involved with CHDs.

1. Joe Strummer

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With the lifestyle he led, you’d think it would be something other than CHD that sent this man to his grave, however Frontman of The Clash, Joe Strummer sadly died of an undiagnosed Congenital Heart Defect at the age of 50.

2. Jessie J

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Like her father, Singer/Songwriter Jessie J suffers from Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart disease that effects the electrical currents in the heart. When growing up she suffered from a minor stroke, but bounced back up and straight into the spotlight.

3. Shaun White

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As an Olympic champion who has won two gold medals in snowboarding, Shaun White has not let having Fallot’s Tetralogy stop him. A huge inspiration.

4. Bret Michaels

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I didn’t know this guy had CHD until recently, lead singer of the band Poison whose music I rocked out to a lot in the first year of uni. He suffers from Atrial Septal Defects (a hole in the part of the septum that separates the atria)

5. Sylvester Stallone

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He may not have a CHD condition himself, but he is a Heart Dad whose daughter suffers from a Ventricular Septal Defect, which is more often than not referred to as a hole in the heart.

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❤︎ Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week ❤︎

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It is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness week and so I thought I would try and do a blog post a day about it. That was until my internet went down for the past two days! So this is the post that should have gone up on Monday… I am extremely sorry!

To start the week off I thought I would explain a little bit about what Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) mean, and how it affects people’s lives.

1 in 100 babies are born with CHD, and according to The Children’s Heart Foundation, this equates to over 40,000 babies being born every year with a heart defect in America alone. This means every 15 minutes a child is born with a heart condition and as frightening and sad as it may be, 20% of these children will not see their first birthday.

CHDs range from babies being born with half a heart, to babies needing pacemakers, or even having a problem with one of their heart’s arteries. CHD is anything that is an abnormality with your heart’s structure and is something that you are born with. Although it is often seen as a childhood condition, it is important to stress that Congenital Heart Defects are for life. You are constantly bobbing to and from hospital and, considering on how serious your condition is, many heart babies grow up needing further surgery in later life.

Some CHDs can be detected before birth, however most are found out once the baby is born. A lot of CHDs go undetected though and can seriously effect someone’s adulthood if the condition is not discovered – they could even lead to death.

It is one of the most common birth defects and yet is one of the most underfunded for research, and this needs to change.

The reason I’m writing about CHD is because through no fault of their own, so many people have little or no knowledge about the condition whatsoever. Something needs to be done about this and more awareness must be raised.

Throughout the week I will be posting information about CHD, I will be sharing my own and other survivor’s stories so please stay tuned and keep reading to find out more. Being a Heart Warrior myself, CHD is something that, as cliché as this sounds, I hold extremely close to my heart. It has played a huge part in my life and has shaped the person I am today.

Please share my blog and please raise awareness of the disease. I cannot get over to you how important it is that more people learn about this condition.

The more awareness raised, the more lives saved.

Let’s fight CHD a heartbeat at a time x

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Blogmas: Christmas Day | My 2015 Highlights

This is it! Another year gone and what an ace year it has been. I can’t believe it is over already, time seems to be whizzing by almost too quickly. I thought I would put together a list of my highlights of this year.

1. Seeing meteorites in Scotland and tracing the steps of Ghost Adventures

2. Interviewing Lights and being published in the Louder Than War music magazine 

3. My visits back home

4. Becoming really close friends with some amazing people

5. Having my first Caravan holiday

6. My sister weekends

This year has definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions and quite challenging nearer the end, but what has happened has made me stronger and has made me believe in myself a lot more. I have realised to stop caring too much about what people think of me and to do things that make me happy. From this, I have been less scared to venture out of my comfort zone and have made some amazing friends in doing so. I’ve also come to see the people who actually care for me, and as eye opening as that was, in some ways it has released me and I couldn’t be more happy for it.

I have learned to love life, live every day as though it could be my last and to do things that make me happy. Honestly, don’t surround yourself with people that get you down. Go out and make new friends, as scary as that might seem, for me it has been the best thing that has come from the past few months.

This year has taught me how lucky I am and to always count my blessings.

Thank you all for reading my blog, following me and supporting me throughout 2015. It means the world.

I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and I will soon be back in the New Year.

Until then… Eat, drink and be merry!

xxx

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Blogmas: Day seven | My Christmas traditions

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Christmas has been slightly different for me over the past few years, however this year we are back to how it was in the good old days and I cannot wait – the only exception is that my sister wont be here for new year as she is in Leeds, which is quite heartbreaking.

Christmas is a very special time for me and has become even more special since going to uni. It is all about family, eating good food and spending time with loved ones. To me, nothing can ever beat that.

We celebrate a lot throughout the season. Christmas Eve, my parents put on a party where my family come round in the afternoon. There are goodies out on the table and we play a few games. We exchange gifts with my aunty and grandma (as we don’t get to see them on Christmas day) and we all just get into the festive mood. Then at around 7 o’ clock everyone leaves. This started off as a way to give me and my sister time to get into bed nice and early so that Santa could come and deliver presents. Even though we know the ‘big secret’ now, we still leave out some goodies for Santa and his reindeer and still get and early(-ish) night, so we’re asleep when he arrives.

Then Christmas day we used to wake my mum and dad up really early, but now its them who wake us up! We open our stocking presents in our bedroom and make our way downstairs to the living room, all snuggled up in our pjs. Me, my dad, my mum and my sister all gather round and open the gifts under the Christmas tree. We then phone up my aunty and my grandma, have some breakfast and head on out to my Nana and Grandad’s house. When you walk in it smells amazing and is super cosy. With my nana’s home made mince pies, the dinner nicely cooking and all of the decorations my nana has made, you cannot get any more homely or christmasy. It is so lovely. Again, we exchange gifts, nom on all of the mince pies, indulge in the most tasty Christmas dinner, and then sit and chill all night feeling extremely full watching all of the Christmas TV programmes. It has to be my favourite day of the year!

Boxing day is my Dad’s birthday! So we always go out for a meal and kind of re-do Christmas day but with my aunty and grandma. We eat so much food, play a few party games and see my dad’s old cricket friend, Bruce, who comes out once a year on Boxing Day wearing a fabulous Christmas jumper (which I always envy).

Then the celebrations kind of die down until New Year’s Eve where we either go to my Auntys or stay in at home, but someone always puts on a party for our family and friends to gather. New Year’s Eve means a lot to me. It’s a time where you look back on the year and look forward to the future. I feel like over the past couple of months my family have been through quite a lot, and it was the same last year. Auld Lang Syne is quite emotional. I find myself distant from singing the song, but tend to just look around at my family and think about how lucky I am to be born into such and amazing and loving unit. I cherish every New Year’s Eve as you don’t know what the next year will bring.  It will be weird this year not having my sister there… But nothing stays the same forever.

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Scars are Beautiful

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I’ve been meaning to take part in the Scars are Beautiful Campaign for such a long time now, but it has not been until today that I have plucked up the courage to take this photo. It’s not just a case of snapping a picture of your scar, there is a more spiritual and deeper meaning towards it. Taking this photo is an acknowledgement that Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Is always going to be a part of me. Even though myself and my family have been through so much with this, if I had to change one thing in my life it would definitely not be being born with this heart condition. It sounds crazy, I know, but it has played such a big part in my life and has completely shaped who I am today that without having been through the operations and hospital appointments, I would be a totally different person.

But it wasn’t me who I was doing this for today. When taking this picture I was thinking of someone extremely close to me who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She got the all clear the other week and is doing amazingly well, but to get to where she is now, she had to go through a mastectomy. To me this is braver than anything I have ever been through. As with all operations, she has been left with a scar and now has to come to terms with this. I am sure she will eventually, but I really can’t imagine what she is going through now. My thoughts are with her every second of every day.

Everything my family have been through have made us such a close unit. They are all absolutely amazing and I can honestly say that they are some of the strongest people I have ever met. I have no idea what I would do without them, they are utterly the most precious thing I have.

If you’d like to find out more about the Scars are Beautiful Campaign visit their Facebook page here.

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