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A place for registered ACHA members to discuss issues with other members of the ACHA community and provide and receive support.

Member Stories

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26.2 Miles for ACHA

    By Arwa Saidi, MD, BCh

    Note: Medical Advisory Board member Arwa Saidi, MD, BCh, participated in the Dublin Marathon on Oct. 25, 2010, raising money for ACHA in the process. In total, she raised more than $2,000 for our cause! Here’s a photo of Arwa at Mile 23; see below for her story in her own words.

    Doing the marathon was an amazing experience. I have walked it several times before but for the past two years I have trained for the marathon and run it. I used to run alone, but the past couple of years I have been running with friends, which has made the training easier. Like the work we all do with ACHA, it highlights that you can achieve more when working together than working alone.

    Running for ACHA made the training more worthwhile and the support and encouragement from my friends made it easier. Everyone was very generous and very willing to donate to this very worthwhile cause. The actual run was a lot of fun and the experience is extremely rewarding. The camaraderie you share with the other runners (unless you are very fast and competitive) is very enjoyable and rounded off the experience. While running you meet many people who are participating in the run for various personal reasons and who are fundraising for all kinds of deserving charities. It is a wonderful opportunity to share your story with anyone who is willing to listen.

    The actual day was cold but thankfully dry and sunny. Running in Dublin was much cooler than running in Florida. The atmosphere on marathon day is electric—thousands of runners and walkers who have invested in hours of preparation and training, all in anticipation of the day. The kindness of the runners and spectators is humbling. When you are struggling and trying to maintain your energy, another runner would slow down to run with you for a couple of minutes and share a couple of encouraging words until you regain your strength. Strangers offer each other amazing kindness, often in the form of very valuable power bars. The supporters who leave their warm homes on a frosty morning to cheer you on should also be acknowledged. The kind words they share and the offer of bananas or sweets when you need them can never be repaid.

    I am already looking forward to the next one.

    To My Son on His 25th Birthday

    By Martha M. Pauly

    Note: ACHA member Martha M. Pauly wrote a letter to her son on his most recent birthday and shared it with us.

    To my son Andrew on his 25th birthday,

    There is no Hallmark card for this but through 25 years and 7 open heart surgeries you have:

    • Proved that three-quarters of your heart is stronger than most folks’ entire heart
    • Made me learn the anatomy and physiology of the heart (wish I’d paid attention in high school biology!)
    • Never, ever made it on the growth chart at the pediatrician’s office (and now you’re 6’1"!)
    • Spent every major holiday in the hospital at least once.
    • Set off the airport security alarm because of the metal in your little three-year-old chest.
    • Had more EKGs, MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, echocardiograms, IVs, cardiac caths, and needle sticks than most folks have in two lifetimes!
    • Thought poison ivy was called poison I.V., until I explained the difference.
    • Lobbied on Capitol Hill in the icy rain, two months after open heart surgery!
    • Flew home from Boston (surgery #4) with Barbara Bush surrounded by Secret Service agents with wires in their ears and wrap-around sunglasses
    • Met Princess Diana in an elevator in Georgetown Hospital (really!)
    • Made some nurses cry (only the ones who deserved it)
    • Loved the great ones—there are many!
    • And have the best sister in the world, who always brings a ray of sunshine to the ICU, ER and countless hospital stays…and who had her 16th birthday party in the cafeteria at Children’s Hospital and never complained.

    And you:

    • Learned to drive a boat really fast for competitive water skiers
    • Learned to snowboard
    • Learned to kneeboard
    • Went bowling two weeks after open heart surgery
    • Traveled to LA, NYC, Maine, Disneyworld, Ocean City, Bethany Beach, Daytona, the Bahamas and Lake Anna, VA.
    • Got a tattoo—Ewww
    • Got another tattoo with your sister’s and my initials—Awww
    • Proved the doctor was wrong when he said you would not make it to 15
    • Proved surgeons at two major hospitals wrong when they said you would not survive the seventh surgery to get a new valve
    • Proved your cardiologist was right for pushing for it anyway
    • Proved your surgeon was right for doing the surgery anyway


    In the photo below, from left, is Andrew Paukstitus, Martha Pauly and Quinn Bradlee (honorary walk chair), at the Congenital Heart Walk - Greater Washington DC on Sept. 12, 2010.