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A Story of Friendship and CHD

Jul 9

Posted by: ACHA
7/9/2012 9:39 AM  RssIcon

By Sarah Vogt
Guest blogger for her best friend, Christy Sillman

“’Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.” —Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Our friendship blossomed in autumn of 1997. My geometry teacher paired Christy and I up for an assignment. I noticed over time a large scar on the chest of my math partner that she masterfully tried to cover. She would wear high necked shirts or put makeup on her chest to conceal the long, thin, lumpy line.

Finding Christy’s scar made her that much more appealing to me. It meant she had been through some sort of pain. It meant she probably had a story of triumph. I saw strength in her pain.

Over time I probed. She explained she was born with a defect in her heart and had open heart surgeries as a child. Intrigue led to a real friendship. A tight friendship, and by the school year’s end, we were inseparable.

For years Christy had little worry about her heart. She had her annual minor tests, but always came out of them OK. In our senior year of high school the results were different. Her pulmonary valve had weakened. Her pulmonary artery had gone far past its 10-year expectation and was narrowing. It was time for yet another open heart surgery, this time to replace her pulmonary artery and valve. The surgery would be scheduled for the summer after we graduated.

As our senior year progressed, so did something else for me. A boy caught my eye. I got courageous and started talking with him and we fast became an item. The closer summer got the more Christy talked about her upcoming surgery. I could tell worry was setting in. She had so many years of living a normal life and we lived in a time of great medical innovation and progress.

I shrugged it off as her being anxious. I found myself in love with my new boyfriend and blind to the fact that Christy had a very real concern. Open heart surgery is still major. Her heart and lungs would be stopped and kept going by a machine. Her chest would be opened, breaking bones to accomplish that feat.

As June arrived, I was completely head over heels for my boyfriend and spent all of my time with him. Christy’s surgery date came. I didn’t make it to the hospital. I saw her the day after she came home. She was frail and in a lot of pain. I acknowledged it, but did little to comfort her. I chose my boyfriend’s company rather than hers when she needed me most.

Why? How could I leave my friend in her time of need? How could I treat her fears as trash and ignore her when she needed me most?

I was afraid—afraid of losing her.

I lost my father and three of my four grandparents by the age of 17. I knew what loss felt like and felt it would be easier to walk away. I loved Christy like a sister and I wasn’t going to lose another family member. I would be in control. I would call the shots. I thought if I turned a blind eye, potentially losing her wouldn’t hurt as bad.

It took years for me to realize this. I couldn’t explain to her why I made the choices I made at that time. Christy forgave me slowly. I had to prove my loyalty, despite not knowing the true origin of my absence. She accepted me. Forgave me. Perhaps she knew my pain before I did. I am forever grateful for her forgiveness. She taught me about myself, my greatest fears and the power of not letting tragedy rule your life.

Today we are as inseparable as two grown married mothers can get. We speak almost daily, she introduced me to my husband, we were in each other’s weddings and witnessed each other birth our children. As her heart weakened yet again from the strain of pregnancy, I did the thing she taught me. I stayed strong with her, by her side, and continue to this day.

The journey that CHD brings continues. Our hearts joined as friends. To the end.

Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

3 comment(s) so far...


Re: A Story of Friendship and CHD

Thank you so much Sarah for having the courage to share your thoughts and emotions with my ACHA friends. Having friends or family "run" when things get tough for us CHD'ers is common. I thought it was important that we hear from someone who "ran" and why. I'd love to hear from other CHD'ers on if they ever lost friends, partners, or family when facing a change in health. Were you able to reunite and forgive them?
I'll be writing my "side" of the story for the writing syndicate iPinion soon. ACHA will post the link on its Facebook page once it goes up.

By Christy on   7/9/2012 10:27 AM

Re: A Story of Friendship and CHD

How wonderful that you were able to repair your friendship and that now you are so close. Thanks for sharing this story.

By Alissa on   7/9/2012 10:33 AM

Re: A Story of Friendship and CHD

Christy and Sarah, I read this when it first came out, but didn't get to view the picture of you two. You both are so beautiful. Your story is as well.

By Stephie on   7/16/2012 2:44 PM

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