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A Letter to 18-Year-Old Christy, Circa 1998

Oct 10

Posted by: ACHA
10/10/2013 11:33 AM  RssIcon

By Christy Sillman

Dear Young Christy,

It’s 2013, and guess what? You’re alive! Not only are you alive but you’re living a life you never could have imagined was possible. Spoiler alert – you have a loving husband, a gorgeous child, and a fantastic career. I know you’re really confused right now after open heart surgery, but I wanted to give you some tips to help you through the next few years.

  1. Stop drinking so much. That cigarette doesn’t make you look cool, and marijuana is horrible! Stop with the drugs all together. I know you think you only have a short amount time to live so you’re “living it up” while you can, but we’ve already established that you live longer than you expect – so just stop. There are no guarantees in life, good or bad.
  2. That gut feeling you had when the cardiologist told you you’re CURED of your CHD? Listen to that gut feeling. He IS wrong. Find appropriate care now – an adult congenital heart cardiologist – they really do exist! Look to the larger medical institutions for guidance and referrals. Medical insurance companies don’t dictate what appropriate care is.
  3. Take care of your heart. Lay off the sodium, eat healthy, and exercise often. I know doctors pulled you from physical education classes – it wasn’t medically necessary. You need to keep that heart muscle strong! Oh, and take a baby aspirin every day.
  4. You’re not alone. No, seriously. There’s this amazing organization that’s called the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Our own association! You’re going to meet hundreds of other people your age with CHD. You won’t ever feel alone in your journey again!
  5. You’re not crazy! People with CHD may have some sort of mood or emotional disorder. Your anxiety is really normal for what you’ve been through. In fact, many heart healthy people have anxiety – you actually have a legitimate reason to be anxious. You’ll find great coping mechanisms and it won’t be as much of a problem in the future as it is now.
  6. Protect your heart – your emotional heart. Stop wasting your time on these guys who don’t truly care about you and cherish your unique place in the world. You’re T-minus 2.5 years away from meeting the greatest love of your life. You’ll know it’s him right when you meet him, so stop wasting your time on these guys who you know aren’t right for you!
  7. Never stop learning, advocating, and demanding the care you know is right. I know medical stuff freaks you out and you’d rather not hear the details, but trust me on this one, there will be a day where not only will you be interested in it, but your life’s work will revolve around it.

It’s amazing how much you’ll learn and change in 15 years. No one truly knows what the future holds – all we can do is set ourselves up for the best success, increase our knowledge, and savor the good times. Enjoy the next 15 years, they truly are amazing.

“Old” Christy

Christy Sillman was born with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia and now works as a pediatric ICU nurse. She is passionate about working with both children and adults with congenital heart disease. Christy writes a weekly column on her experiences as a nurse, ACHD'er, and new mother, which you can read at by clicking here.

Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

4 comment(s) so far...


Re: A Letter to 18-Year-Old Christy, Circa 1998

I LOVED this post. Thank you!

By ali on   10/10/2013 1:47 PM

Re: A Letter to 18-Year-Old Christy, Circa 1998

ah! if only 18-year olds would listen to us, wisened folks!

By Sarah on   10/10/2013 1:58 PM

Re: A Letter to 18-Year-Old Christy, Circa 1998

I saw this post on Facebook Chirsty, and I thought it was great!!!! I was born with Tricuspid Atresia and I have had 2 open heart surgeries, with a pacemaker insertion. I will be 30 this year and since I was 18, I have gone on to move abroad to study and currently work as a Pharmacist in a community pharmacy in the UK. (Originally from Ireland). I think , Chirsty, you have probably allayed the fears of many of us 30 something's + , who believed we were doomed back in 90's, that we were not the only ones so crazy to be thinking will i still be alive when i'm 30? and given much hope to the future generations of ACHD patients. Great advice!
One point i might add in addition if i were to go back 12 years, is to say - Don't be afraid to push the boundaries and take opportunities in your life. We all have our limits (Emotionally and Physically) but don't be afraid to test them a bit every now and then, you may find you are able to do more than you even you thought you were capable of especially with the proper support and guidance. Believe in yourself!
Just one other point - Make sure you look after your teeth! I know you have heard it a thousand time but it is really important for patients with ACHD. Endocarditis is not a complication you want to add to your life.

Hope some of these tips help and thanks again Chirsty for making me realize just how far we have all come in the last few years, both in our own personal lives but also for alerting people to the increasing medical care available for ACHD patients.
Thank you!
Louise :)

By Louise Butler on   10/11/2013 8:01 AM

Re: A Letter to 18-Year-Old Christy, Circa 1998

Thank you Louise!! Great points! I learned in my early twenties to take every opportunity that came my way. If it lands in your lap, grab it! That's how I decided to study abroad (Italy and Greece) and persue nursing as a career. To stop letting my FEAR of limitations cloud my true abilities.

Yes, oral care is imperative to us CHD'ers. I've heard that's one of the best things we can do for ourselves. We need to take advantage of whatever control we have over our health.
Thanks for the feedback and tips. It is amazing how far we've come. I'm so excited for the future of CHD in general.

By Christy on   10/15/2013 7:57 AM

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