12/12/2013 3:02 PM
By Lorelei Hill
Come they told me, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
This is one time of the year that I truly treasure. Yes, it is busy and stressful, and many days are filled with pure craziness, but when I find myself sitting quietly by the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree or listening to the soft sounds of holiday music, a feeling of tranquility overcomes me.
A newborn king to see, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
The craziness continues with gifts to be wrapped, cookies to baked, and kids arguing. For a moment I neither see nor hear any of that and my family marvels at how intensely I can listen to the lyrics within the music. While the melody attracts them, for me music is all about the story hidden within the notes.
Our finest gifts we bring, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
“The Little Drummer Boy” is one of my all-time favorites. As I listen to its words I see my true self and realize the gifts I have developed in this world are a direct result of my experiences growing up living in a CHD body. Tricuspid atresia kept me from doing many of the physical activities my friends and peers simply took for granted. And yet by having this congenital heart defect, I was given a multitude of blessings.
So to honor Him, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
Fond memories of spending gym class in the company of the kindhearted and caring elementary school principal prepared me for a career in education. What seemed like a curse to my friends and many of my teachers truly became my gift. As physically and emotionally painful as they were, each CHD experience showed me something wonderful about myself. The loss of a fellow patient, for instance, taught me to stay away from cigarettes and drugs. I quickly learned that one fun-filled night wasn’t worth the pain and anguish to follow.
I played my drum for Him, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
A teacher asking why I didn’t just wear turtleneck sweaters after open heart surgery helped me to discover an inner strength that at 16 years old, even I didn’t know I had. I told her that I was proud of my zipper, referring to the scar running down my chest. I had worked hard for it. In this moment I realized the benefits of openly talking about my condition.
I played my best for Him, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
It didn’t take long for people to see me as someone to approach when they wished to learn more about living with CHD. Since my transplant in 2012, I am no longer a cardiac patient, and yet those blessings I received along my journey stay with me always. No, I am not a professional gymnast, nor have I ever climbed Mt. Everest. Instead, I became a teacher, counselor, and writer. My triumphs can be seen in the eyes of those I assist in the school system, visit with in the hospital, or meet during book signings.
Then, He smiled at me, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum
Knowing I have the awareness to help pave their way by understanding the road another will travel, I am grateful for my CHD experiences. Over the years, the weight of pain, loneliness, and loss has generated a strength wherein lies compassion, unity, and triumph.
Me and my drum
Tricuspid atresia is not a condition I would wish on anyone. It has, however, molded and shaped me into who I am today. Even now, as I sit and watch my sweet little rescue cat playing peacefully beneath the Christmas tree, I smile and give thanks for my blessings. Painful or not, each CHD experience came as a hidden gift that today enables me to proudly march to the beat of my own drum. This Christmas and the entire year though, I wish you all happiness, joy, and the supreme gift of loving who you are.
Hello from Ontario, Canada! Lorelei Hill is a mother of two CHD babies, wife, writer/teacher, and a survivor of tricuspid atresia. After graduating with honors from Queen’s University in Kingston, Lorelei went on to teach and travel the world. Now settled into small town life, she is working with other CHD patients and her own cardiac specialists to complete a self-help book for young CHD families, entitled From the Heart. Click here to visit her website.
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