Positivity Through Surgery and Recovery
3/13/2014 10:55 AM
By Katherine Buchanan
When I found out I was going to have open heart surgery to repair my leaking mitral valve, I was terrified. Like others in the congenital heart disease community, I grew up thinking I was cured of my original defects—the cleft in my mitral valve and atrial septal defect—and had never heard the term "congenital heart disease" applied to me before.
When the doctors told me that this term was now part of my life and surgery was necessary within the year, I was overcome with fear. Before I knew of the heart problem I lived under the notion that I had the potential to live my life to the fullest—whether that be through my singing, studies or dreams of world travel. I envisioned an exciting future with many adventures ahead, but the news of open heart surgery tore at the foundations of my dreams.
After learning the bad news, I decided I was not going to let my diagnosis get in my way. While I still anticipated an open heart surgery over my Christmas break and struggled with the fears associated with it, I set a goal to do everything in my power to overcome the struggles of the surgery through positivity. After waking up from the surgery, this became my new dream that I knew would motivate me to conquer those dreams that had to be pushed to the side.
From the first time I rolled over, to eating, to sitting and to walking, I viewed the progress as a visible sign of me overcoming the obstacles of the surgery and preparing myself to get back to my life. When things got scary or progress was not moving along as fast as I wished, I looked to the Zipper Sisters on Facebook for guidance and inspiration (I also found ACHA during this time). They were able to show and tell me it would be OK and the treatment with CHD is something you can overcome and conquer. With their testimonies and my ever-increasing goals, I pushed through, envisioning the new lease on life I would be able to have after the recovery process was over.
Although I still have a few months until the six-month mark post-surgery, I am pushing myself every day to achieve my goals with a positive attitude. Every mile I walk, part of the track I run, or amount of muscle or weight I gain back I celebrate the progress being made. I am on my way back to the heart of my life and excited to put my older dreams back on track with newfound strength from my mended heart!
Katherine Buchanan is a sophomore at Wofford College pursuing studies in French and religion. A lover of singing, swing dancing, the South Carolina shag, and traveling, she enjoys living life to the fullest. Katherine was diagnosed with a cleft in her mitral valve and an atrial septal defect as an infant. Her most recent surgery replaced her mitral valve with a bovine valve. Now with the surgery behind her, Katherine is looking forward to exploring the world in the coming months, traveling to Italy, Greece and France to test out the newfound power of her mended heart.
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