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Finding Positive in the Negative

Feb 6

Posted by: ACHA
2/6/2012 1:24 PM  RssIcon

By Jon Ritchings, Jr.

February is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Month—an important month for me and many of my friends. It’s our month. We get to bombard you with facts and statistics about CHD and you get to listen.

And yet, with all the children and adults living with CHD, there are few people out there that have heard or know about CHD unless it has actually impacted their lives. In fact, this past year was the first time that our government set aside money specifically to address congenital heart disease across the lifespan.

So, after the facts, let me tell you what living with a CHD is:

  • Taking medication daily and having to miss school and playing with your friends because you had to have open heart surgery.
  • Being tired or not feeling well, but not wanting to miss out on time with your friends or family.
  • Your gym teacher telling you that you’re out of shape and lazy and that's why you can't catch your breath. And telling you you're not really sick.
  • Having people you meet think you're lying to get sympathy.
  • Having to explain what the scars are from and then having to hear someone say "well luckily they managed to fix your heart" and knowing that isn't true.
  • Not being able to go kayaking with your 14-year-old son because you’re too tired and short of breath after loading the kayaks on the car.
  • A lifetime of knowing that those who love you are worrying about you constantly.
  • A lifetime of taking medications and knowing that at some point in the future you’re going to need another surgery because replacement valves don't last forever.

CHD isn't all bad, though, because it's also these things:

  • Never taking life for granted.
  • Learning that you’re capable of more than you ever thought was possible.
  • Learning that courage doesn't mean not being scared. It means doing what needs to be done regardless of how afraid you are.
  • Having a greater compassion for those who are truly in need of it.
  • Knowing what true friendship means.
  • Taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
  • Finding new ways of doing things.

In all, I think having a CHD has made me a better person, despite all the negatives—because the one thing CHD truly is, is finding positives in the negatives.

Jon Ritchings, Jr., is a 40-year-old father who was born with pulmonary atresia and hypoplastic right heart syndrome. Although he has made a career in retail, he prefers to be outdoors kayaking and taking photos. Jon likes to draw inspiration from quotes and one of his current favorites is from Lao Tzu: “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”

Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

3 comment(s) so far...


Re: Finding Positive in the Negative

I am so glad you wrote this Jon because I myself have had all of these feelings and experiences. I am 28 years old and about to have my fourth open heart surgery for subaortic stenosis. What you said about finding positives in the negatives is so true. Even though I'm having my fourth surgery I continuously feel lucky to be alive and to have a problem that can be fixed even if the solution is only temporary. I feel like each time I have surgery I get a clearer perspective on life that I would not have gotten had I not been born with this defect. I too feel that having a CDH has made me a better person and has made me want to live life to the fullest. Keep fighting the good fight Jon!

- Christine

By Christine Suter on   2/6/2012 4:07 PM

Re: Finding Positive in the Negative

Thank you. I have a daughter with Shone's complex. It's tough for me to know what it is like. I want to help, but sometimes I feel I say the wrong things, and I am not sure how to help. Thank you.

By Kathy on   2/7/2012 5:38 PM

Re: Finding Positive in the Negative


It is 2/17 and I only read your blog yesterday. I wanted to wait until I had rested before answering, because I share all those thoughts with you, even tho our lives are different and I am a 66 year old woman. My first open heart surgery was in 1958, when I was 12 and I didn't start taking meds until I was in my 30s. I didn't even know anyone with CHD, nor was there any discussion at all about it until I was in my 40s. I remember asking a doctor I had at the time why I didn't know anyone like me and my age. She said people who would have been my age were sicker than I and had died. This may be true, but like you and the kayak, when my husband and I take our daily walks, I am super slow going up the hills, but can zip down the running for me. Thank you for sharing your feelings and I am thankful as well that strides have been made so that you can continue to be in this world. Toni

By Toni Smith on   2/17/2012 7:54 PM

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