This week—September 15, to be exact—marks the one year anniversary of receiving a recommendation for my second open heart surgery. One year ago, I was scared, overwhelmed, confused, and completely unsure of what the next 12 months would hold for me. Truth be told, I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead anyway. Rather, I was only focused on those immediate decisions that I had to make in the upcoming weeks.
This last year has been an incredible journey for me and one that I never would have imagined. When I think about The Power of One, I think about a few things: 1) the impact of one ACHA staff member (Thank you, Paula!); 2) the effect of one ACHA Ambassador (Thank you, Russell!); and 3) the things that I have been able to accomplish as just one individual over the past year.
When faced with a major heart health decision, Paula Miller, ACHA’s member services manager, single-handedly encouraged me to seek additional opinions and directed me to the appropriate resources to find additional ACHD care in my area. Russell, my ACHA Ambassador, shared his own experiences with me, calmed many of my fears, and answered my questions as a vulnerable “new” adult congenital heart patient. Russell also guided me to the Ironheart Racing Team, which I joined in December 2011 and which has helped motivate me to continue pursuing my love of endurance sports.
As an individual, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot over this past year, both for myself personally and for the greater CHD community. I’ve gotten a much better grasp on my own heart health and have found a great ACHD cardiologist who wants to work with me for my continued care. After attending Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., in March and then meeting my Representative personally in my home district the following month, I was successful in getting him to join the Congressional Congenital Heart Caucus. Last month, I passed a VO2 max test with a strong 36.5 result. This past weekend, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon with a time of 2:35:05 (just five minutes over my personal goal), and I raised more than $1,700 for ACHA in the process. And later this month, I will be taking part in training for ACHA’s Ambassador program.
I have often been inspired by this popular quote from Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
However, I don’t think it was until this past year that I’ve really experienced this truth for myself, whether it was the impact of one person (or a very small group) on my own world or the impact that I have been able to have on the CHD community—by getting a Congressman to join the caucus and raising money for ACHA. It has been a yearlong journey for which I am very grateful.
With that said, I encourage you to decide how YOU want to make a difference, whether that be within the CHD community or elsewhere in your life. With a little bit of dedication and determination, you, too, can discover The Power of One. I admit that it can sound a bit clichéd at first. But it is truly an awesome and rewarding feeling, and once experienced, it will likely motivate you to continue doing even more. Do not underestimate the profound impact that you can have as one person, whether that be on just one other individual or on a whole community.
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