Birthdays come but once a year. However many we have is up to us. I celebrate two birthdays each year. My actual birthday is February 15 and my other is my “Fontanniversary,” the anniversary of my Fontan revision (on May 10, 2006). I do not think it matters how many life-living achievements you celebrate; as long as you feel the need to acknowledge the day in some way, no one can say you are right or wrong.
This is a big birthday for me. Frankly, I feel that as an adult with a CHD, they are all big and are all an achievement. I am always filled with pride and strength on February 15, knowing that I had another successful year of life and was here to enjoy it—and all of its lumps and bumps.
Ever since I was a child, I think I secretly loved my birthday more than other people my age did. By the time I was 10 years old, I already had my original classic Fontan and I was getting ready to have my VSD enlarged. Therefore, by 10 I had a good grasp on the fact that not everyone lives until 10 years old. I was so appreciative of the fact that I was indeed having a birthday that nothing else mattered.
It is certainly a coincidence that I was born two weeks early and that my mother went into labor on Valentine’s Day. Somehow, it took me five open heart surgeries to think of this!
The higher the age, the more accomplished I feel. Unfortunately, there is also a certain amount of fear behind that accomplishment. Sometimes technology is not ready for those of us beating the odds and living into our thirties. Nor is it ready for us to be successful and wanting to carry on. You start to wonder when the next shoe will drop, so to speak. For example, every time I feel my heart beating against the pacemaker and having skipped beats, I am aware of it and wonder when something can and will be done. It is an uncomfortable feeling—both physically and mentally.
Thirty-five is big—you are not 30, you can only say you are 29 for the “nth” number of times so much, and you are closer to 40. Granted, all of this is just a number and a state of mind, but it is a state of mind that forces you to look at the decisions you have made in the past year and evaluate where you are and where you want to be.
To me, birthdays are an even bigger time to take stock of life than on New Year’s. Everyone changes the calendar and has a new year, but not everyone is blessed to have a birthday. Your birthday is your own personal new year. It is a time of reflection and celebration just for you.
My reflection is that I am one year closer to my end goal of graduation with a Master’s Degree, a year closer to finding a job and my independence again. Most importantly, it is another year of life that I have lived. There are many wonderful things yet to happen in the upcoming year that I am happy to show my few gray hairs, because I have worked for every one of them! I plan to celebrate this birthday with my loved ones at home, do it royally and yes, even have a drink. I am happy with how I spent the last year and look forward to new adventures this coming year.
Keep having birthdays! And hope you had a happy CHD Awareness Week!
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