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Navigating the Detours

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

By Misty Sharpe

As children, we all have dreams of what we want to do or be when we grow up. At one point, I was convinced I was going to be an actress or comedian. If you could sit down with my mom and listen to the stories—or worse yet, watch some of the embarrassing videos of me as a child—that very well could have come true.

Then I went through an “I want to be a singer and try out for American Idol” phase. One problem—I have severe stage fright. I once sang in church when I was a teenager, realized I was singing the wrong verse and hummed the rest of my solo. The upside? I hummed in tune.

As I got older, like many people, my life goals changed and I realized my desire wasn’t to be famous, but to make an impact on the world. I was going to be a nurse who worked in pediatric cardiology. I was over halfway done with my program, had completed a few clinical rotations and found myself very unhappy and homesick. I was only a little over an hour away from my family but I couldn’t shake off the feelings of stress and unhappiness. I made the decision to transfer to a smaller campus that was a part of the same university system.

Guess what? My credits wouldn’t transfer. Yeah, I didn’t understand it either. I decided that I didn’t want to start over so I majored in Communications and I loved it.

I had a very successful collegiate career, a fantastic senior year internship, a part-time job with a local non-profit, and was honored with the privilege of speaking at graduation as the Outstanding Senior. Why do I share this? Because after I graduated, I couldn’t get a job no matter how many places I applied or interviews I had.

After a few months, I decided to complete my nursing degree through a pre-licensure program that would award me a Master of Nursing degree. Eighteen months of intense clinicals and coursework. Before I graduated, I had an interview in a pediatric cardiac ICU (PCICU) at a premiere institution a little over two hours from home. I was ecstatic!

Guess what happened? I didn’t get the job. After several months of working in an adult ER and then landing a job in a pediatric ICU, I tried again and applied for a position in a PCICU at a different institution. I was hired and thus began four years of a nursing career in inpatient and outpatient pediatric cardiology.

During those four years, I knew I always wanted to be able to combine both of my degrees in a way that benefits the CHD community on a larger scale. In 2013, I lost my nephew, who also had CHD, very unexpectedly to sudden cardiac arrest. Drew’s death devastated our family. We never imagined we would lose him. I wanted to channel that grief into something positive and decided to send an email about bringing a Congenital Heart Walk to Nashville.

Sending that email was the best decision I ever made.

Watching an event like this grow each year and 500+ people coming together to raise awareness and funding for CHD, while sharing their stories of triumph and tragedy, is absolutely indescribable. Although I had been a member of ACHA, it wasn’t until tragedy struck our family that I fully understood the importance of the organization’s mission and made the decision to get involved. That was three years ago.

Today, I sit at my desk as the Membership & Volunteer Coordinator for the ACHA. Words can’t describe how blessed I feel to be in this role. It truly is a dream come true and I am thankful for every experience along the way.

In the first few weeks of my new position, I’ve talked with many of our amazing Ambassadors and am so inspired by their passion for this cause and organization. I am excited to meet many more members and volunteers and look forward to working with all of you in this capacity to increase awareness of this important cause and organization. I have no doubt we are headed toward a future of growth on so many levels and I am grateful to be a part of that.

Why share all of this with you? To remind you that sometimes, the path to our dreams is full of detours. For some of us, living with CHD is much the same—full of unexpected twists and turns. We are not, however, defined by our CHD. It is a part of who we are but it is not our entire self.

You are not your CHD. We must know our limitations and accept what cannot be but we should never let challenges deter our ability to reach a goal or feel like we must live in fear. My nephew showed me that—he lived life to the absolute fullest and radiated kindness. I hope I make him proud.

Fellow adult CHDers, we have already overcome things others can’t imagine and yet we still have so much left to show the world. So dream big, persevere, share your truth and go change the world, you incredible warriors.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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