Friends, I am so very honored to share this open heart story today with all of you. This one is very close to my heart, because it’s my prayer partner, Corey’s story. She is such an important part of my life and I can’t stop being thankful that we were pretty much paired together by the big man upstairs. I just love her, that’s it. Pure, unconditional love (if she was a guy….JK! Corey, had to go there).
Enjoy her story, and find inspiration and hope in it as well, friends!
Hello to all of Heidi’s beautiful blog readers! I’m so glad Heidi gave me the opportunity to share my story on her blog . . .and that God brought her into my life! <3 (More on that in a moment.)
I had open heart surgery when I was eighteen months old, at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. I don’t really have any memories of my own of the experience, but I like listening to my parents talk about that time – how they slept on the floor of the waiting room for two weeks, how they lived on coffee, tea, and junk food from vending machines, how they met so many inspirational families whose children were even sicker than me. And I was SICK. I was born premature, with holes in my heart, but the doctors fixed those, which covered up the more serious problem of pulmonary stenosis. I’m not going to pretend to thoroughly understand this condition (and let’s be real, I just googled it so I could explain it in at least a semi-intelligent way), but basically problems with my pulmonary valve interfered with the right ventricle’s ability to pump blood to my lungs. Which led to me turning blue, throwing fits, and eventually ending up in the ICU under an oxygen tent.
Corey and her twin sister, Casey.
Some other highlights of the stories of my surgery: my twin sister and I being wheeled around in the red wagons at Riley, our fight over “Sog” – a little stuffed frog that we both adored (I obviously won that battle, at least for the length of my stay at the hospital) – and my parents’ anger at a young hotshot intern who was showing off when he told them my chances didn’t look promising. And they didn’t, but apparently he delivered the news in a less than gentle way.
Over the years, I’ve become so used to living with my heart condition that I honestly don’t think about it often. Until I went for my yearly checkup at Riley two years ago, and the prospect of another surgery to replace my valve was brought up. I had always known that I would eventually need this procedure, but, um . . .I kind of freaked out when I realized that my cardiologist actually MEANT it when said it would probably be in my early thirties. I’m thirty-three. Eek!!
I also struggle with a lot of anxiety sometimes, and when I found out I need another surgery it increased my anxiety significantly. In October of 2012, I sent an email to She Reads Truth, an online Bible study community, asking to be connected with a prayer partner. I just happened to be paired with the beautiful Heidi, who also struggles with anxiety and had just undergone open heart surgery when we “met” through email. My faith is very important to me, and sometimes I trust God and sometimes I believe all of the lies and fear that we all struggle with on a daily basis.
Heidi has truly become one of my best friends. The first night we met we clicked instantly and stayed awake for hours singing random 90’s boy band hits and TLC classics (Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls, guys!) Not only is she gorgeous, talented, sweet, goofy and SO real, but I know God handpicked her to be my prayer partner.
Heidi and I at the 2013 Influence Conference.
A few months ago, I was driving to work around 7:30am, singing along loudly and slightly off-key with the radio, when I was hit with a sudden wave of anxiousness about my upcoming surgery. Like, BOOM, out of absolutely nowhere. My mind started racing through all the possible scary aspects of open heart surgery, and I could physically feel my anxiety as my heart started fluttering and skipping beats, and I felt a little out of breath.
Suddenly, as quickly as my anxiety had appeared, I was calm in a tranquil, time standing still, peace that passes all understanding way. It was like a voice was whispering in the sudden stillness “you won’t be alone.” I felt a HUGE sense of relief thinking “of course I won’t be alone, Heidi will be here talking me through this and taking care of me!” But it was more than that. It was a feeling that I was loved more than I knew, and that I deserved to be comforted and taken care of.
I was at work later that morning when Heidi texted me to tell me she had an early morning dream that I was having my surgery and she was with me, taking care of me. I literally gasped out loud. I texted her “what time?” but I already knew – about 4:30ish am in California, exactly three hours ahead of me in Indiana. THE SAME TIME I HAD THE ANXIETY, followed by peace . . .wow, guys. SUCH a gift.
I still struggle with anxiety and fear, but I love my life and the people God has blessed me with. I kind of love the scar on my chest, because I feel like it’s there for a reason. And I’m sharing this story because Heidi asked me to – duh – but also because I feel so strongly that none of us are perfect, or in control all the time, or have it all together. Even if it seems that way, that is a LIE. We all struggle, so why not share our struggles with each other? I think being honest with ourselves and each other is beautiful, brave, and authentic, and I think God wants us to remind each other that it’s OK to be imperfect. It’s ok to wear WAY too many dollars worth of Sephora products on your face, and overdraw your bank account on occasion (as long as you’re working on correcting it!) and to want to cry if you run out of chocolate at work, and to be angry and actually admit it when someone hurts your feelings . . .that “perfect” girl whose facebook feed shows her smiling, kissing her hubby, loving her adorable kids, with her wavy supermodel hair and perfect clothes and absolute lack of stress or doubts or struggles . . .she’s real, but she’s also imperfect and experiences the same emotions that I do. I try to remember that every day!