Keep Your Head Up, Keep Your Heart Strong
February 7, 2020
My name is Courtney and my mantra is HEARTSTRONG. At age 10, I was granted a second chance as a patient at Riley Hospital for Children and I thank God every day for the ability to live and inspire others with my heart and strength.
When I was a little girl growing up in Indiana, my heart failed me. While my friends were swimming, dancing, and playing, I was introduced to the seriousness of life all too soon. I can remember feeling chest pains and shortness of breath after a swim meet. I can remember undergoing multiple tests until an Echocardiogram finally found four holes in my heart, one the size of a quarter. I can remember Dr. Hurwitz telling me I needed emergency open-heart surgery. I can remember the tight hugs I got on my last day of school and dance class. January 13, 1992. The day my life changed.
The sights and smells of Riley Hospital are still so very vivid in my mind. I can remember what I was wearing. I can still see so many children that seemed so sick, but were still smiling. I can remember seeing my dad cry for the first time and watching the worry in my mom’s eyes. I recall hearing my sister proclaim her dream to become a doctor (which she did!). I can still feel the pain of the tubes like it was yesterday, as they were inserted and removed from my chest. I can sense the fear I felt when I was wheeled into the operating room to have my chest cracked open to repair the holes in my heart. In the ICU, I learned to breathe again amidst flowers, stuffed animals, balloons and of course my family. I remember being wheeled out of Riley to begin a long journey of recovery at home. I also remember so vividly the day Dr. Hurwitz released me to go back to school and “normal activities.” And what was the first thing I did? A cartwheel!
Today, I have an 8-inch scar that runs down my sternum and I wear it proudly. As a member of the zipper club, it’s one of the many battle wounds I’ve endured in my life, and it’s a reminder to keep fighting, even when the most vital part of you starts to break.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was keeping my head up, while making my heart strong.
I have a passion to inspire others through fitness coaching. I have built a career as a Human Resources Leader for over 15 years at a Fortune 100 MedTech company and Women’s Health organization. And most importantly, I am blessed to be a mommy of two beautiful little girls, Hayden and Payton, alongside my high school sweetheart, Greg.
Riley Hospital for Children gave me a second chance at life and by no means will I waste that priceless gift. I am proud to lead and continue to build a team of incredible women and men who live #HEARTSTRONG every single day.
February is American Heart Month. You can donate to BeTheHopeNOW to help future heart warriors who will receive care at Riley Hosptial for Children.
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