My Heart Belongs to Riley: Jaime's Story
I was due to be born on February 15 and my mom wanted me to be born a day early on Valentine’s Day so that I could be a “heart baby.” I arrived on January 13, and even though I was a month early, I was more of a heart baby than my mother could have ever imagined.
I was born with a congenital heart defect and have been a Riley kid all my life. February is National Heart Month and it is good reminder of how amazing Riley Hospital’s cardiology program is. Riley not only treats heart defects and disease, they mend hearts in ways that can never be shown on a medical record. Riley didn’t just mend my heart. Riley mended my loved ones’ hearts too.
My mother never anticipated having a child with such medical complexities. She was scared and worried about me every day. The doctors and nurses taught her how to take care of me. I was happy to know that a nurse came to tell her that I was doing fine every hour I was in surgery. The Ronald McDonald House was able to offer a sleep-deprived mother a hot shower and some peace and quiet. I still smile when my nurses and doctors greet her with open arms during my check-ups.
Riley took the most positive person I know and helped her keep the smile on her face even when it seemed impossible.
Riley mended her heart.
My dad has always been extremely calm whenever anything goes badly; it is one of his greatest attributes. Though he is strong I know he was always concerned about me. Riley gave him the confidence to push me to live a life as normal as possible. The staff always welcomed my dad’s sense of humor and had no trouble joking around with him. The expertise of my surgeon and cardiologist gave my dad reassurance.
Riley took the strongest man I know and even made him a little stronger.
Riley mended his heart.
I look up to both of my sisters more than they will ever realize. It was never fun having to leave them to go stay in the hospital. During my last surgery I had some nurses who were fairly close in age with my sisters. These nurses talked to my sisters about medical things and also normal, everyday things. They were genuinely interested in my sister’s lives and helped them work together to take care of me.
Riley took my two best friends and allowed them to grow closer.
Riley mended their hearts.
Going to Riley as a 6-year-old and getting a chest x-ray is scary but it quickly becomes fun when they also give an x-ray to my stuffed penguin. It seems sad when you have to stop playing with your cousins and go to the emergency room because your heart is beating at 286 beats per minute, but it soon becomes happy when they lower your heart rate and turn on your favorite movie. Missing your senior homecoming dance because you have atrial fibrillation is frustrating, but you soon forget about your dance because you are having too much fun cracking jokes with your nurse. Getting a second open-heart surgery right before college is scary, but you are soon reassured when your doctor explains the procedure with pure confidence and candidness. Having a heart defect that affects you every single day seems unbearable, but you are incredibly grateful because you know that without it you would not have the amazing family that Riley has given you.
In one sense, you could say my heart stopped working properly the moment I was born.
But in another sense, my heart began to thrive the moment I first went to Riley.
I will forever be grateful to Riley. They mended my heart.
Click here to make a “My Heart Belongs to Riley” gift in support of Riley cardiology care and research. You can honor a special Riley patient or caregiver by choosing the “tribute gift” option.
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