At my 18 month check-up, my doctors heard a murmur in my heart. I had an atrial septum defect (a hole in the wall of the heart) causing abnormal blood flow between my chambers. Doctors said this was fairly normal and in many cases, the hole closes on its own. That wasn’t the case for me. When I was three years old, my doctor decided to test a new catheter procedure that involved a little umbrella called an Amplatzer. Unfortunately, once inside my heart, the doctors found that the hole was larger than they thought and this would require open heart surgery. So at the age of 4, I went to MUSC in Charleston and I had open heart surgery. Fortunately, I only had to stay for two days of recovery, but while I was there I met many other children with much more complicated cases of heart disease. Soon after the surgery I was back to being a normal kid (well normal may be a stretch… I was still a Smith).
After the surgery, the rest is history. I spent 10 years fundraising for the AHA and with the support from you amazing people, I raised over $70,000 for this wonderful organization. But my surgery wasn’t the only reason supporting the AHA meant so much to me. My Poppy had congenital heart failure for as long as I could remember and eventually he passed away from it when I was only 10 years old. Then, less than two years later, heart disease took my Granny’s life in a much more shocking and unexpected way. Throughout my life there have been many more experiences and it never seems to end. At the AHA, although we are always heartbroken about losses like my Granny and Poppy, we focus more on the survivors and the advances we are making to save lives like mine. Heart disease is the number one killer in the nation of both men and women and we are doing everything we can to change this statistic!
Thank you so much for your support this year!