"After a few years, not having the pulmonary valve started affecting me more and more and it was getting harder to breathe. So last fall the doctors tried to put in something called a melody valve. Before the procedure, I had to sign off on a bunch of papers because I was 15 and old enough to consent. They read the documents out loud, all about what could happen and everything that could kill you, but I just zoned out and didn't listen. I didn't want to know what they were saying because I didn't want to be even more nervous. The whole time they were going over the papers, my mom kept having to get up and leave the room.
"It turned out that putting in the melody valve didn't work because my artery was too large, so they scheduled me for open heart surgery. The day of the surgery, about 70 people from my church and school came to the hospital to pray with me. I can't remember much about it because I had already had some anesthesia, but I knew they were there and that they were supporting me. I didn't want to admit that I was worried, but I was. I knew that if anything happened to me, I would be in a better place, so I wasn't really concerned about that. I figured the doctors knew what they were doing. I was more worried about the pain after. They have to break your sternum to do the surgery and you know how much it hurts if you break an arm? Well, it's like that, only it's in your chest.
"The surgery was on December 8, and I've just been released to do all my regular activities again. I had to build my lungs back up because one of them partially collapsed during the surgery and there was fluid on them, but I can breathe fine again now. When I ride my bike, I feel like I can keep going for hours. Well, not hours, because after a while my knees hurt. But that's only because I'm out of shape. It doesn't have anything to do with my heart.
"Having all this happen makes me want to help other people in every way I can. I know what I needed during that hard time, I know what I got, and I want to try to give that support to somebody else. I'm more aware of people now than I was before. And I've been thinking about the future too. I'm starting to get mail from colleges now that I'm in 10th grade, and I'm thinking I may want to become a Pediatric Heart Nurse or a Pediatric Cardiologist. I already know a lot about it."