“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine
I met Death within six seconds of my first breath. Death was kind, sweet, and seductive. He offered an escape from the adventure they call life, a free express ticket toward whatever lies beyond. I denied his request to journey with him into the land beyond. I refused to die and give up my chance to live. My decision did not please death in the slightest. In fact, he became enraged by my actions and left me injured and scared. First, he made my heart stop beating, cutting off my air supply and ability to breathe. He seemed to squeeze my fragile, infant heart between two fingers and destroyed my pulmonary valve. This was only his first attempt to convince me to come with him. Six days later, he must have convinced a surgeon to adjust the position of my feeding tube, causing extreme damage to my intestines and stomach. However, I continued fighting. I wanted to live, even with the pain. I wasn’t ready to let go and say goodbye to the world I had only just met.
For six long weeks, my tiny body fought Death. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going anywhere. I was stubborn, even then. Through morphine, IV’s, needles, and tubes, I battled until one day, the doctors told my parents there was nothing more they could do. I was sent home to die. Instead, I proved experts, loved ones, and even Death wrong. I survived. Luckily, I have continued to fight Death, my heart disease, and the stomach damage.
Due to these injuries, I’ve been given the unique opportunity to examine life in a way that few others are able to. Throughout childhood, I was bullied and harassed due to my birth injuries. I always felt ostracized and out of place. As a child, peers constantly asked questions concerning my scars and past. I’d meet someone new and the conversation would always stray towards my condition. It was infuriating to be seen as a sickness, not as a person. However, over time, I began standing up for myself and seeking help. In later years, I founded S.H.I.E.L.D., an anti-bullying club at my high school I worked with my condition and past experiences, instead of pretending they didn’t exist. I plan on continuing this method of thinking. Anyone can take negative experience and produce positive results. I truly believe that is all about mindset and gratitude.
Due to my experiences, I am blessed with compassion and work hard to practice empathy, enabling me to see the beauty of life. I’m not concerned with how I dress or the imperfections of my body. Instead, I focus on what truly matters to me: family, friends, education, animals, art, and nature. I see my scars and surgeries as blessings that have made me stronger and forced me to enjoy simplicity every day. I enjoy the sunset and blue skies much more due to the realization that today might very well be my last day. I’ve learned that no one is promised forever, so I live every day like it is my last. I want to live a life that I will be proud of when Death finally does drag me way from this magnificent ride. I want to live life fully and without petty regrets. I want a life of growth and simplicity, learning and experiencing something new each day. I am who I am because of my heart disease and stomach injuries. I experience life differently than my peers and family. Each moment matters. Each challenge and obstacle changes who I am. I couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling, inspiring life. I hope to inspire others to live richly and wholly, whether they live with a birth injury or not.