This week is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week. Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the number one birth defect. About one in ten children are born with some form of CHD. Eight and a half years ago, my oldest son was born with one.
We found out while he was in utero that my son has tricuspid atresia. His tricuspid valve had failed to develop, and as a result only half of his heart would function properly when he was born. Options were presented to Husband and me. We could terminate. I could give birth and we could comfort him while he gradually suffocated to death because his heart was not oxygenating his body. Or we could put our little newborn through a series of heart surgeries that would redirect blood flow so that half of his heart could pump blood to all of his body.
We chose the surgeries. Our baby had heart surgery at one week old. He had open heart surgery at 5 months old and another open heart surgery at three years.
This past fall, our family was sitting around the dinner table.
“How was gym today?” I asked Oldest Son.
“Oh. You don’t want to know,” he replied.
“Blood,” he said, tapping his nose.
“Yes. I got a nosebleed.”
“How?” I asked, starting to worry a little bit.
“Well, I had just run the mile . . .”
“Wait,” Husband and I both interrupted at the same time. “You ran the mile today at school?”
After further questioning, Oldest Son told us he ran the mile in 10:27 and that he was not last. There were several kids after him. My boy with his special heart ran a 10:27 mile. He didn’t even realize how amazing that was.
This happened about two months before I started jiu jitsu. It helped me make the decision to train. No matter what my limitations are in life, I can always challenge myself. It doesn’t matter whether I’m good or bad at it; it matters that I challenge myself. My son is so proud that his Mom “fights” jiu jitsu. I hear him brag to his little 3rd-grade friends. He is one reason I train.
When I doubt whether I can do something, I think of the miracles that have saved my son. When I need the courage to fight, I think of the strength it took to hand over my baby to surgeons that would cut him open and perhaps take him from me forever. When I need inspiration, I look at my boy who is a voracious reader, a gifted math student, and a pretty darn good chess player, and who can play the piano by ear and run the mile in 10:27.