By: Loren Sheffield
I am 19 years old, a sophomore at Georgetown College studying to be an Elementary School teacher from a small farm town in Kentucky; how eventful could my life truly be? I have barely had a chance to discover my true calling in life and what my life plan is. Despite these facts, or common ideas about a teenagers’ life, I have had more chances to discover myself than I could of ever imagined. The last six years have been filled with many questions, hopes, and fears as I venture in and out of the hospital for issues I never dreamt of having. First it was a car accident that has left me with permanent injuries, MRSA under my right arm that nearly killed me just before my 15th birthday, ACL/ Knee Reconstruction surgery during my senior season of high school volleyball that placed me in a wheelchair for a short while, and finally, an Ablation Heart Procedure for a birth defect a year ago today, December 27th, 2011. Through all of these struggles, admittedly, I did feel sorry for myself and try to blame others for my hardships but now I see them as more of a blessing than anything, especially my heart procedure.
I was raised to believe in myself and disprove anyone who had doubts in me and never take no for an answer, so when the boys at recess said I couldn’t beat them in basketball because I was a girl, that lit a fire and made me push that much harder to show them I was capable. That same fire reappears to this day anytime I am challenged and feel like my abilities are underestimated but, unfortunately, it took me a while to find where I misplaced it. I felt as if that spark in my life disappeared when I was in my car accident and was unable to make the pain vanish no matter how hard I tried. Medication, sports cream, doctors, none of it was helping and I was defeated. When my MRSA rolled around and I was able to beat it, I did feel a sense of satisfactory, but at the same time I had somehow messed up and allowed it to get to me in the first place. How could that happen? My ACL getting transected didn’t help me feel like myself either. The sport that I loved to play and gave me my release from the world took away something that can never be replaced, my senior season of volleyball, my time to shine. On senior night I was still in my wheelchair and had to receive special permission in order to have the first serve of the night before I was rolled away to the sidelines. For a loss of better words, I felt like I had somehow failed and proved that I could not succeed at everything I tried; I showed those who doubted me that I was weak after all.
When I felt my heart beat increase substantially to the point I couldn’t breathe with my chest vibrating before my very eyes that Thanksgiving weekend, I just knew that I had reached the end of the rope. My body had arrived the breaking point and couldn’t handle anymore. I was rushed to the ER with my parents by my side holding my hands as they placed me on multiple monitors with at least six or seven cords coming from my chest. I could hear the alarms blaring just behind my head as my heart rate approached 200 and my pulse neared 198/46. My dad tried to make a joke out of it and say “Look at it go girlfriend, it is trying to run away on you!” but that just made me more fearful. What had I done for this to happen to me, how had I failed now to be lying here with a heart about to explode? My doctor with the last name out of a horror movie, Dr. Skinner, comes back with a diagnosis and medication for me after a few hours. It was a birth defect that acted up randomly and would have never been discovered otherwise referred to as SVT. I was born with an extra electrical line entering my heart that had no outlet on the bottom of my heart, so when my brain sent a signal down it instead of the good one the signal for my heart to beat continued to resend itself leading to the racing. Fortunate enough, it is not a life threatening condition but can cause an individual to pass out without warning and end up in the hospital until it is calmed down or “turned off” successfully with medication. Since I was only 18 at the time, my doctor encouraged me to undergo heart surgery in order to fix the problem directly with a procedure referred to as an Ablation. It involves shocking, cutting, and burning sections of the heart to block that extra channel. With some words of encouragement and comfort from my parents, I set the date for December 27th, 2011.
It took some time to recover, healthy eating and exercise, all while taking it easy doing certain activities at college was a huge mental, physical, and emotional challenge for me. I continued down the same path my past experiences led me initially, feeling sorry for myself and wondering how I had let myself down so easily. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized the error in my thinking when I went with Momma to her company Christmas dinner and her bossed pulled me aside to say, “I hope you realize just how much your mother loves you and admires you. After everything you have been through, you are some kind of hero. A miracle. Never doubt yourself young lady.” I was raised to believe in myself and disprove anyone who had doubts in me. The reason I felt like I had failed is because I never thought to apply this message to my thoughts about myself. The only person that can make you happy at the end of the day is yourself. Just because these things happened to me doesn’t mean I done anything wrong or upset someone, they happened because the Lord knew I had that natural fire inside of me that could handle it and pull through a stronger person then the day I went in.
I am proud of all of the things I have been through in my short life, and I like to think that when I had my ablation done one year ago today that I also had my spirit mended so I could see just how great it all really is.