Linda Vickers --– Being there for my sister
Linda’s younger sister, Stacey, was born with a congenital heart defect in the late 1960s, at a time when many babies born with CHDs did not survive long. Linda has always been there for Stacey and wants to share how one CHD impacted an entire family.
I will never forget when Stacey was about 18 months old and she went into heart failure. I was 16 years old and it was Memorial Day weekend; it was one of the scariest parts of my life. I remember holding my baby sister and she was sick – no one in our family knew what to expect when they got to the hospital, so it was a shock when she had to have surgery. When she came home, we were still scared and we treated her as if she were so fragile, but we didn’t need to. My sister was a fighter then and is a fighter still today. We grew up doing a lot of fun things together and I will always be there for her.
Not too long ago, Stacey and I went to the Heart Ball. A little girl who was born with a CHD came to Stacey and she was so excited to see they had matching scars. It’s so important for kids and their families to see others have been where they are. The support we can give each other can really help. No one knows what it’s like unless you have gone through something like that. And support isn’t just important for the person with the CHD, it can help the whole family understand how they are feeling and explain those feelings to people who understand. Being able to share strategies and plans for coping with all the ups and downs can be so helpful.
It’s been hard watching my sister cope with having her defibrillator. It’s caused her anxiety and depression and I’ve seen her have panic attacks. I’ve never had one so I don’t know what it’s like, but I know that when Stacey has one, I can see the fear in her eyes and I feel so helpless. I can stand there and talk to her but I don’t understand what it is like to go through that. I am just trying to help her along as best as I can.
If you have a family member living with a CHD or other chronic condition, my advice for you is to be there for them. You won’t always know exactly how to help, but you can be there, you can love that person and you can see beyond their condition. Have fun with them, listen to them, and be their biggest supporter. Educate yourself so you can help them do their best each day.