Stories about: Boston Adult Congenital Heart Program

Lauren’s story: How roller derby saved my life

Lauren, who was born with ALCAPA, holds a sign about what roller derby is teaching her.I wasn’t a particularly athletic child. The second day of soccer practice, in sixth grade, we had to run laps around the soccer field, and 10-year-old me said, “I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack!” My coach disagreed. I quit. That much running was not for me.

Fifteen years later, at age 25, I had not only joined a roller derby league, but had also worked my way up to doing contact drills at practice in just three months. I felt incredible! I felt powerful! I felt unstoppable… until I went into cardiac arrest at a Thursday night practice this past July.

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The ride of my life


My muscles are weightless, and my mind is empty. Outside the window, a pair of older Japanese women chat quietly. I close my eyes and breathe in the steam that floats up from the geothermal water beneath me.… knowing I won’t ever again waste a single heartbeat fills me with hope that while the sun is setting on this chapter, it will rise again brighter than ever in my future.

I’m sitting in a natural hot spring in Japan, a centuries-old tradition that is believed to have healing powers. I slide deeper into the onsen in quiet meditation and hope the mineral-rich water is doing what it’s supposed to.

I’m the luckiest girl in the world, I think and then stop. Luck didn’t bring me halfway around the world. A series of events, decisions, and my own two legs did.

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