Caroline Wigglesworth is a patient of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Heart Center. In the following blog she describes how growing up with a serious heart condition has influenced the young woman she’s grown to be.
“Do you think that I’ll grow up to be old?”
“Will people treat me differently because of my scar?”
It’s not often that a 9 year old asks you questions you can’t answer. But this boy, with his cute grin, Spiderman pajamas and wires running from his arms and chest to the life-sustaining machines at his bedside, was asking me things that I, and even his doctors, couldn’t answer for sure.
Even though I couldn’t answer his questions directly, I could talk with him openly, and in doing so, take away some of the urgency in his questioning. We sat together on the Cardiac Unit of Boston Children’s Hospital and talked about his life and mine. I shared stories of who I was, who I wanted to become and what I like to do. I fielded his questions as best I could, for I had those very same questions when I was his age going through a similar experience as a Boston Children’s patient back in the 1990s. …
Prior to the late 1930s, if your baby was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD), chances are doctors suggested you save for a funeral instead of college funds or wedding dowries. Morbid but practical advice; at the time, less than 20 percent of pediatric CHD patients lived to see adulthood. But thanks to advancing technology and the brilliant minds and hard work of many dedicated medical professionals, this type of bleak worldview is no longer applicable to most babies born with a CHD. Current data shows that over 90 percent of children born with one of these heart conditions now survive to adulthood.
This incredible success has led to an unexpected new medical specialty: caring for adult survivors of CHDs who experience later-life complications from their original conditions and treatments. …