“In March of 2012, I was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy. This means my heart was dangerously enlarged and the only way to fix it was a heart transplant. While all of my friends were planning what summer camps they wanted to attend, my mom and I had to up root our lives in our small town and move to a large unfamiliar city. To be eligible for my transplant, I had to stay within an hour of Texas Children’s Hospital at all times. We lived in a travel trailer 15 minutes from the hospital, while my dad lived seven hours away. He would visit when possible but the unknown of how long I would have to wait for “the call” saying I was getting a heart was hard on my family. After a year of living like that, AEP was gracious enough to let my dad transfer to El Campo which was only an hour and a half away from us. It was certainly a better situation, but all of our lives revolved around the unknown of how long this would be our new “normal”. During this time, I started a new school and it had nearly as many students as my hometown had in their entire population! Several of my peers had parents who were doctors or nurses at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Two weeks before I would receive my heart transplant, I went to Camp Beaver Creek hosted by Hunt with Heart, and it changed my life forever! All the kids I met were going through all the same stuff I was going through so basically, we were all normal to each other. My guide, Slate, never once treated me as if I was sick and acted like he had known me forever. Before attending Camp Beaver Creek, I was not able to talk about my transplant. Beaver Creek allowed me to not be scared and showed me I wasn’t the only one.
A week after camp on a Sunday one of the other campers that I had gotten really close with, Rylan, got “the call” and was going to receive a heart transplant! My mom and I would go up there everyday after school to see him and his family. Five days later, my high school counselor burst into my class and called my name. She gave me the look…the look that meant my mom had gotten “THE CALL”. We ran down the hall together and my friends were shouting, “Why are you running?” After two years of waiting, I was finally able to proclaim, “I’m getting a new heart!” My life and the lives of my family had revolved around waiting for this moment and when it finally came, it flooded all of us with so many emotions. Fear of the process, excitement of healing, and grief for the family who lost someone they loved but cared enough to give me a second chance at life. My first heartbeat was at 2:15 AM on April 26, 2014. The recovery and healing process was painful, exhausting, and freeing all at the same time. Every minute Rylan and I were in the hospital someone from Hunt with Heart was always there. I had the best gift of all…LIFE! I am a survivor!
I am thankful everyday for this opportunity because I know personally that so many don’t get the chance I’ve been given. Thanks to my Hunt with Heart family for taking all my worries away! I can honestly say Hunt with Heart changed my life forever and I’ll forever love the people of this organization with BOTH my hearts!”