One of the founding principles of the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association is collaboration. We recognize that it takes a strong network of people to succeed, whether it is advocating, educating, or simply just making it through the day. As Chris describes, we all need to be part of the forest.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Heart Parents are strong. There’s something about the combination of worry, knowledge, lack of sleep, and ungodly amounts of caffeine that make us nearly superhuman. There’s no one tougher than us and our kids, right? I like to compare our kind to the mighty Redwood tree. You look at them and are amazed at how big they are and how strong they look…they’re a marvel of nature.
Despite our ability to kick into beast-mode nearly at will, there are in fact times where we stumble and fall. We get stressed out, we burn out, the hospital bills arrive, the van breaks down, your kid threw up his entire feed…AGAIN. Sigh. And suddenly we go from Redwood to dandelion, just ready to blow away at the next little thing. You ever get this feeling? Or is it just me?
Here’s an amazing fact: I read somewhere recently that while Redwoods are absolutely gigantic and look so very strong, they actually have a very shallow root system. That seems absolutely insane, considering how huge those trees are, but it’s true. The powerful thing I learned from this is that while Redwood roots are shallow, they extend outward to support one another. This keeps them from starving, this keeps them from blowing over in the winds and storms…each other.
Please realize, Heart Moms and Dads, that despite how alone and frustrated you might feel on any given day, you’re not alone. Not at all. Reach out and find someone to talk to, someone to hear your gripes, someone who will support you because they’ve been there. Look into your local community for heart families to connect with. Use social media: there’s tons of groups out there too. You’ll quickly find there are people out there just like you, no matter how messed up you may feel.
And when you’re on top of your game and feel like you’re rolling along, then you should reach out and help someone else. There is an estimated 2-3 MILLION people living with a CHD…and their parents add to that number. Think about what difference we could make if all of us reached out to help one fellow CHD parent. Think about it. Use what you’ve lived to help someone see the sunshine…and when you’re in that dark place – and you will be – someone will be there to help you. A fellow guest blogger here with PCHA put it perfectly: this is a marathon, not a sprint. I will say that during this marathon ALL of us will stumble, and when that happens will you be the one to stop and lend a hand? Will you find yourself without a hand to hold? I hope not.
For some of you this is very challenging: it requires you to reach out of your comfort zone and maybe rip open some old wounds. When you do that, though, you will help others heal. For some of you, the help starts with you. You know how the saying goes, you should love your neighbor as you love yourself…but I’m willing to bet there’s some of you out there that I don’t exactly want loving me based upon how you love yourself. Ouch, I know. But it’s true and you know it. You’re doing a great job, Heart Mom and Dad. Keep it up and keep running…keep your hands outstretched to help others.
Let’s be that mighty Redwood forest together…because it’s more than one tree, it’s all of them working as a team to support one another and survive. Do you want to see more CHD research? Advocate for it together. Do you want to give the best care to your heart warrior? Work together. Do you wish to one day see the end of CHDs? Fight for it together.
There’s an African proverb that sums it up best: “If you wish to go fast, go alone. If you wish to go far, go together.”
Be the forest.
Chris Perez (aka HLHS Dad) lives just outside Charlotte, NC with his wife and 3 sons – including Nolan, who was born with HLHS in 2012. He is the author of Half Heart. Whole Life: an HLHS Dad’s Blog, where he shares his journey as a heart dad with honesty, humor, and the realization that dad’s just handle things differently. In his spare time – if such a thing exists – Chris enjoys New York Yankees baseball, playing guitar, and memes. You can visit Chris’ blog at http://hlhsdad.com.