Athletic Awakening: Thriving Through Recovery After Open Heart Surgery
My youth was shaped by the rhythm of surgeries and medical interventions because of a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot with an absent Pulmonary Valve. With four heart surgeries under my belt in my 24 years of life I have become very familiar with the process of recovery and instead of succumbing to the physical constraints, I found solace and passion in an unexpected realm—gymnastics. Throughout my time of rebelling against my physical constraints, I’ve learned some invaluable tips from my success as an continuing athlete that I’d like to pass to others who are facing difficulty grappling with their own physical limitations:
1. Mindset is Everything: Emphasize the power of a positive mindset. The body may face limitations, but the mind is a limitless source of strength. By cultivating a resilient and optimistic mindset, one can navigate the toughest terrains.
2. Adapt and Conquer: My journey in gymnastics taught me the art of adaptation. Instead of dwelling on what my body couldn’t do, I did my best to focus on what it could. By molding physical feats to suit your capabilities, you can transform your limitations into strengths.
3. Listen to Your Body: Being attuned to the subtle signals your body provides is vital for progression. Although it’s fun to surpass limits occasionally, stopping and listening to your body is not a sign of weakness; it’s a strategy for sustainable growth. Knowing when to push and when to rest is crucial in your journey to recovery.
4. Celebrate Small Victories: Recovery is a series of victories, whether it’s taking one extra step or achieving a personal record. I encourage you to celebrate all victories; each step forward, no matter how small, is a triumph.
5. Find or Build a Community : Over the years I’ve found strength in the support of my community. Whether it was family, friends, or fellow athletes, having a support system played a pivotal role in my recovery and my continuation of the sport. Surrounding yourself with positivity and encouragement is a catalyst for progress and can give you an additional purpose to remain active.
On August 31st, 2023 I had my fourth heart surgery, the procedure aimed to replace my pulmonary valve once again and address my enlarged pulmonary arteries had become three times their normal size, leading me into another phase of recover. Although I have retired from gymnastics, I have set my sights on completing the 2024 Spartan Race Trifecta to raise funds for the Adaptive Training Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering individuals with physical disabilities. My decision to participate is not just a personal milestone; it’s a declaration to the world that resilience knows no bounds and to encourage you to keep moving forward.