The heart occupies an important part in our lives, and I’m not just talking medically, either. We may not always do the right things, but our hearts are in the right place.
When we make a promise, we cross our hearts and hope to die. Our hearts go out to someone who has suffered a tremendous loss.
We all know that a faint heart never won a fair lady. And when your actual physical heart has something wrong with it, as one California woman’s did, we understand why people speak of a broken heart.
According to KCRA, Chelsea Byrnes suffered from a health problem that few of us can fathom. From the moment of her birth, she only possessed half of a functioning heart.
“I couldn’t do PE as a kid,” she explained. “I just always had to take a back seat.”
Her physical limitation led to more than one dire prognosis. In fact, multiple doctors insisted that Byrnes wouldn’t make it out of the single digits.
Erin Arena, her mother, recalled, “I had doctors’ appointments when she was young where they told me she would live to be five. They were wrong.”
Part of Byrnes’ survival owed to her own grit and determination. “I always knew it was scary,” she said.
“I always knew I had to make good decisions in life. I always knew health was a priority.”
Byrnes’ condition isn’t as rare as you might think. The Cleveland Clinic reported that some 800,000 adults in the United States have congenital heart disease.
What’s more, that number keeps growing by roughly 20,000 every year. Why? Medical interventions continue save infants born with problems like the one Byrnes faces.
One issue that the 30-year-old Byrnes never thought she could solve was that of becoming a mother. She stated, “Honestly, a lot of [doctors] said, ‘Absolutely not.’
“A lot of them said, ‘Well, you’re never going to have kids. It was heartbreaking, honestly, because I knew in my heart I could do it.
“I knew I could be a mom. I just needed someone to believe in me.”
Dr. Pei-Hsiu Huang, Director of Adult Congenital Heart Disease at Sutter Medical Center, felt differently. Under his care and close monitoring, Byrnes and her husband were able to welcome two little lives into the world.
“There are still absolutely a lot of unknowns about it,” Huang said. “We have yet to see patients through the rest of their life who were born with these conditions are now finally surviving.”
“It is possible for her — in particular — to have children because she is so fit, and her cardiovascular disease had been so well taken care of,” Huang added.
“Without Dr. Huang I can’t say that having children would have been possible,” Byrnes said. “Just the relief I felt, my husband felt, my mother felt was everything we dreamed of.”
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