Still Pumping

6 years ago today I received the amazing gift of life. I can still remember my mom coming in and waking me up and telling me “we got the call!” Just like that, a whirlwind of emotions hit me. Obviously, I was happy but also scared. I remember not crying when my mom told me. I wanted to be strong and not break down and be a mess. I did cry when I said goodbye to my dogs, because I’m a loser and love my dogs more than I probably should. I also teared up on the plane ride to Houston (long story, we had a private pilot take my mom and I to Houston in his plane, it was pretty legit) because it was a breathtakingly gorgeous day. It was cloudy, but still full of sunshine. The doctors had always told my family and I to be prepared to receive the call for my heart in the middle of the night, during bad weather, because that’s when the most accidents occur. It was just amazing to me that we got the call on a Sunday, at noon, during one of the prettiest days. God definitely had a plan for that day. I remember getting to the hospital and the nurse making a comment about my lacrosse sweatshirt. After that, I don’t remember anything but waking up and starting to cry because for the first time in my entire life my heartbeat sounded “normal.” Growing up with my old, sick heart, my heartbeat always sounded just a tad bit strange to me. Sometimes it would misfire and my pacemaker would have to jolt my heart into the correct rhythm and that heartbeat was all I knew, but I knew it just wasn’t right. When I was waking up after my surgery, I was trying not to cry, but I was just so happy to know that I had a healthy normal sounding heart.

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A lot can change in six years. I’ve gone to college, made new friends, and have continued to live life to the fullest.  Before my transplant, I never would have dreamed of going to college seven hours away from home, but I do, and I love it. Right after my transplant, I never would have thought I would never be off less than eight different medications, now I’m on four. Now six years out from my transplant, I live an extremely normal life, more normal that I could have ever dreamed. I have an internship that I love; I have amazing friends and family (who always help me remember my 8 am and pm medications), I go to college, I babysit, I run around the backyard with my dogs, I go hiking, I eat an unhealthy amount of half baked Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, I blog, I dream of becoming a youtube star, I spend way too much time on pinterest, I go for runs,  I travel, I rent a house,  I annoy my brother, I hangout with friends (we really just sit around and try to find stuff to do), and I wake up each morning and am amazed with the life that God has given me. 

Six years from now (I’ll be 26…what) I hope to be back in Austin. My dream job (if I can’t be a YouTube star) is to do public relations work for a hospital. I would love to write press releases about new medical innovations and findings. If some day, a hospital can grow a heart from stem cells, I want to write that press release. Besides living in Austin, I hope to own a great dane (yeah, I have an obsession), and possibly be married. Who knows. I do know that in six years, I’ll have outgrown Texas Children’s and I’ll have to get a grown up doctor…which I’m not looking forward too, but it’ll be a new chapter in my life.

I do want to encourage everyone to become an organ donor and to tell their family and friends their wishes of becoming an organ donor, if anything were to ever happen.

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A big thank you to my doctors (Dr. Denfield, Dr. Dryer, Dr.Morales, Dr.Fraser, and Dr.Ayres), nurses (David and LaToya) , transplant coordinator (Corey and Sarah) and many more, who have always kept me smiling and truly mean the world to me. I feel like I can’t thank y’all enough for all that y’all have done for my family and me. 

Thank you to my donor family. I’ve never met them or contacted them, but they truly did give me the gift of life.  I cannot imagine how hard it was to make the decision to donate all of their daughter’s organs, but they did, and I will be forever grateful. I am so blessed and God has given me such an amazing life and an amazing story for me to share with others.

24. Complete a Half Marathon [UPDATED]

The video is finally done! Here it is!

I am still in shock. I can not believe that yesterday I completed my first half marathon. I am sad it’s over because I’ve been looking forward to the half marathon all semester and now that it is over I actually have to study for finals. I am so glad I finished and had so much fun doing it.

I went to Oklahoma City Saturday morning with my friend Kelsey to pick up our race packets. We parked the car and walked to the Cox Convention Center. There was so much going on in OKC on Saturday. The Thunder played the Mavericks (Thunder won, boo) that night at the Chesapeake Arena which is right next to the convention center so there were people EVERYWHERE. Once we got into the convention center, Kelsey and I got really excited. I think it hit us that the next day we would be participating in the the 12th Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and half marathon. Once getting our packets and bib numbers, we went and walked around the health and fitness expo, which I really enjoyed.

Later that day I had to go pick up my mommy from the airport! I left at 2:30 so I would be on time to pick her up at 3:15 well my GPS wanted me to take a highway that doesn’t exist any longer, so I ended up not getting to the airport until 3:50. I was beyond frustrated because I honestly could not find the airport…finally I got on the right highway and found my way there. First we checked into the hotel, then headed back down to the expo so I could show my mom around. It was really fun walking around and spending time with my mom. I am so grateful that she could come up for the race.

After the expo we went to Macaroni Grill to carb load. I think I ate more than I ever have…I had potato cakes, mushroom ravioli, and some chicken. I was so stuffed after that meal. We ran some last minute errands before heading back to the hotel to get some rest. It took me awhile to fall asleep, but once I did I was out.

4:45 am came a lot sooner than I wanted it too. Once, I was awake, the nerves and butterflies hit me. I was super excited but still nervous. What if i didn’t finish? What if it was pouring rain the whole time? Was I really ready for a half marathon? Once I got dressed, got my bib pinned on and ate some breakfast, we headed down to find parking. As we were driving down there, I was getting anxious and was still in some shock about what I was about to do. Getting to the starting line was when it really hit me. I and about 30,000 other people were about to do a half marathon or full marathon. Crazy. Once the clock hit 6:30am, the race began. I said goodbye to my mom, and jumped in with the rest of the crowd to start the half marathon.

I jogged the first mile and a half with the 9 minute pace group which was probably not the smartest thing. It tired me out pretty quickly. I started walking until I found a group that was more of my pace. Miles 1 – 4 flew by. There were people cheering us on the whole way and that made it easier to keep going. Around mile 6 it started pouring down rain…the rain felt good for the first few minutes, but then it just became annoying…luckily it only lasted about a mile or so before it stopped. It still sprinkled most of the race, but as long as it wasn’t pouring, I was good.

My friend Lindsey, who is an athletic training major, was working one of the medical stations. She thought she’d be working at the mile 10 station, so when I saw the medical station at mile 10, I took off in a dead sprint, only to learn she wasn’t there. I was bummed but knew she had to be at one of the stations and I’d eventually see her. Once I got to mile 11, I saw a girl who looked like Lindsey, helping a runner put a bandage on a blister. I ran up, grabbed her face and yelled “I LOVE YOU! SEE YOU AT THE END!” Luckily, it was Lindsey and I wasn’t yelling in some random girls face. I continued to jog on. A few minutes later I heard someone yelling my name, I turned around to see Lindsey jogging after me. We hugged, she told me she was proud of me, and I was off again. Seeing Lindsey definitely gave me the boost of energy I needed. Mile 10-13 were the hardest. My knees had started hurting, along with the bottom of my feet, but I was so close and knew I had to continue on.

When I saw the finish line, I took off in a sprint. I was so ready for it to be over. I just wanted to cross that finish line. I started crying before I reached the finish line, because I did it. I finished a half marathon. I honestly never thought I’d be doing this. Five years ago, stairs were my enemy. Now, stairs are my best friend and 13.1 miles is my enemy. I teared up off and on through out the half marathon, because I wasn’t doing this for me anymore. I was doing this for the family who had the strength to donate their daughters heart that made it possible for me to live the amazing life that I have. Someday, I hope I can write them a letter telling them all I have done with the heart they’ve given me. God has blessed me with an unbelievable second chance at life and I refuse to let it be anything but ordinary.

Whenever it got tough, I would remind myself of how blessed I was that I had the opportunity to participate in the half marathon. The Ben Breedlove story had a huge impact on me. I had watched some of Ben’s youtube videos and his passing really hit me hard. I was lucky enough to have had my heart transplant before I got really sick, Ben didn’t even have that chance. When I signed up for the half marathon, I wrote in my planner 3 reasons I wanted to do the half marathon. I wrote do it for Ben, do it prove them wrong, and do it make this year different.

I did this half marathon for those 18 people who pass away daily waiting for an organ and to show others that an organ recipient can live a more than normal life. I might have to take medications every morning and evening, have doctor check-ups, and take more precautions when I get sick, but I can still participate in a half marathon, go to college, and live a normal life all because I received the gift of life

I’m going to continue to keep running and training. I’m planning to do the Austin Half Marathon on February 17, 2013. I’m trying to get my mom to do it with me! My friend Emily Ronck also plans to do it! Eventually I’d like to do a full marathon, but I’d like to do a few more halves before that. My friend Kelsey, who did the full marathon, finished in 4:45 which is amazing. I am so proud of her to for finish with such a good time! It was so fun training with her, we always encouraged each other to go run or congratulate each other after we finished a run. I’m so happy I had her there along the way. My final time ended up being 3:27. My pace was slower than I would have liked it to be, but it was my first time, so I’m just happy I finished. By the time the Austin half marathon comes along, I’d like to have a 12 minute pace and finish in under 3 hours.

I can officially cross number 24 off my bucket list!!!! If you ever get the chance, train and participate in a half marathon! It was awesome and I can’t wait to do another!! Thank you to everyone who helped encourage me along the way and for all the kind words after I finished! They really mean a lot to me!