45: Battle Scars

45: Battle Scars

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Battle Scars

Turn your wounds into wisdom.

~Oprah Winfrey

The trip had become almost routine. I had gone to the cardiologist more times in my life than I had been to the regular doctor. It was always the same. Sign in, wait; get stats done, wait; talk to the nurse, wait; get an EKG, wait; every other trip I would get an echocardiogram and then wait; and finally the doctor would come in and tell us there was nothing new and we would go to a movie. This had been the process many, many times during my twenty years, so this time shouldn’t have been any different. In fact I had almost convinced my mom to postpone it, as the last thing I wanted to do on my spring break was see a doctor. I wanted to hang out with my friends and sleep late instead.

The wait wasn’t long; not to brag or anything, but I am one of the doctor’s favorite patients. Once when my dad wouldn’t let me wear a bikini, the doctor wrote me a prescription for one. We went through the normal steps of talking and waiting. We did an echo, something I had done many times before. How was I supposed to know that this one would be a game changer? After the echo I went back in the patient room, and waited for the doctor. He came in and asked the basic questions and then after beating around the bush a bit he told us. My gradient had risen from the thirties to the high eighties and my thickness had widened as well. I was going to need a septal myomectomy. At twenty years old, when most girls my age were dating and going out with their friends, I was facing open-heart surgery.

I tried not to think about the surgery that much. I had other things on my plate. I was performing in a play in two days and I was quite nervous as lots of industry people were coming. The next few days passed in a blur. I performed my play, which went great, but then I was alone again with my thoughts. Time passed, I graduated from college, and then it was time for the surgery.

On the day of the surgery I was pretty calm until they came with the gurney. I saw it and broke down. It was the realization that they were coming for me, not someone else. I was the patient and that seemed so strange to me. The next thing I remember is the ICU. I woke up with a tube down my throat and my dad at my side. I was alive and it was over. A few days later I got to take a shower. As I slowly and painfully removed my gown I saw it for the first time in the mirror. Swollen and red, from my clavicle to the end of my sternum, was the scar. The surgery was over but it had left its mark, this “battle” scar would always be with me.

Most of the time I am proud of my scar. It saved my life. It reminds me that every breath could be your last, because we aren’t promised tomorrow. Most of the time it motivates me to take advantage of the life that I have been given. But sometimes when I am home alone, standing in front of a mirror and it is staring back at me, I just feel damaged; sometimes I let the insecurities creep up and take over for a while. But when that happens I remember that everyone has scars. The only difference is that mine is physical and maybe that makes it more real. Which is a good thing, because the last thing I want to do is forget how blessed I am, how special God has made me.

The day has passed but the evidence of it is etched into my body forever. Some might call it ugly and that’s okay, because the point isn’t whether or not it’s beautiful; the point is that it exists and if it didn’t, I might not.

~Chelsey Colleen Hankins

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