I’m proud to have a Zipper!
My name is Jaden, I am 21 years old and I am a Heartkid. I was born and raised in Far North Queensland and am currently studying a Bachelor of Psychology. I was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome that wasn’t diagnosed until I was six days old, and since then I’ve had three major open-heart surgeries and countless stays in hospital. At the age of eleven, I developed Intra Atrial Re-Entry Tachycardia.
When I was young, I didn’t like being different. I was a little girl who just wanted to be normal like the other kids in my class and wanted to do what everyone else was doing. I was always asking my parents, “Why aren’t I good at sport, why can’t I get my ears pierced?” (which I later got done anyway under the watchful eye of my Cardiologist). “Why can’t I do this, why can’t I do that?”. “Why me?” (that phrase was one I asked a million times).
I was never teased or bullied at school because of my “zipper” or my heart condition; in fact everyone was really good to me and never made me feel left out. I suppose having half a heart was kind of a cool thing to brag about, but not being able to compete in school sports or run around the oval always made me feel different, like I was missing out on something.
As I got older, I started to (and actually wanted to) understand things a lot more, which lead me to study and complete an Assistant in Nursing TAFE course whilst studying Year 11. By now, I’d began to realise that I couldn’t change who I was, so I might as well embrace every aspect of it: even the seemingly bad things (which were never really as bad as I first thought). I started believing in myself more and I became much more aware of not only my limitations but of how far I could push myself beyond them and what the consequences might be thereafter.
In 2010 I went to my first ever HeartKids teen camp - and for the first time, I realised that I was not alone. Since then I have organised fundraisers every year for HeartKids, I have been to three more camps and have openly shared my story with other Heartkids, friends and strangers alike. I even love showing off my “zipper”-because I know that without it I wouldn’t be here.
What I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and what I hope to achieve has encouraged me to study Psychology. Once I complete my studies, I hope to work in a hospital and support children born with congenital heart defects, their families and other sick adolescents who are struggling to come to terms with any problems they are facing. Currently, I arrange catch-ups for families in my area who are affected by congenital heart defects, as I am my local area Support Group Leader for HeartKids.
I won’t lie, having a heart condition has restricted me in physical activity; however, even when I was young I always did - and I always will try to - make the best of my situation. When I was 5, Mum enrolled me into Rhee Tae Kwon Do and I earnt my junior black belt at the age of 11. I also joined a local touch football team but had to slow down when I developed Tachycardia. Recently, I’ve started practicing Yoga and I am always searching for activities that will push me to my limits: I’ve water skied, I’ve done gymnastics and I’ve even zip-lined over a Crocodile the size of Godzilla!
Never in a million years would I change the fact that I was born with a congenital heart defect, because it has provided me with so many opportunities where I have come to understand my body, my heart and life on a much deeper level than most. I’ve had to believe in myself more often than not to be able to get as far as I have. I always try to push myself to the limit in everything I do and I’ve come to realise that, “getting tired”, will never stop me from doing or trying to do what I want, when I want.
Being a Heartkid has taught me to never give up or give in; I haven’t yet and that continues to be the plan!
I am undeniably proud of who I am. I’m proud to be a Heartkid. I’m proud to have a “zipper” and I’m proud to share my story in the hopes that it might help someone else realise that they really can achieve everything they set out to do, despite being born with a congenital heart defect.
To hear more from Jaden click here to watch her inspiring video!!