I’m Normal Too

Name: Gabriella

Age: 15

Role: Sophomore

“I see myself as awkward, short, and sick.”

 

I just want to be treated like a normal fifteen year old girl because that is what I am. I am not looking for anyone’s pity and I guess it's okay for people to try to make me feel happy and accepted as long as it doesn’t get too out of hand. I feel like that would happen if I had siblings. My parents would force them to do things with me because of my condition which is not what I want. I do not want people to feel sorry for me.

A Not so Fresh Start

The complications began when I was fresh out of my mother’s womb.  The doctors were befuddled. I was purple and blue all over. They tried to get me to a normal shade of human by repeatedly wrapping and unwrapping me in blankets and then changing my diaper. The doctors kept repeating this process over and over again because they thought I was either too hot or too cold. Little did they know that was not the reason at all.

I never remember if I was born with one-quarter or half of my heart. The doctors told me that I have congenital heart disease, which is rather hard to say. Once they found out, I was sent into surgery less than five days into this world.  My second surgery took place when I was eighteen months, and my third when I was three-and-a-half years old. Other than that I have had a lot of catheterizations.  My most recent surgery was a couple of weeks ago.  

When I went in for my usual CAT scan, the contrast that lights up my organs so the doctors can see everything became foreign to my system. I almost died. Lucky for me, the nurse immediately knew what to do and I survived that incident. However, I had an abnormal vein that would require surgery. In order to get to the abnormal vein and close it up, the surgeon had to put a hole in my heart.

It all happened around six in the morning. I had to change into one of the hospital dresses and put on some of those weird underpants. I was really nervous for the procedure to take place because of all the blood I could lose.  If the surgeon had not stopped the blood in time I could have lost too much blood and would have died. There have been multiple occasions in my life where I could have died.   

    That is not the only health concern I have. I also have asthma at the bottom of my lungs which restricts my breathing. When I was younger I had a lazy eye, so every day after school I had to wear an eyepatch in order to correct it.  Also, I used to have a hard time gaining weight because I did not enjoy eating. I was really picky with what I wanted to eat and really enjoyed junk food like every other kid. However, my diet changed three years ago when I started taking growth hormones. The doctor said I had to start eating healthy or else I would not continue to grow. Now, I became the opposite of one of those kids that says they hate broccoli and grew almost six inches in the process.

Friends: Can I have them?

          I began to have a difficult time making friends throughout Elementary School. Some of the kids in my classes would pick on me because of my scar even though it has made me function normally and be more like them. Others would think of me as “sick” when in reality my surgeries are making me stronger and healthier.  

I only had one or two friends at school. One of them was a year older than me and the other went to a totally different school. I never really got to see them and we drifted farther and farther apart from each other. In the third grade I remember having no friends. I used to sit all alone during lunch with no one to talk to or play with during recess. The following year the one friend I made moved at the end of the school year to Poland. After that experience it was hard for me to believe that anyone else I talked to would not end up leaving.

I remember my freshman year being an exact repeat of middle school. When I first stepped foot into Stagg, I automatically thought to myself I hate this school and I don’t want to go back. Not only did I not know where anything was, I felt like I did not know anyone either. I told myself that I did not want to make any new friends and wanted to only be friends with Sara that I had known since fifth grade. After school that day I went home crying and complaining that I hated Stagg. It was just way too big. I wanted to go back to Palos South. My mom was able to calm me down by telling me that the same thing happened when I entered middle school. I did not entirely buy it when she said it the first time, but once it sank in I realized that she was right. I went back to Stagg the next day and it did become progressively better, especially with making friends. I’m not saying that I cannot wait to go to school and I absolutely love Stagg, but I sort of love it. I think the main reason why is because I get to see all my friends that I did not think I could have.

I am always happy and smiling even if there is something wrong. I do not like to show my true emotions while I am at school. Sometimes it is easier to hide my emotions and keep smiling than show what is truly inside. I feel that I am only able to openly share my emotions with my mom and occasionally my best friend. They understand me the best and will help me with whatever I am dealing with anyone that will randomly see me in the hallways.

I have been through a lot and will continue to go through more in the future. Thinking about the future I know I will have more surgeries. I don’t really know how many more because although I know about my condition I don’t really focus on it that much. I know it's there I just want to see past it and live my life to its fullest. Right now I’m fine.

--Interviewed By: Kortney Weszelits