Sports, Scars and Our New Normal

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Spring is here! This means more time spent outside soaking up the sun running around, and summer sports like soccer and baseball are on the schedule.

There are approximately 35 known types of CHD ranging from serious to very complex. Depending on the child and their history , they may or may not be able to participate in sports and activities. Reid has TGA, which is somewhere in the middle. As a heart family it can change at any given time but for now he is stable. It’s important to remember every case is different and changes can and do happen. CHD is not a curable condition. I have never heard of the word “cured” at any of Reid’s or our heart friend’s check ups.

When we had Reid in January of 2011, we were told it was unknown if he would be able to play soccer, hockey or even run around outside with his older brother. After his first birthday he became stable enough that we started him in swimming lessons. He wasn’t very fond of the water, not to mention the parents and kids who just stared at his scar. At first I thought that I should have kept a shirt on him to protect him from people staring, but then I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that this is our “new normal”. Reid, myself and everyone else need to be comfortable because this is a part of him that will never go away. At our next swimming lesson Reid was hesitant again and the parents and kids stared while we waited, but this time instead of hiding I addressed the situation-“Reid had open heart surgery because he has a congenital heart defect”. This opened the door to conversation with both parents and the kids. We shared that we call his scar a “zipper” and that they opened it to fix his heart. After about 10 minutes Reid wasn’t hiding, nobody was staring and swimming became more enjoyable for us. Every lesson from then on we had a question asked and I was more than happy to educate them on Congenital Heart Defects. This would be our “new normal” as a heart family.

Summer of 2014, our cardiologist gave us the green light to let Reid (who was 3 at the time) play soccer. I went and signed him up as soon as I could. I filled out the form including the health section and nervously dropped it off and hoped they wouldn’t turn Reid away. The club immediately stopped me before I got out the door. They had questions about Reid and I had all of the answers that our wonderful cardiologist helped us with. The club was 100% supportive of having Reid in their soccer league, YEAH! When we told Reid about soccer, the excitement on his face was priceless. He didn’t have to sit and watch his big brother, he could go out and play on his own team. He was excited to get all suited up on his first day-cleats, shin pads, jersey and a big water bottle. Reid wasn’t as fast as the other kids and we quickly learned as heart parents that he does tire quickly. We wanted him to learn his limits so we didn’t pull him off and never pushed him, we let him tell us when he needed to rest. He quickly discovered that he needed longer rests than the other kids, but it didn’t bother him. At the end of the season, with a beaming smile, he got his trophy and he can’t wait to play again this summer.

After a summer of soccer, swimming and outdoor fun we met back with our cardiologist in November. I had an even bigger question this time, I wanted to know if Reid could play hockey. Last time I asked about hockey it was a “let’s wait and see”. Much to my surprise with Reid having a year of stable health and a season of soccer, we were given the green light to play hockey. He actually encouraged it as he felt this would be a good sport to help condition and strengthen his heart, but to let him rest as long as he needed and not to push him. In fall of 2015, Reid will get to play hockey.He is very excited to get out there and is currently practicing all the time around the house and on the driveway.

When we show up with Reid to play sports or run around on a jungle gym we always get asked “Is he okay to do this because of his heart?” For Reid, it’s okay as long as he rests and knows his limits (which he is learning).We have learned that Reid requires more sleep than the average child his age. Presently at 4 years old, Reid sleeps 11 to 12 hours a night and depending on his activity level, he will take a 1 to 2 hour nap during the day on his own. For example a 30 min swimming lesson always warrants an afternoon nap. Some say I’m lucky to have a great sleeper, but for us we know that this is Reid and what he requires to be happy, healthy and take part in activities he enjoys.

Heather

Heather is a regular blogger for Cardiac Kids, click here to learn more about her and her son Reid.

Stay tuned later this week for a post from Danielle about the day she found out she was a Heart Mom.

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