“Beep ... beep … beep”… the rhythmic oscillations of the heart monitor delineate the steady, monotonous cycle of life. The computer screen displays a fragile, red line creating a seismic reading of the surges of life under the skin. This simple line registers the separation of life from death. When I was born, the line crashed from its rhythmic motion to a relentless flat line accompanied by an equally relentless, mechanical squeal.
Moments after I was given life, it was almost stolen away. But I fought. I kept fighting for days and months. I have continued to fight my entire life.
At birth, I developed respiratory syncytial virus followed by cardiac complications from the virus. They put me on apnea and heart monitors. While the average heart rate for a newborn is 140 beats per minute, my heartbeat would rise to 300. And within seconds, it would suddenly drop to single digits. My heart stopped more often as the days progressed.
One time, I was at home with my mother when my heart rate suddenly soared to 300. The machine screamed and my mother’s extensive medical background kicked in. She hit my chest, shocking my heart into a normal rhythm.
My family and I lived with this intensity until the seventh grade. My cardiac problems subsided, but they were replaced with kidney problems, viral meningitis, lung disease, tracheomalacia, asthma, weakened immune system and a slew of other medical complications.
When I started school, I often missed more than half the year due to my conditions. But this life had taught me to be resilient. I continued to struggle against my sicknesses and stay on top of my studies.
Despite missing so much school, I was in the top of my class and was accepted early to Penn State. I’ve become a stronger person because of what I have overcome.
My doctor once told me, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing.”
Before I came to Penn State, my life wasn’t coherent, simple or average. I yearned for stability, but now I see it is fortunate that my life was the opposite of simple or average.
I would not be half the person I am today without my past, and I would not have the strength I do today without the difficulties of yesterday.
I now try to use my energy and my drive for life to help those who need strength to carry on, like I used to. I can understand the tremendous effort necessary to continue fighting an uphill battle. My family supported me and was my inspiration through everything. I want to do that for others now.
I am who I am today because of what I’ve overcome. I believe in difficulties.