Living with Other Types of Congenital Heart Defects, Catherine

Catherine’s Story - In her own words

Catherine as an infant in the hospital

Catherine was born with pulmonary atresia, but her heart defect never stopped her from reaching her goals in life. Having a heart defect gives her a platform to inspire and help others who have a similar condition. Read her story below.

When I was born, my parents and doctors knew immediately that something was wrong. I was transferred to the local children’s hospital and after several procedures, I was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, a type of congenital heart defect (CHD). I had three open heart surgeries in the first 18 months of my life. I even spent my first Christmas in the children’s hospital. These first surgeries were not easy. I had complications with each one. However, the wonderful care that I received carried me through those difficult times.

Growing up, my parents never allowed my heart condition to get in the way of me doing any activity. I have an identical twin sister who doesn’t have a CHD, and they treated us just the same. I played competitive soccer and attended some of the nation’s best tournaments. Every year, I had a check-up with my cardiologist, and my mom would make it a fun day away from school. I stayed with my pediatric cardiologist until I was 21 years old.

Catherine running the Peachtree Road race

I was able to attend my dream college and was also a recipient of a scholarship specifically for students with a CHD. Since graduating college, I am now a special education teacher and I have served on many committees that foster mentor relationships between those with special needs and other students. I also present at conferences related to special education.

During the winter of 2012, I learned that my pulmonary valve would have to be replaced. During that time, I was able to get in the best shape of my life, and I ran a 10-kilometer race just two months before my surgery. In June of 2012, I had my fourth open heart surgery, where I was given a bovine pulmonary valve. Since that surgery, I have fully recovered and today I continue my passion of teaching students with special needs.

I graduated with my master’s degree in mild and moderate intellectual disabilities. I also married my husband, Max. I know that having a CHD gives me a wonderful platform to help others with the same condition. I look forward to more opportunities where I can continue to help and inspire others.