Last night, I had the honor of being asked to speak at the American Heart Association’s Boston Heart Walk Awards Ceremony. The purpose of this event was to reflect on and celebrate the amazing individual and team accomplishments of the 2017 Boston Heart Walk. Below is a copy of my speech:
Good Evening Everyone,
Thank you for the introduction, James. I first want to thank all of you for joining us tonight. This event has been a great celebration of all the amazing things that we’ve accomplished both individually and collectively. As a heart failure survivor, I wanted to share with you a little bit about my story, how I chose to become involved with the American Heart Association, and what all of your hard work and determination means to a survivor like me.
On October 5th, 2007, as a junior in high school, I unexpectedly suffered from heart failure and was subsequently diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Severe Arrhythmia. As an otherwise healthy teenager, my life threatening cardiac event and subsequent diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. On the day of my cardiac event, the doctors weren’t even sure if I was going to make it through the emergency procedure I had at Boston Children’s Hospital. After surviving that initial surgery and having another to install a Pacemaker/ICD device, my slow road to recovery began. I spent the rest of the month of October in the hospital as the doctors tried to figure out the best course of care going forward. They informed me that I would live with this condition for the rest of my life, which was a hard pill to swallow at first. Right around Halloween, I was sent home with a whole bunch of medications but mostly importantly, a new lease on life.
The next several years were spent trying to adjust to my new normal as a heart failure survivor. There were many things I could no longer do, including play rugby or row for my high school team. I had to find other things to occupy my time, which included writing, reading, and listening to music. By sticking to a regimen of medications and adopting a more heart healthy lifestyle, I began to make progress in my recovery. I really started to rethink my position and purpose in life. How was I going to turn my experience as a heart failure patient into a positive one?
As my ten year heart anniversary was approaching this past October, I wanted it to be a celebratory occasion instead of a somber one. I wanted to really capture just how thankful I was to be alive and for all the people who have been on the rollercoaster with me. I also developed an urge to share my experience with others. I knew that I wasn’t the only person affected by heart disease and I wanted to connect with others who also had.
This past spring I received an email from Anne Holden, where she told me she had heard a little bit about my story from my sister Jenni. She asked me if I had considered creating a team to walk in the Boston Heart Walk this year. After thinking about it for a little bit, I realized that creating a team to walk checked off all the boxes of what I wanted my ten year heart anniversary to be. What better way to celebrate than to gather with family and friends, all the while raising necessary funds towards a cause that I really cared about. With great excitement, I began spreading the word about Team Chris to my family and friends.
Walking is the perfect symbol for progress. It allows us to go at our own pace, and enjoy our surroundings, while maintaining a focus on what’s ahead of us. Walking is something that we all can do at our own pace but if we are all walking together, we can continue to make progress and make some amazing things happen. As we gather tonight, let us not forget that there continues to be work that needs to be done. It will continue to require an all hands on deck approach.
I’m proud to say that being involved with the American Heart Association has given me a newfound purpose and will to live. From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough for all that you do. I’d like to end tonight by sharing with you one of my favorite quotes which I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. Author Melody Beattie once said, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”