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Thursday, February 28, 2013

This mom finds her purpose in life after having open heart surgery

As we are in the month of February and heart health month, I think about a mom, who didn’t know if she would ever be able to be a mom because of a heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW). It is an abnormal extra electrical pathway of the heart. In other words, her heart had two paths that it could go on. One was the normal path and the other could go over 200 beats a minute.

This mom is my sister Kori Hendricks Ralston. She was born with this very rare disease. Between .1% and .3% of US population is affected by WPW.
When she was two weeks old her heart was beating fast. My mom knew something was wrong and took her to the doctor. Luckily she did, because they diagnosed her and with medicine were able to control it. That was until she was about 14 years old. As she got older the medicines didn’t seem to work. It was very frustrating to my sister because when her heart would go really fast for awhile, she would get exhausted. She played sports during her teenage years. She was a state champion in gymnastics and played high school basketball. We found out later from doctors that at any time she could have died from heart failure. Because of her condition she also wasn’t insurable. She had regular checkups, but I remember her basketball coach telling my parents he didn’t want her to play basketball until she saw her heart doctor again. He was worried something could happen. My parents took her to the doctor and the doctor said a new procedure came out and they could do open heart surgery on her to fix the problem. They would have to fly her to the children’s hospital in Houston, Texas. Within a week they flew up to Texas and had the surgery. My sister’s heart was fixed. The problem now was she had undergone a major surgery and had a long recovery. She was very weak. She had a scar on her chest that wasn’t pretty. She wasn’t able to go to school. She had to be home schooled. She couldn’t get dressed by herself, my mom had to help her. She couldn’t do a lot of things she was use to doing and became very depressed. At one point, she wanted to die. Her self-esteem was gone.
I tell you this because now years later she is helping kids with their self-esteem. She is a middle school chorus teacher and before that owned her own company Korisma, School of Personal Charm. She can relate to them. She knows what it is like to be so low and have such low self-esteem that you don’t really care about anything. My sister with the help of my parents and our family got out of her slump and got her self-esteem back. It took awhile, but after 6 months she was able to go back to school. She became a varsity cheerleader her senior year of high school. She was involved in sports again and the drama club. She enjoyed competing in the Miss America Pageants and became Miss Seminole 1992, Miss Tampa 1994, Miss Lakeland 1995 and Miss Clearwater 1996.  After she married she won Mrs. Florida in 2004. She also traveled the state of Florida as the State Ambassador for the America Heart Association.

She uses what was once a negative in her life and teaches kids you can make changes in your life and have positive self-esteem. The impact she has made on her students throughout the years has made such a difference in the kids’ lives. She’s not only become a role model and an inspiration for kids, but to me as well.
The best thing is she was able to have kids. She actually was one of the first to have kids after having open heart surgery to correct WPW. She has a son Mak, who is 18 and a daughter Star, who is 14. My sister was always worried she would pass WPW down to her kids because it is hereditary, but neither of her children have it. The ironic thing is my dad’s mom had WPW, but doctors back than didn’t actually know what it was and she died at the age 40 on my dad’s 18th birthday.
But it was on my dad’s 40th birthday that my sister came home from the hospital from her heart surgery. Because of the technology today and the increased awareness of heart disease my sister was able to be cured of this condition and is now insurable.
And for that, and all the advances in heart medicine to come, I am grateful that we recognize American Heart Month.

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