Tuesday, October 21, 2008

AHA Heart Heroes Conference -- Panama City, Florida

Here is a photo of my father and me at the American Heart Association Heart Heroes Conference in beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida. Professional photographer Jordan Owens was on hand to take photos of all of the families. What a treat!

The conference was fantastic. I had a chance to see some former AHA members (Pauline and Gary) and Alex's former cardiologist, Dr. William Blanchard. A real treat was serving on a panel discussion with Dr. Blanchard and having some time to talk to him about Alex.

What an awesome audience! I really felt like all of us connected. During the breaks, I had a chance to meet many of the families and to hear many of their stories. Most notably, there was a mother there of triplets -- all with Tetralogy of Fallot! Two of them were at the conference and they looked healthy and happy (one was visiting with Grandma). Naturally, I saw a number of precious babies and darling toddlers. It does my heart good to see so many happy, healthy children. I know there is so much hope for these little ones.

I think the comment that made me the happiest came from two women who came up to me at the end of my Planning My Bright Future speech. One of the ladies told me that she had been trying to encourage her friend to let her daughter dance. After they heard me talk about Tanya and Donna, this mother decided to let her daughter, with Tetralogy of Fallot -- just like Tanya! -- take dance lessons. :-) That made my day.

It is always fascinating to me how many of us share similar stories. One mother came up to me in a break and mentioned how her child was also originally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis -- not once, but twice! Then the real diagnosis became apparent -- hypoplastic left heart syndrome. I think the reason we parents feel such a bond is because of the similarity of our stories, our emotions and the roller coaster ride we enter once our children are diagnosed.

I hope I am asked back to speak at the AHA Heart Heroes conference next year -- which I hear will be in sunny Orlando, Florida! I encourage all of you Floridians to put this conference on your calendar. Pepper Adair and her able group of helpers really know how to put on a terrific conference and I can guarantee you that a good time will be had by all.


Anna Jaworski
Thanks to professional photographer, Jordan Owens for the photo of Dad and me! To schedule a sitting with Jordan, visit her website: http://www.jophoto.us

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

American Heart Association Conference

I am so excited to announce that I will be the keynote speaker at the American Heart Association Heart Heroes Conference in Panama City Beach, Florida on October 11, 2008. The title of my speech will be Raising a Child with a Congenital Heart Defect. It's the same title as last year's speech in Miami, but I wrote a new speech just for the occasion. Last year my speech was more didactic. This year my speech is more storytelling -- which is what I do best!

I'll also be giving a speech for another session. The title of this speech is Planning My Bright Future. I revised the speech I gave last year to include some new information. It's one of my favorite speeches to give because I tell some of my favorite stories in it. I love sharing success stories of people I've had the chance to come to know in the CHD world.

I'm eager to make some new friends in Panama City Beach. Attending heart conferences really keeps me connected to the CHD world in a special way. Every time I go to one conference, I find myself seeking out other conferences. I wondered if after Alex was older I would still think about his heart defect. I don't dwell on it like I did when he was younger, but I find myself wondering how my heart friends are doing and hoping that they are leading the same good quality of life that Alex is now. I guess attending these conferences makes me more hopeful than ever.