Kristin VanSingel Michigan
My name is Kristin VanSingel, and I am a heart survivor. I was born on July 23, 1982 with critical aortic stenosis. At one day old I had my first open heart surgery (valvotomy) at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. I was in the ICU for six weeks on a ventilator and then hospitalized on and off for the first year of my life. I was never able to suck on a bottle because my cardiac output was insufficient. I was fed through an NG tube until I was 18 months old and weighed 13 pounds. During my first few years of life, I was given medicines round the clock. At 18 months old I had my second open heart surgery. The surgeons inserted a conduit with a pig’s valve inside. It was then that I was able to start eating and gaining weight.
When I was in the 6th grade, they replaced this conduit. They removed the conduit and replaced my native aortic valve with my native pulmonary valve and then replaced the native pulmonary valve with a donor valve. In other words, my pulmonary valve became my aortic valve and I now have a donor pulmonary valve.
Even though I did suffer anoxia at birth and the doctors thought that I might have learning difficulties, they were fortunately proven wrong. I graduated from high school as a member of the National Honor Society and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan Dearborn.
To date I am doing well from a cardiac standpoint. I see my cardiologist, Dr. MacDonald D ick, twice a year for check-ups and have been put on different types of holter monitors to keep an eye on palpitations that I have been having for the past seven years. I see a pediatric cardiologist since my heart problem is congenital. I can pretty much say I am one of the oldest patients in the department.
Living with a congenital heart problem has definitely made me appreciate life – knowing that when I was born they did not expect me to survive. Technology today is so advanced and continues to advance each and every day. I hope to be an example that parents of children who also have severe congenital heart problems can look to for hope. I hope to be someone that young adults, especially girls, can look up to and learn to live with their heart problems. They should be proud of their bodies and show their “zipper scars” without feeling embarrassed as if it were something that they should be ashamed of. I also hope to be an example of living a healthy lifestyle for others with heart disease. Everyone deserves to look and feel beautiful. I truly feel that beauty comes from within and my scars are what make me stand out amongst others. I have learned to live with my heart condition and carry on my life to the fullest within my restrictions. I believe that God doesn’t give you anymore than you can handle.
Currently I have been married for over nine years to my husband, Brian, who is a full-time soldier in the Michigan Army National Guard. We are in the process of adopting and just waiting for the baby that God has chosen for us. I have been a volunteer with the American Heart Association for the past three years because I feel it is important to give back to an organization that has indirectly given me so much!