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Little things in life make a big difference

By By Ryan Carter
It's the "little things" in life that sometimes have the biggest impact on you.
One Saturday morning several years ago, my wife Mary and I were starting what seemed to be a pretty routine Saturday. I was watching TV and she was sitting at the kitchen table having a bowl of cereal.
The next thing I know she was slumped over in her chair unconscious.
After a couple of minutes, she regained consciousness and we sat and talked about what had just happened before calling her doctor. If she fainted, it was no big deal, but if something else was going on, then we needed to know what the problem was. This had happened before and didn't seem like a big deal at the time. Little did we know, this event would change our lives in many ways.
You see, Mary was born with an unusual heart. She was missing three-fourths of her septum, which is the wall between the ventricals in the heart. To her, being "normal" meant living with a condition that impacts every part of her life. Her definition of being "normal" is very different than mine.
After a trip to Emory University, it was decided Mary would have a defribulator implanted. A defribulator is kind of like a pacemaker but the difference is it only works when her heart needs it. If her heart rate gets too slow or too fast, the defribulator will shock the heart into a normal rhythm.
Since then, there has been only one incident when the defribulator has discharged. Mary leads an active life as a working mother and has relatively few problems considering the seriousness of her condition.
She received a phone call a couple of weeks ago inviting us on an all-expenses-paid weekend in Atlanta to attend an American Heart Association event sponsored by Medtronics, the company that makes Mary's defribulator. She said it was the first time she had been given something because she has a heart problem.
Well, it happened again a couple of nights ago.
I was working late when Mary got another phone call from Medtronics. This time they want the four of us to fly to Minnesota to meet their engineers and attend a Christmas party.
The person who invited us said he was impressed with what Mary had to say at the meeting in Atlanta and felt like the engineers who make the devices needed to know how they impact people's lives.
At the meeting in Atlanta, Mary thanked her parents for raising her to be "normal." She said because of her health problems her mother had to fight for her to be able to ride the school bus, to play with the other kids in P.E. and to be treated just like any other kid in the school.
She said she hoped the fighting her mother did back in the 1970s has made it a little easier for kids with similar problems today.
Thanks to Mary's defribulator she no longer takes medicine to regulate her heart rate. Drugs are wonderful things for people who are ill, but the side effects can be brutal.
We have been blessed with two children. Having kids was not an option for us while she was taking the heart medication. It is amazing something so small could make such a change in our lives.
Mary's device is one "little thing" that has had made our life pretty "normal."
Published Dec. 1, 1999