A Complicated Beginning

At three months old Crystal Flores was diagnosed with seven different congenital heart defects.

I was born with complex congenital heart disease (CHD), but I was sent home without being checked. Right away, my mom noticed that my skin, nail beds and lips would get blue and I had trouble breathing. She took me to a doctor, who did an echocardiogram. He told my mom something was very wrong but he couldn’t diagnose me. We went to a cardiologist, who did many tests — ECHOs, EKGs, catheterizations, blood tests, etc. At three months I was finally diagnosed with seven different congenital heart defects: 1) dextrocardia; 2) pulmonary stenosis; 3) hypoplastic right ventricle; 4) atrial septal defect; 5) ventricle septal defect; 6) tricuspid atresia; and 7) transposition of the great arteries.

As a result I have had eight open-heart surgeries. At the time of my first surgeries, operations were done through your back, so I have two zipper scars on my back as well as the ones on my chest.

My first open-heart surgery was at 6 months. My second was a year later. The third, fourth and fifth surgeries were done when I was 4 years old. My heart stopped during the fifth one. Thankfully I was resuscitated! I was 10 at the time of my sixth surgery, and 14 for my seventh, after which I had another cardiac arrest. My last surgery was when I was 16, 11 years ago. I’ve had several catheterizations since then. My most recent was this past September.

You can see I’ve had a long hard journey with CHD, but I’ve learned to see it positively. Because of CHD I have learned how beautiful life is and how to appreciate it. CHD has shaped me into the strong woman I am today. I see CHD as a challenge to grow myself as a person and to be the best I can be. It has taught me to be loving, caring and compassionate. Most of all, it has taught me to NEVER GIVE UP!

If I had the chance to change what I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t change anything because for me, LIFE is the most beautiful thing that exists. Life is worth fighting for!


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