Sharing Stories, Sharing Hearts: The 2022 Share Your Heart® Essay and Poetry Contest Winners

By Lisa Horn

Heart disease survivors and their families have a strength that’s often hard to describe, especially when facing fear, uncertainty and even loss. There can be healing in sharing our stories, even just by writing them down. That’s why we host the annual Share Your Heart® essay and poetry contest.

This year-round awareness campaign is part of the overall theme we call “Share Your Heart” and focuses on what MHI does best: sharing our hearts. These stories let people living with heart disease or congenital heart disease know they are not alone; there are others who have similar feelings and experiences.

Multiple independent judges, who are teachers by profession, evaluate each submission. Criteria include using the “Share Your Heart” theme, organization and clarity, personal and compelling con- tent, spelling and grammar, and originality. In addition to being published here in Heartbeat and on the Share Your Heart website, the winner in each category also receives a gift pack.

Like last year, the response was incredible. Visit shareyourheart.live/essay-contest to read our first place and runner-up entries.

Congratulations to Amelia Lobien, Mackinsey LeBlanc and Rick Westfall on their winning entries published on the following pages. And thanks to everyone who submitted a poem or essay. It takes courage to share, and it means so much.

Amelia Lobien

Youth Grades 6-8, Florida

Heart Sister

Eight years ago, my family learned about congenital heart defects. We found out that my baby sister would be born with one and require lots of extra care. I was only three when she was born, and I couldn’t understand at the time exactly what that would mean for us as a family.

When my little sister, Audrey, came into my life, it was hard! She was so tiny, and I was so happy she was finally here. Over the next few weeks, she would have her first surgery and a hard recovery. I went through a lot of feelings during this time. Mom and dad spent all their time at the hospital with her, and I only got to see them for a few hours each day.

My grandparents alternated to help care for me, and I spent most of my time with them for six months. I felt aban- doned by mom and dad because I was spending so much time with my grand- parents. When mom and dad finally came home with Audrey, I was excited, but dad went back to work and mom still spent more time caring for the baby than me. I felt like Audrey got all the atten- tion and I hated her.

It didn’t stay that way though. Now Audrey is my best friend, and I will do anything for her. Audrey has had six heart procedures. Every time she goes to the hospital, I feel nervous and scared for her because you never know what might happen. She is the bravest and strongest person I know. She is my hero.

Mackinsey LeBlanc

Youth Grades 9-12, MassachusettsHeart Disease

Heart disease is a forever thing for me

For me I have to work harder

Work harder to play sports

Work harder to be healthy

Healthy is needed to stay out of the operation room

The operation room has become a friend of mine

A friend as I’ve been there more than three times

Time after time it becomes easier

Easier like a routine

A routine is needed when living with a condition

A condition that takes up your precious time

Precious time you don’t know how much you have left

Oh that’s the thing about heart conditions

They drain you

They drain your family

They open your eyes to always be grateful

You never know what’s coming next

Rick Westfall

Adult 18+, Texas

Believe

The strength God gives me,to take care of my son,

Sometimes feels like a punishment,

for all that I have done.

My selfish desires want me to run away,

Rather than deal with watching
his pain, every day.
I taught him to be strong,
not to complain and have no fear.
While inside my head, I always
feel like his end is near.
I can’t just take my life and
the easy way out,
All I can do is hide sometimes,
be selfish, and pout.
Do I thank God for all that I am now?
Or do I feel selfish and ask,
why me, and how?
I took a knee while writing this to thank
God and apologize for feeling weak,
I know what all he has given me, to
help with this journey we all seek.
I couldn’t begin to ask God for
a better wife,
family or friends.
And I did promise
him, I would stay
strong, until the very end.
I know I am needed
and will never leave,
I feel so weak sometimes with
self-pity, and just need to believe.

To be continued… June 20, 2018

Strength

Well my strength kept me going,
until the day had come,
God was finally ready for

Daniel, to go back home.

I stood strong by my son’s side,
and watched his last breath,
I stood strong while I had to tell
everyone, about his sudden death.
We knew it would come one
day, without any doubt,
I stayed strong at his funeral,
without anybody seeing me pout.
My daughter was by my side,
never shedding a tear,
She was raised also to be strong for
Daniel, and never show him any fear.
When everyone went home, and
it was now just her and I,
We were able to hold each other
and was finally able to cry.
Then we talked and felt so lucky,
for everything he had made it through,
Then we realized there was so much
more, that we still must do.
We took phone calls, emails and texts,
trying to think of the right
answers to say.
All the strength
in the world,
never prepared us
for this every day.
I lost faith in everything
I believed, lost my
strength, and felt alone,
But then I remembered, God gave
me Daniel, only as a loan.

ILMO Daniel Westfall 10-14-94 CHD Warrior 05-11-18 CHD Angel #RIP412FAN