I was born with a broken heart, literally, in 1965. My broken heart, or medically speaking—a congenital heart defect, involved being born without a pulmonary valve. This, ironically, is the valve that regulates oxygenated blood flow from the lungs to the heart. There was also an issue of a hole between two of the four chambers, a hole that caused oxygenated and un-oxygenated blood to dance a forbidden dance and that gave my cheeks a blue tint. As a future avid cyclist, the outlook was dismal, especially because at the time there was no medical solution to my “defect.” As a future writer, however, metaphysical science (a science that is infinitely more advanced than medical science) had kicked in.

My grandmother and father took me to a pediatric cardiologist Dr. Katherine Ehlers at New York’s Cornell Medical Hospital when I was a mere two days old. Although I remained a bit blue in the cheeks, at the time open-heart surgery was uncommon, let alone on newborns. It would not be until after my ninth birthday that the medical community was prepared to correct my congenital defect with the implementation of a pig’s valve; all the while I was growing and awaiting the advancement of medical science. The capillaries kicked in and did their job of transporting blood throughout my system. This was not an easy feat for the capillaries, as I was one of six athletic children and was to be kept from overdoing it. Some of my restrictions included not being allowed to play four-square during recess or participate in PE until the year after my surgery. The school aspect was doable. The challenge came with having five active siblings and living on the campus of a private school that provided tennis courts, playing fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, and gymnasiums. I grew up with the innate urge for athletic release, yet was continuously being told, “Not yet.” It was the equivalent of a nine-year wait at the starting gate.

As a result of my prescribed limitations, writing became my passion and escape. Poems and short stories filled the pages of empty journals and notebooks throughout my youth and teens, and in sixth grade I began writing a novel with my best friend. (I think she still has the only copy.) Having established the love for writing at a young age, and continuing on even after I was allowed to play sports, has, I know, made me well-rounded. I’m not the type of writer whose goal is to obtain an MFA and who applies for residencies in a cabin in the middle of the Adirondacks; nor am I the athlete who strives for a spot in the Olympics. I know those aren’t my paths.

Knowing our path is the combination of our personal connection of body, mind, and soul, these are the three things we can truly call our own. No one else has the right to or the possession of our personal trinity. Nor should we give any of the three away because that is an unattainable act that goes against nature. We may lend or barter them out temporarily, but they always come back to us…sometimes for the better, sometimes damaged. And sometimes we are told that we were born “damaged,” only to discover years later that no one is damaged unless they believe they are.

As an adult writer: Physically overriding my heart defect through cycling fuels my zeal for writing through a physical activity that grounds me and allows me to focus on my craft without distractions. Mentally, writing began as an outlet as a youth that has since evolved into a lifelong passion. Spiritually, writing is my path. Believing otherwise would rob my soul of its freedom and happiness...the end result would be a defective soul.

As an adult cyclist: Physically, had I believed I was born damaged I may not have jumped on a bike the moment I was able to, which was well before the doctors told me I could. Mentally, had I believed I was born physically damaged I would have lent my mind to other’s beliefs, which in turn would have created that reality and I never would have known the exhilaration of hearing the wind scream through the vents of my helmet. Spiritually, had I believed I was physically damaged I would not have loved myself enough to overcome the body and mind aspects.

Ironically enough, the pig’s valve that was implanted in place of my pulmonary valve in 1974 lasted a “record” 16 years, while most other patients underwent open-heart-surgery to remove their pig valves within five to ten years. Dr. Ehlers used to tell me that I was written about in medical journals, which was neat to hear, but I wasn’t ready for medical fame and fortune. I did, however, report back to her each year during my annual EKG and ECG that I was running and cycling constantly. She always smiled at that.

My trusty pig’s valve had endured 16 years of cycling, running, swimming, hiking, tennis, tag, and even four-square. By my twenty-fifth year, when it was removed, I had experienced the emotional form of a broken heart, and not just the romantic kind, but the kind where you lose the potential of someone that you will never know on a physical level, but who is with you spiritually every day and leaves you wondering what they would have been like.

Since the removal of my pig’s valve, I now have a stent, metal mesh tube that has the task of keeping the area open where the valve ought to have been. Doctors report that I continue to be a medical miracle, however. Apparently my EKG changed for the better a few years ago. This is not supposed to happen and they have been unable to explain how it could be. There’s another issue having to do with gradients and blood flow that they say is “medically impossible.” For this they wanted to open me up and check it out. I declined without giving them reason. I wasn’t quite sure how to explain to a pediatric cardiologist who was ready to open me up and see what’s inside like a box of chocolates, who didn’t have written on my chart that meditation and metaphysical science had taken care of my “condition” since my last surgery. I knew my heart is not broken. Well, not physically anyway.

As for my writing career, this too continues to bring new and exciting adventures.

- Heather Hummel, Co-Author Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age

Author's Bio: 

Heather Hummel is an author whose published work includes: Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw Hill, 2008), “Heart Strings” in the Blue Ridge Anthology: Poetry and Prose of Central Virginia Writers (Cedar Creek, 2007) alongside notable authors David Baldacci and Rita Dove, and "Signs from Mima" a featured essay in Messages of Hope and Healing (Sunpiper Press, 2006).

A graduate with high distinction from the University of Virginia where she holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in English and secondary education, Heather is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Metaphysical Sciences. She has completed two novels and is working on other non-fiction, Body, Mind, and Soul based books. Additionally, Heather is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, and is a writing coach to aspiring writers. Heather lives with her two dogs and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Heather’s website is: www.heatherhummel.net.