Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gratitude: The First Scar

Picture it, 1968, a tumultuous year to be born. Martin Luther King, Jr had been assassinated in Memphis, igniting riots across the nation; the Parisian student revolt experienced "Bloody Monday," on May 6th; Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5th, after a campaign speech at the Ambassador Hotel in San Francisco; and Ludvik Vaculik of Czechoslovakia released his infamous essay, Two Thousand Words, which was perceived as a threat by the former Soviet Union.

However, I came into the world in silence. I was born with ASD (Atrial Septic Defect); also known then as a "blue baby." And, so began a long and perilous journey that teetered on the edge of life and death. At about 2 weeks old, I was transported to the Miami Children's Hospital, now known as the Nicklaus Children's Hospital, where I was to have an innovative new surgery performed by an immigrant pediatric cardiologist, who had escaped Cuba before the Bay of Pigs.

I received a scar on my tiny body that is as evident today, 46 years later, as it was in July of 1968. It wraps around my entire left side. It is the mark of a man I never knew, but was so very important in all the rest of the days of my life.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. They just do. There's no accounting for the why fors and how comes of the situation. It just is. There were those who proclaimed how unfortunate I was to be born in such a mess as this. There were those who would cluck their tongues and tsk tsk tsk in whispered exchanges of pity for me and my mother. Yet, life prevailed for me.

I grew into a young child, who rode bike with my sister; played games on the playground; loved, and laughed, and cried through the joys and sorrows of my family. I grew into a teenage girl filled with wonder of the world in which I lived. I became a cheerleader in high school. I played basketball (not well, but I played,) and ran track. I had my heart broke in a much different way by my first love. I was told that I shouldn't have children - I have three beautiful, healthy daughters and 2 grandchildren with another on the way.

There were many people who played a role in the preservation of this woman called Donna R. Wood. The Shriner's Crippled Children's Fund, who bore the brunt of the costs of my final surgery at the Minneapolis Children's Hospital. My grandfather was a Mason and Shriner. My Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Green, who took responsibility for me while in school - frightening as it was for her. The African American neighbor in Tampa Bay, who saved my infant life one day, in spite of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. only months before. The people of Parshall, North Dakota, the small prairie town where I grew up. My family, and the list goes on.

Thus far, my life has been an extraordinary journey filled with people, places, and events for which I am grateful.