On November 19 of 2016, I woke up thinking that I would spend my Saturday as I usually did: at a long, 4-6 hour dance rehearsal. Instead, I received news that would change my life for the next few months, and impact me forever. I had always lived a normal, healthy life; and in fact I was, and still am, the healthiest out of my family. I had a busy schedule with school, dance, and orchestra, but the rush of my daily life never faced any opposition from my health. However, the perfect stamina and shape that I reflected on the outside had been at risk from the inside. There was a time when I would experience dizziness, nausea, and fatigue; but after several doctor’s appointments, blood tests, and even a visit to the cardiologist, I was told I was in perfect condition, and my symptoms were all part of being a teenager. Hearing this news was somewhat relieving, because it meant I could I continue with my busy schedule; but my symptoms remained.
When my mother took me to the free heart screening from the Jessica Clinton Foundation, I was diagnosed with a left coronary anomaly, a rare case to diagnose, and even more rare to detect outside of an autopsy room. My left coronary was in between my pulmonary aorta and my aortic valve, and every time I would exercise or my heart muscles expanded, my left coronary was at risk of being crushed, which would cause immediate death. Seeing as though I had lived a life full of exercise, hearing this news was discomforting and hard to believe. Although the news was shocking, I was aided by the kind spirits and care of Dr. David Drossner, the discoverer of my case and man who worked tirelessly to save my life; Cheryl Laloo, who kept me at the front of her mind and assured I was okay every step of the way; and my family, who provided the greatest support in every doctor’s appointment and in my daily routine. I underwent many tests and doctor’s appointments at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to confirm my condition and examine what steps to take next, leaving me with the decisions to either operate or live at risk of death. My decision was clear, and on December 16, 2016, less than a month after my diagnosis, I was undergoing open heart surgery.
I remember that I felt paralyzed prior to my surgery, almost as if I was afloat while life went on below me. My life changed from one day to another; and although at first I did not understand why this was happening to me, I knew what I had to do. I feel blessed to have experienced what I did, and I have been able to share my story and the miracles that occurred with many people around me. Every change begins somewhere small, and I believe my obstacle is a great start for change in awareness of silent killers such as these heart diseases. Although this was a great challenge to overcome, I learned how to be strong in a moment of trial, and my life has a greater sense of gratitude because I lived in the said cliché that “life is not certain.” Each day, I wake up with a smile on my face because I know the value of life. My physical life was put on hold for a few months, and I dealt with some bumps along the way, but I now have a beautiful scar to testify the miracle I experienced, and a story that few have lived to tell
Camila Parra and her family take a selfie moments before entering the operating room.
Camila Parra has a run-down of the surgery from her anesthetic nurse at at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Camila Parra on the night of her open-heart surgery.
Camila’s second day post-op with her family.
Camila receiving a visit from Cheryl and Ray Laloo at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Camila returns to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for the annual Heart Reunion and reunites with Dr. Danyal M Khan, another pediatric cardiologist on the team of hard-working people that helped treat her condition.