Hello friends and family and welcome!
This July will be my first year riding in the Children's Hospital Colorado Courage Classic, and I am thrilled to be participating in this road biking event. This year, I am humbled and excited to be riding over 150 miles in two days over three mountain passes for two amazing individuals, my wonderful lifelong friend Taylor and a three year old little rockstar named Kempsey. Taylor, my dear childhood family friend, has been and will continue to be the heartbeat behind my work as a nurse with the unique congenital heart population, and Kempsey is an amazing and inspiring little dude I have gotten to know since beginning my career as a heart nurse at Children's Hospital Colorado. I quickly learned after joining Children's Hospital Colorado as a nurse this past November that the Courage Classic was an amazing fundraising event and that riding for the Cardiac Climbers in honor and support of our congenital heart families was an opportunity not to be missed.
While both Taylor and Kempsey's cardiac journeys have been and will continue to be radically different and individualized, they were both born missing a large portion of their heart and required a series of open heart interventions and surgeries within the first few years of their lives to reconstruct their heart into one that can sustain their body. What is so wild and amazing about riding for both Taylor and Kempsey is that there is nearly a quarter of a century age gap between these two heart warriors, yet the phased surgery Taylor underwent over 20 years ago looks incredibly similar to the journey Kempsey and his family are journeying through right now. Please take a moment to read about Taylor and Kempsey!
Here’s a bit about Taylor…
Taylor and I grew up together. We grew up going to the same church, we were each other's closest neighbors, and both our families chose the wild world of homeschooling. We would go to homeschool classes together, carpool to youth group, and hit every museum or academic attraction our mom's could seek out. In the summers, our families would go on camping trips together and have pool days and cook outs. While I would catch glimpses of email chains for Taylor and would hear our mom's chatting and knew Taylor had "a special heart," I rarely ever saw Taylor backing down from anything as a result of her health or heart. In elementary school, I remember wearing a little red bow to remind me to pray for Taylor as she was in the hospital, but the reality of this hospitalization and open-heart surgery was difficult to comprehend. In fact, I really had no idea the breadth of Taylor's defect until I found myself going with her to a couple of her cardiology appointments when I was in high school and college. It was at these appointments that I began to understand that Taylor was born with a heart that could not sustain her life without a great deal of surgical interventions, and that she also had a heart that "clicked" as a result of a mechanical valve. While my love for Taylor and respect for her family was inevitable given the close relationship our families had, this respect grew even deeper as I attempted to grasp and understand the road Taylor and her family had journeyed up to that point with such faith and trust.
Taylor is a gift to so many. She graduated college and continued on to get her Master's in Social Work and now works as a social worker at an elementary school breathing life and love and worth into children who have yet to feel this. This past March, Taylor was found to have a severe infection in her heart and on her mechanical valve. She underwent an extensive 10-hour surgery at Mott Children’s Hospital to redo her heart circulation and put in a new mechanical valve, and has spent the last few months working diligently to get back on her feet. We are in awe of what the surgeons were able to accomplish and what Taylor's body could withstand. Most recently, Taylor got engaged to the love of her life, Scott, and they will be getting married this coming October!
Now a little bit about our little man, Kempsey…
Kempsey was born prematurely at 31 weeks weighing 3 pounds, 6 ounces on May 10, 2016. He was born with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, tricuspid atresia and a chromosome duplicate 7 abnormality. He spent the first 4.5 months of his life in the NICU growing and gaining weight and preparing to go home. This included having a heart surgery, called the bilateral Glenn shunt, and having a g tube inserted as eating has always been a difficulty for him. Also, either in utero, at birth or during heart surgery Kempsey had a stroke but luckily it has only affected minor motor skills on his right side, and some delays but he is rapidly catching up. Besides 2 sets of tubes, countless ear infections and GI issues dealing with motility and feeding intolerance, Kempsey is a normal, happy 3 year old. He loves to play with trucks, cars and anything that has to do with Lightening McQueen and Blaze and the Monster Machines. He also loves playing outside and riding his jeep around the neighborhood and he especially adores playing with his older brother, Brekston. He will start preschool in the fall!
On June 19th, Kempsey underwent his second heart surgery, the Fontan procedure. As Kempsey bounces back from this extensive operation, let’s keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers!
It is an overwhelming privilege to be riding for both Taylor and Kempsey in this year’s Courage Classic. I feel unqualified to be riding with the pictures and stories of Taylor and Kempsey on my back, as I have never spent a day in the shoes of Taylor or Kempsey or their families. Biking is not my forte, especially at altitude and over mountains and for a distance I don’t think I have fully comprehended. It will only be Kempsey and Taylor’s stories and the passion to see future congenital hearts healed and lives saved that will be my inspiration to put one pedal in front of the other!
Taylor and Kempsey will not be the last child to face a life threatening congenital heart diagnosis, and their families will not be the last to be asked to navigate this journey.
Join me as we work to support positive outcomes and healthier futures for children with congenital heart defects.
Keep smiling and go live life fully,