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Don't Rush Me

Area resident leads with her heart

Congenital and ventricular, septal, pulmonary, stenosis and something about a transposition of an artery

November 14, 2012 - Terri Haist Elliott has some heart.

. . . And, when I say that I ain't saying she's got anything less than a full heart. What I mean to say is more conversational, like, " Wow, she's got some heart there."

Her heart has defined her life both figuratively and literally and is leading her down paths she never figured she'd venture -- to speaking engagements and writing a chapter for the new book, ICD Connection: Living with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator.

Haist Elliott, of Brandon Township, was born with a heart that is different from the way most folks' hearts work and look. She rattled off a bunch of words whose meanings are over my pay grade -- scientific medical sounding words like congenital and ventricular, septal, pulmonary, stenosis and something about a transposition of an artery. And then she threw in the mix that a few years ago her received an implanted defibrillator. (Trust me, it was a mouth full and my fingers were trying hard to keep up the pace as I wrote notes. I think she talks fast, too.)

In short, she was born a "blue baby." A baby whose circulatory system is such that it doesn't oxygenate the body enough -- and the child turns a pale shade of blue. At the age of 4, in 1960, she had her first heart surgery at the University of Michigan. Somehow they opened some arteries to allow more blood to get to the lungs, she said.

1960 was U of M's first year of doing whatever procedure they performed on her, and she has been a patient of that pediatric team ever since.

"It was very experimental at the time," she said.

Terri with the book containing her chapter. (click for larger version)
With a different (maybe bigger) heart than other kids, her life was different. "Kids would tease me because I couldn't go out when it was cold. I couldn't run or go to gym class or camping. Today it would be called bullying."

And, while her heart may have knocked her down, it also let her stand back up. "It has made me stronger -- maybe not physically, but in character. I care more about people. Life is a gift that needs to be valued," she said.

So, she lived her life. She has a daughter, five grandkids and does what she can. Life went along, as it does for all of us, with its ups and downs. Then, in 2009, she and husband Michael were dining in Clarkston, when her heart puked out. Were it not for the chance of an off duty paramedic also dining, she says she wouldn't be alive today.

And, because of that heart -- the one that saved hers -- she's wandered down a new path.

After the two inch by about three inch defibrillator was implanted beneath her heart she has spoken at an ICD conference in Ann Arbor and at a Clarkston fund raiser. She penned a chapter (titled, Live Your Dreams) for the afore mentioned book, by Helen McFarland, RN.

"I used to wish for somebody to be there for me, somebody who would understand. I want to be there for people today. I want to do something to help them. It's good to know you're not alone."

Who knows, maybe she'll write a book of her own someday. Until then, she says ICD Connection: Living with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator is available on Amazon.com. Proceeds will help ICD patients.

* * *

Next week a local is unimpressed with local, county and state officials who supported local real estate shenanigans.

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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