Hi, my name is Michaela Gagne and I am from Fall River, Mass., and I am here to tell you about the fear I experienced when I was diagnosed with heart disease and about the way that I overcame that and overcome it on a daily basis.
I was diagnosed with long QT syndrome, a life-threatening heart condition at 17 years old and it was huge for me first of all to find my support systems. I mean I can’t say enough about my family and truly finding out who my friends were at that point in my life when I didn’t even know how to feel, how to act, I was afraid to live.
Here I was told that I was a ticking time bomb that could have gone off any moment. It could have happened in my sleep, it could have happened in the waking up to an alarm clock, it could have happened during my many experiences, I am on the soccer field, at the basketball court, and I got to a point where I had to say you can’t be afraid, you’ve been given a chance and what you need to do with this chance.
And my momma looked to me and said, “Concentrate. Either you don’t have, or you do have. It’s your choice”, and I think I made the most positive choice I could for myself. I empowered myself to talk about it and to try to help others and support them with my story.
It’s one of those things you truly don’t know how you’ll react to something, this life changing until you experience it and many people will think they’ll have to transfer themselves but you do find the strength within yourself.
A big piece that helped me through all of this and at the time was I did art as a hobby in high school and when I was diagnosed and I couldn’t play sports. I really turned to my artwork as another hobby to turn myself further and so but it became so much more. It was a coping mechanism for me. It was so therapeutic.
It was really my escape and my healing, very powerful, to the extent where I went into college. I majored in art and in college and I learned about the field of art therapy and expressive therapies are truly about not being a great artist but truly just having the cards trick free, and using that as a form of communication because sometimes there are no words that can communicate the way you feel about something tragic or traumatic that has happened.
The words just don’t exist, your brain doesn’t store that way. So to use art, for me, was wonderful and to realize that this whole field existed on that premise, was amazing. I am just getting my Masters degree in Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling and I have watched art do true wonders to children and teenagers who have been there so much and it can heal so many people.
So I am really trying to promote this. This is a good coping mechanism for any sort of surviving, including heart survivors and it was a huge piece of a healing for me.