by Tabitha York
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Hello my name is Amanda and this is my story.
Up until my seventeenth birthday, my life was full of nothing but struggle and pain. You see, I was born with a rare heart defect. My heart was twice as small the normal heart, so it was hardly able to pump enough blood to keep me alive. In fact, the doctors told my parents I would never live past six months, but I did. Then they said, I would never see my fifth birthday, but I did. I kept proving the doctors wrong time and time again. I was a survivor and as stubborn as I could be. Which was a good thing, because I had been through too many surgeries to count.
But all that changed the year I turned seventeen. I spent my seventeenth birthday in the hospital which was not unusual. I had spent many birthdays in the hospital. I was to undergo a breakthrough new surgery: I was to have a new experimental, artificial, heart implanted. It was only to keep me alive until I could have a real heart transplant. I had been on the transplant list all my life, but having a rare blood type did not help.
My parents were instrumental in getting me the surgery. Usually the doctors would not consider someone so young for a surgery like this, but my parents pushed for it. You see, my parents are doctors and scientist in the field of artificial organs. Ironic,aye? So when it came time to test a new product they had spent the last five years developing, they chose me to test it on. In a way I was their guinea pig.
The surgery went well and after three months of some psychical therapy, I was ready to have a somewhat normal life. More than anything I wanted to go to a real school. Because of my condition, I was never able to be too far from medical equipment that helped keep me alive. My parents had always brought tutors in for me. But tutors were not like going to a real school: I wanted to meet people and make friends.The only kids I ever encountered were the ones at the hospital, and I learned early not to make friends with them, because they either left and never contacted me again, or died. So I begged my parents to let me go to the local high school. After much consideration and thought, they finally gave in.
I'll never forget that first day. It was nothing like what I had expected. I learned many things, like kids could be cruel and mean. But I would also meet someone that day that would change my life forever and teach me more in a short time than I could learn in a lifetime. The day started out well; I was introduced to the class like any other newcomer would be. But then the whispers and stares began. Even in the class room I could feel a hundred eyes on me. What was so different about me, I wondered? But then I learned as soon as the bell rang and the first class was over when a student in the hall called me “ Heartless;” then another and another did the same. Someone had learned about my artificial heart and spread it around the entire school. The taunts and name-calling lasted all day. I felt as though I were drowning; everywhere I turned, “ Heartless, heartless” is all I heard. By lunch time I was ready to go home lock myself in my room and cry. How could people be so cruel and mean? I wondered.
But then it happened. I was sitting alone, eating lunch, when he come up. His name was David Lock and I would never meet anyone else like him again. He asked if he could sit down at my table. But by that time I was already edgy, so I snapped at him. I said, “ Go ahead. Make fun of me.” But his response surprised me. He said, “ I don't want to make fun of you; I just want to eat my lunch. Why would I make fun of you anyway?” I was a little bit in shock; this was the first student in the whole school who did want not make fun of me. I asked him if he knew who I was. He said that I was the new girl, the one with the artificial heart, which, he added was pretty cool.
By this time I was confused; I could not figure out why this guy would be any different then the rest of the students. Why would he take time to be nice to me when everyone else thought I was a freak? So I asked him why he did not want to make fun of me. He responded with a quote: “ Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” I had heard that before, but I never knew where it came from. He told me it was from the Bible, Luke, chapter six, verse thirty-seven. And I thought, Oh no! not one of those religious nuts. I was never religious. How could a so-called God of love let someone go through so much pain and suffering as I had, in a way, I was mad at God for letting me live; there had been so many times I would have rather died than go through what I had gone through. And I thought for sure this guy was going to push his religious beliefs on me. But surprisingly he didn't in fact, the conversation was quit pleasant. And after lunch he asked if we could eat lunch together again some time, that I was one of the coolest people he had met. I thought strange: everyone else thinks I am a freak but this guy thinks I am cool. But for some strange reason I said, “ Sure.” Before lunch I was determined never to set foot in another public school but after, I felt refreshed and at ease. David was on of the kindest, most sincere people I had met and now I was determined to get to know him better.
The next day we ate lunch together. He asked my a question I had never given much thought to. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. Before that point, I had never given any consideration to it; I always thought there was no point in it, that I was going to die anyway. And I admitted that to him. So he asked me what was the one thing I wanted to do more than anything. This I knew right away. The one thing I wanted to do more than anything was run. I had never been able to run because my heart could not handle it. So I told him what it was. He replied that that was not a high enough goal. So he told me I would run the Boston Marathon by my twenty-first birthday. Of course I thought he was crazy, I could not run a mile let alone a marathon. But I just smiled and said, “Maybe.” I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted to be a doctor so he could help people. I told him that was a noble calling and that he would be good at it. I admired David. Here he was wanting to help people. And me, well, I did not know what I wanted to do. Perhaps I just wanted to survive.
We spent many lunches together that school year and we become fast friends. He slowly shared his faith with me and I was tempted to go to church with him on more than one occasion. But I never did; I guess I was still angry with God.
The school year was coming to a close when the unthinkable happened. It was late spring and I had become weaker, so I stayed home most of the time. However I was still allowed to go to school. So one day at school when David did not show up, I become worried. I hoped he was not sick or something. But looking back I knew in my heart it was something more serious that kept him away that day. Later that day, my parents would give me the worst news I would ever hear. David had been killed in a car accident. I was in shock and disbelief. And I was angry with the God David loved so much. How could God take someone so sweet, innocent and kind away when he was just beginning his life? I curled up in a ball on my bed and cried and cried for hours. But the first of two events that would change my life forever was already set in motion. Later on that night, I would go into cardiac arrest. I was rushed to the hospital where I finally received the heart transplant I had been waiting for all my life. It seemed a donor had been found only hours before.
Weeks passed and I slowly got on with my life. But my new heart ached at the loss of David. When I finally got to go home, my mom found a letter addressed to me with no return address. When I opened it and read it, it brought me to my knees; it was from David.
Dear Amanda, if you are reading this, I have gone home to be with my Lord. You see last night I had a dream that it was my time to go and you would receive my heart. Please don't cry for me. I am in a place with no tears or pain. And please don't be angry with God, for God had a reason for everything. All I ask is that you cherish your life, for it is very precious and enjoy the time you have left. And always know you are watched over.
Up until that time, I did not know it was David's heart I had received. I confronted my parents and the confirmed it. The second event that would forever change my life happened that night. For some strange reason I knew I had to go to church. I begged and pleaded with my parents to take me. Looking back I think I really freaked them out; they had never seen me that way before. But they reluctantly gave in and took me.
I remember that night when I walked into the church. I remember the feeling I had, that my life would never be the same. It was a feeling of renewal, of hope and of comfort. I remember going up to the altar and giving me heart to the Lord. I remember the tears streaming down my face and the faces of my parents. For they too gave their hearts to the Lord. And four years later, our lives have never been the same since that wonderful night.
Today is my twenty-first birthday, and I just completed the Boston Marathon. Its my third year as a med student. I decided that I also want to help people with what time I have left on earth. I still think about David and the gifts of life that he gave me and all that he taught me. He showed me that even through our struggles God is watching over us. And there is no task, or struggle too hard that he gives us that we cannot overcome with his help.
So I leave you with this thought. Life is precious; we never know how much time we have left. So enjoy your life for you never know when the end may come.
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