An Open Letter to Phys. Ed. Teachers from a Student with CHD

Going back to school also means going back to gym class. For those with CHD, it can be an added stressor, especially if we are unsure just how much our teachers know about our condition, our abilities, and our potential physical limitations. This week, Gloria, a high school senior with HLHS, shares an open letter to Physical Education teachers. She reminds us that we may be different, but we are quite capable.

To My Gym Teacher,

At first glance, I probably don’t seem different than any other kid in the class, but it probably
won’t take you long to notice that I have a hard time keeping up with everyone else. This is
because I have a congenital heart defect (CHD).

My CHD may have an impact on how I take part in the class. Being outside in the heat can be really bad for us. It’s probably best if I have an alternative activity to do that day during the class period. Also, my heart is already working really hard just to keep beating, so things like running long distances are really difficult for me. I will try my best and participate when I can, but I will also sit down and take a break when I need.

When we are taking a break, it can feel like everyone is staring at us. Some of our classmates will even get mad and make comments about how it’s “unfair” that we don’t have to do certain activities or exercises. There isn’t much we can do about that, except explain to the other students why we are sitting out or getting “special privileges”. It’s really an opportunity to spread CHD awareness.

Keep in mind, every day is different. Some days we just feel better than others and are able to do more. So if we can do something one day and not the next, it’s not because we are faking it. With all that being said, don’t count us out. Give us a chance to show you what we CAN do. We may just surprise you.

Gloria is an 18-year-old from Texas. She was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and is thriving as a senior in high school. Gloria enjoys spending time with friends and family, and she is always trying her best to advocate for teens and young adults with CHD.

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