The Greatest Adventure Buddy

Heart Dads play such an important role in their families – sometimes protector, sometime playmate, but always motivated by love. Father’s Day is just one of the chances we have to say thanks, to show our dads just how much they mean to us, and how their time and support were the greatest gifts a kid could get. This week, Laura Hoagland tells us about her dad, how his spirit and strength made for an amazing buddy through her adventure with CHD and life!

One beautiful August day, when my dad was 65 years old, we went skydiving together. Not many single ventricles can say they jumped out of an airplane, but it’s fitting that I can say I have and that I went with my Dad. My Dad has always been my adventure buddy.

When I was 7 years old, and almost two years post-Fontan, my family and I were at a large amusement park. There was a giant, yellow, corkscrew roller coaster that looked awesome to ride! My sweet mother was nervous, noting the warning signs about the roller coaster not being safe for riders with heart conditions. My dad grabbed my hand, “Those signs are for old women! Come on, Laura, let’s ride!”

I am not trying to portray my father as some reckless man. He’s not reckless or careless. He is extremely intelligent, and his training and knowledge as a pharmacist was beyond helpful growing up with a CHD. Even today when the pharmacy asks if I have any questions about a new medication I say, “Nah. If I have any questions, I’ll just ask my Dad!” When I came out of my Fontan procedure I was in a drug induced coma, my chest cavity was still open, looking like a fileted chicken breast, and hooked up to so many IV medications that Seattle Children’s had to build a prototype to hang so many IV bags. Like my mother, my father was happy I had come off bypass but worried for what the future held. Since he had pharmaceutical knowledge he was able to comprehend the meaning of all the IV bags, “Nothing in Laura’s body is working on its own.” 

Maybe it’s because I won the father lottery, or maybe it’s because my Dad has a deeper understanding of what my body had been through and what a miracle it is, but my Dad is truly the best adventure buddy to have. From hiking, biking, kayaking and camping in the Olympic National forest to skydiving, trying new restaurants or chasing a bus down the freeway so I could go to summer camp, my Dad is there for me. He always encourages me, and never makes me feel like I am slow or can’t keep up. He always tells me how impressed he is by my accomplishments and gives me a great sense of confidence. 

However, there are days where I don’t feel like adventuring, but I can still count on my buddy. In high school I got very sick and got very depressed. I couldn’t sleep well at night. One night, my Dad made his famous over-the-stove popcorn and suggested we watch A League of Their Own, my favorite movie. I still get anxious before appointments or procedures. We once sat all night at a poker table to keep my mind off an upcoming cath and liver biopsy-he didn’t care if we won or lost, he cared about me and my mental well being, in a way only a Dad can. 

My Dad got to name me, and he chose to name me after his two sisters; Laura Jessica. I am so proud to be my father’s daughter.

Laura Hoagland was born with Tricuspid Atresia, Pulmonary Stenosis, VSD and ASD. Laura has a single ventricle and had the Fontan procedure in 1991 at the age of six. If Laura is not at camp or in her classroom teaching you can find her adventure seeking and traveling. Laura lives by the motto, “half a heart, not half a life!”

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