Everyone has a friend that has been with them most of their lives. I am no exception. Friends can be made at any age and under any circumstance. My first friend was made by circumstance, a hospital and a shared disability.
In the 1980′s when two infants were in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit), they were placed two to a crib. The babies were laid foot to foot with their heads at opposite ends of the crib and coupled by their shared disabilities. At 5 months old I shared a crib with a boy who also had a congenital heart defect, although he did not share my diagnoses. We were the same age and affectionately nicknamed Pebbles and Bam Bam by our nurses. Unlike me, Bam Bam suffered from an anomaly called TGA (transposition of the great arteries). This defect is classified by the following traits:
Transposition of the great arteries is a congenital heart defect in which the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart — the aorta and the pulmonary artery — are switched. In transposition of the great vessels, the blood goes to the lungs, picks up oxygen, and then goes right back to the lungs without ever going to the body. Blood from the body returns to the heart and goes back to the body without ever picking up oxygen in the lungs.
TGA and TA, my defect, are both classified as cyanotic heart defects. Cyanotic heart defects are defined as defects that cause decreased oxygen in the blood that is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body. This causes the skin to become blue and shortness of breath. Bam Bam was also a pioneer for his defect. TGA is the second most common of the cyanotic anomalies and occurs in 5 to 7% of all congenital cases. TGA is dominantly linked to males as 60 to 70% of all TGA patients are male.
Bam Bam and I were both recovering from open heart surgeries and our parents forged a hospital friendship on the common ground of their children. After my hospital stays Bam Bam and I continued to share a parallel life although we had no contact.
When I was 12 we moved to a small town an hour from where I was born. My mother took me to my new school to get me registered and ready to enter the 7th grade. Upon entering the administration office the office secretary recognized my last name and asked if my first name was Christina. I eyed her cautiously because I had no idea how someone I had never met knew my first name. When I replied and told her that was indeed my name she responded with “You won’t remember me but you shared a crib with my son when you were in the hospital for heart surgery. He goes to school here too.” I got immediately excited and realized the little boy the nurses deemed Bam Bam was real and we would both be going to the same school.
Bam Bam and I still keep in touch to this day as we have an extremely unique commonality and stories no one else could tell. Today Bam Bam works as a press coordinator for NASCAR. After comparing notes we realized that we both shared the same cardiologists in child hood as well as in our starting adulthood. To this day when I see Dr. Bullaboy he asks how Bam Bam is doing and vice versa and gives each advice to give to the other based on our visits with him.
You never know when you will make your first friend in life and what experiences you will share. I consider myself fortunate to have a friend who has been through everything I have and then some.