Meet Keyanna: heart hero, writer, teacher, CHAMPS camper
Hi, my name is Keyanna and I have been a camper at CHAMPS heart camp for several years. I was born with an interrupted aortic arch type A, a VSD, an ASD and a prolapsed, bicuspid valve. After discovering my heart problems when I was 2 days old, I was whisked away to Edmonton Stollery Hospital for open heart surgery. A month later I had a second open heart surgery. I later stayed in Saskatoon NICU before coming home 2 months after I was born. I’ve had three balloonings of my aortic arch to stretch the scar tissue throughout my life as well as some other health complications.
Although I don’t remember my first few surgeries as a baby, I do remember my more recent surgeries and know what it’s like to feel tired of being sick. I was going through one of those seasons when I first attended CHAMPS Heart Camp. I have always been surrounded by a loving community that has supported and prayed for me but it was wonderful to meet so many kids who had similar experiences. The first time I went to CHAMPS was while waiting for a surgery on a collapsed arotinoid (caused by having a paralyzed vocal fold) and I was so encouraged to be able to run and play with kids without feeling like I was the slow one that always got more tired. I remember playing ‘Capture the Flag’ and thinking, “This is actually really fun!”
“I was so encouraged to be able to run and play with kids without feeling like I was the slow one that always got more tired”
Everyone at camp has always been so loving. They’ve always been there for a hug and are ever-encouraging. Dana (camp coordinator) and all my friends are so supportive and sweet and I’m so thankful for them. It’s amazing how much thought has been put into each day of CHAMPS camp, from various fun exercises, to psychology, to preparing for adult cardiology, to simply hanging out with the cardiologists and residents. My first year at CHAMPS camp also saw a lot of time in the hospital with these doctors, and to simply play with them like a normal kid meant the world to me.
“My childhood hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it because it’s given me a special perspective on life and a heart for those who have struggled with heath problems”
As I walk into adulthood I am very thankful for all CHAMPS has done for me. It’s connected me with a wonderful community of friends who support and encourage me. This fall I plan to attend college for a business certificate and would like to continue teaching violin in my hometown. I know my childhood hasn’t always been easy but it’s been worth it because it’s given me a special perspective on life and a heart (pardon the pun) for those who have struggled with health problems. I am currently writing a book about a boy who has had health challenges and chooses to pursue his dreams no matter how difficult it may be. I hope to publish this book one day and be an encouragement to others like so many friends and family have been an encouragement to me.