For sports mad Matty having a childhood heart defect can be tough going at times
For 12 year old Matty, sport is his life. He can’t imagine getting through a day without it. But as a Heart Kid, some days are much harder than others.
Matty was born with a congenital heart defect, Aorta Atresia. There was no opening from the left ventricle into the aorta. At just four days old he had his first open heart surgery. It was to be the first of many.
While he tries not to let his condition affect his life, he says one of the hardest things about being a heart kid, is not being able to keep up with his mates.
“I just get so tired sometimes. I’ll be doing PE at school and I’ll say to my teacher that I need to stop.”
While most of his close friends know and understand, Matty says others aren’t so kind. “Some will say, ‘what a great excuse’, or ‘you’re just ditching because you don’t want to lose.’ But I’ve gotten pretty used to it now.”
Living with a heart defect has other drawbacks. Matty’s Year 8 school camp is approaching and he knows there’ll be a lot of activities he can’t do. He will just have to watch, which he says will be pretty annoying.
That’s where Heart Kids steps in.
For several years Matty has been attending Camp Brave Hearts – a week long camping adventure for kids with heart conditions. It’s somewhere for kids like Matty to hang out, talk and do physical activities to suit their bodies.
“Heart Kids is great in every way. They’ve always been there throughout my surgeries, they have the heart camps, and a whole lot of other activities where I can meet kids like me. I can talk to them about my story, and they won’t react and say that’s gross because they’ve been through it.”
The thing that strikes you almost immediately about this remarkable 12 year old is his appreciation for life, and his philosophical approach to his heart condition.
“When you have a disability, and can’t do a lot of things, it gives you a better understanding for people with disabilities. I can see what it’s like not being able to do a lot of things, but I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive. While I may not be able to do all the sports I want to, what makes me happy is watching my friends succeed.”
As for the future, Matty is not going to let a broken heart get in the way of anything, and he has this advice for others.
“Don’t let anything stop you. Sure there’ll be things you can’t do but if you want to play basketball then just work hard at it.”
And for those who make fun of him, and the large zipper scar down his chest?
“It’s a battle scar, it is what I’ve been through, it is part of me and it will always be part of me. I wear it with pride!”