Jacqui O'Connor

Jacqui's Heart Journey

My Heart Story

I was the kid that everyone wanted to babysit.  I slept all night and was always content. I did however have regular virus’ and infections.  My immunity was low and it was a visit to the GP that picked up the heart murmur.

My first memory in life was at the age of 4yrs.  I was conscious and frightened in an operating theatre while a cardiac catheter was being inserted.  According to my medical notes I had a laryngeal spasm and was intubating (breathing tube inserted) STAT.

I was diagnosed with the congenital defect, Atrial Septal Defect (hole in the heart).  From that day, I experienced events which, according to my medical notes, were Temporal Lobe, Complex Partial Epilepsy and mild weakness of the left side. 

I always remember being on the hospital waiting list, but I used the tool of distraction for four years, to avoid thinking it. Until of course, the phone call came, and my open-heart surgery was scheduled. 

It was a tough time as I felt normal, I knew no different – I was doing well at school and winning multiple certificates and trophies at the local athletics club. So why did I have to go back to the place that had frightened me so much when I was four?

Preparing for surgery was terrifying.  I recall being put into a bath and having an enema which I guess was a sedative.  The next memory was waking up with a tube in my mouth, and immense pain in my chest. 

Days merged into weeks, and weeks into a month, before I was able to go home. In those days, your parents didn’t stay the night.  But I recall my dad staying until I fell asleep at night and then being back there the next morning when I woke.

Several other admissions took place throughout the year with infections and excess fluid around the heart.  I had to have another procedure to drain the fluid from around my heart.

Not all the memories are bad.  I remember the characters from Sesame Street coming to visit, the cards and presents I got, wheel chairing down to the dining room to watch the tv programme The Young Doctors. A lot of the other kids were admitted for Rheumatic Fever and weren’t from Auckland.  Some of them didn’t survive.  I was so lucky to be from Auckland and to have a procedure available which helped fix my heart.

After that year, my cardiac experience continued through the involvement with Heart Children (now Heart Kids NZ). My mum became the first Parent to Parent Coordinator and I would  take part in fundraising events and Heart Day on 14th February.   

My cardiac history definitely played a part in my career choice – nursing.

As a teenager and young adult, I would often explain my scar as the result of a shark bite.  I was embarrassed by it, and didn’t like being different, so I became a perfectionist.  I believed that the bad things that had happened to me would stop if everything was right and good in my life.  I also developed this need to keep busy all the time, which didn’t always serve me well, leading to frequent ‘burn-outs”.

Both my babies were born at nearly 5kg via emergency caesarean and I believe my surgery and hospital experiences did bring up post-traumatic stress disorder I unknowingly harboured.

Then on the 34th anniversary of my open-heart surgery, I had a minor surgery under general anaesthetic (my first since I was 8).  At the anaesthetic review, I expressed my concerns for having a GA given my history as a 4-year-old and then my time as an 8-year-old.  I had a panic attack going under anaesthesia. 

As a nurse I was able to access the Employee Assistance Programme and discovered the distraction techniques and coping strategies I’d developed as a child, to deal with the trauma of my hospital admissions, where entirely normal.

It took some time, along with some energy healing work to fully resolve my past trauma’s and PTSD.  But it was an amazing experience which has lead me down the track of training as an energy healer.  I now have an energy healing business called Heart Place, with a healing room in Pt Chevalier, Auckland. 

My passion is to care for the carer and offer accessible wellness.  As the carer is often seeing our most vulnerable – children, sick, elderly.  I believe if our carers are well and topped up to over flowing they will osmotically pass this on to our most vulnerable.  How amazing would the benefits of that be for both the carer and the receiver of the care?

Please check out my website www.heartplace.co.nz