When people are forced to live with the fact of their mortality every day, they have two options. They can give up – after all, what’s the point in planning for the future when doctors predict that you don’t have long to live. Or, they can live with it, accept some limitations, but refuse to give up on their dreams. Dr. Pip Hidestrand, a resident at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, is an example of the latter case. This is her story.
I was born with a congenital heart defect and lung disease. By the age of 4 I had undergone three open heart surgeries and, as a result, I have spent my entire life aware of my precarious existence. While many physicians told my parents that I would not live past my teenage years, I did not let this deter me from my ambition to pursue a career in pediatric cardiology. Today, I am living proof of the power of hope and perseverance.
Although my health restricts some of my activities, I have learned to work around it to achieve my goals. When I applied for residency positions, many programs were worried about the physically strenuous aspects of the job and unwilling to take a chance on me. I was lucky to find individuals at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin who saw that my drive and potential were more important than my health limitations. They saw my personal qualities first, and then my disease. They realized that it would be possible to compromise by reducing some of the physically exhausting elements, yet maintaining a rigorous program for my residency.
I have been a resident for more than two years. During that time, in addition to gaining in experience and knowledge, I have had the opportunity to demonstrate to children that a health problem does not have to stop them from growing up and achieving their dreams. By talking freely about my disease, I can connect with patients and families from their own point of view. Parents often have questions about their children that I can readily answer from my personal experience.
My illness is chronic; it will always be a part of me. But it does not define me. If I had let it stop me from doing what I wanted, it would have resulted in a much less full life. By choosing to live with it, and by letting others see that there is more to me than my disease, it has had positive effects on my patients, my own growth as a doctor and, fundamentally, my happiness.
-Pip Hidestrand, MD, resident at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.