Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety and Survivor’s Guilt in the CHD Community


Episode #2 of Heart to Heart with Anna deals with a topic that many people treat as taboo, unmentionable and maybe even forbidden. But on Heart to Heart with Anna, talking about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety and Survivor’s Guilt is understandable, encouraged and even embraced. It is only in addressing these issues, confronting them and maybe even accepting them with compassion that we can learn from our experiences and grow stronger and more compassionate ourselves.


Lauren Bednarz starts off the program by addressing her experiences with Anxiety. I love how she not only shares with us why she believes she became anxious, but also her strategies for overcoming anxiety and how her experiences with anxiety even influenced her choice of a profession.  Adults with congenital heart defects (ACHDers) like Lauren give me so much hope that my son, who is also a heart warrior, will have the inner strength to overcome the adversities he has faced growing up with a CHD.


Yasmin Southwood is another ACHDer who inspires me. It isn’t easy talking about Survivor’s Guilt and many people outside of the heart community don’t even truly understand the concept. Yasmin not only understands the concept, but she has also found healthy ways of dealing with the pain she has endured by being a survivor. So many people think that survivors must be victorious, proud and thriving but what these people don’t understand is that we heart world members suffer every death in our own community in a very sensitive and intimate way. Other heart warriors are our brothers, our sisters and our friends. Losing them is like losing a part of ourselves. Tune in to hear what animals comfort Yasmin when she is feeling low.


Bryce Bagwill will help all parents to understand why there is no shame in admitting that you suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Bryce’s stories about what he had to do to help his daughter survive will cause all other heart parents a stroll down memory lane. Who amongst us, who have children with severe congenital heart defects, fail to commiserate with Bryce? His unselfconscious view of his world and how he worked to regain control is nothing less than honorable and admirable. Bryce helps us to understand the different methods we can employ to live with PTSD. We members of the heart community know better than to think we can overcome PTSD. It’s not something you can push away or make go away but there are ways we can learn to endure a life with PTSD. I think just knowing we aren’t alone and that other members of our community — in fact I’d be willing to say ALL members of our community who remember the experience of having or watching your child have open-heart surgery — we understand. The smells, certain sights and sounds — they take us back to a time no one should ever have to endure. Bryce teaches us how to tolerate the emotions and feelings without falling apart.

SteveCatoeOur Miracle Moment is a poem by Steve Catoe. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about Steve. He was a fearless Heart Warrior who wrote a wonderful blog called “Adventures of a Funky Heart! Written by an Adult Congenital Heart Defect Survivor” and I loved to see what he had to say. He somehow always had his finger on the pulse of whatever was happening in the heart community. He gave me hope. He gave me laughter. He gave me insight into what it meant to grow up with a funky heart. I miss him so much. We lost Steve way too soon, but we have his words and they will help us to always remember Steve. He contributed his poem “The Heroes We Forget About” to my book The Heart of a Father and that was what I shared for our Miracle Moment in Episode #2.


I hope all of my heart friends will listen to Episode #2 ( and grow closer in knowing that you are not alone. We all suffer from the conditions listed in the title of this episode but these conditions also draw us closer. I am reminded of the words of a person I greatly admire:


“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” Helen Keller


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s