My outward, physical appearance made me "look" different. I was at the time (legally) deemed handicapped, due to the nature of the medical problems I had as a kid, and the fact that I had to carry specialized medical equipment with me for emergency basis.
What was my "difference"? I had a tracheostomy from the time of my birth, up until almost the age of thirteen. It looked like the following graphic (or at least pretty close to this one)..
Now I'm sure as you can tell, with the way elementary school children CAN be, that I wasn't the most "popular" kid on the playground. I took it all in stride. But what friends I did in fact have, they were REAL as well as TRUE friends.
They looked beyond the trache and had seen just another kid. Just another girl. Just another tom-boy. I liked to do many of the same things as they did. Imaginative play. Riding bikes. Coloring, swinging, and all the other cool, crazy, fun things that all the other kids liked to do.
While I have ALWAYS valued my childhood friends and their friendships, one always has, and most certainly always will stand out in my mind.
Danielle. Though we all called her "Dolly". She and I were like peas and carrots (thanks "Forest Gump"!). Pretty much, we were inseparable. We did EVERYTHING together. At home, at school.
But she too was "disabled". But unlike me, her disability was hidden. Dolly had a Congenital Heart Defect, and a hole in her heart at birth, that they did patch. But in later years, her heart began to go in to Congestive Heart Failure. We were about six and seven years old at the time.
Eventually, Dolly had to be placed on the National Transplant List. And like now, of course, children's organs, especially hearts and lungs were hard to come by. But finally, her waiting was over and she was able to receive a new heart.
The transplant its self was a success. And yes, I knew, even at the tender age of six, that my BFF was really sick and had to get a new heart. My parents didn't hide it from me.
But, within a few hours of the transplant, her heart was starting to be rejected by her body. And the doctors did EVERYTHING in their power to get her heart to settle and stabilize, even going as far as getting her right back on the list.
Sadly within the first twenty-four hours post-op, Dolly's body couldn't take anymore of the beating that the rejection was placing on her and her heart. She died at the tender and innocent age of seven years old.
For three years, we were like peas and carrots. Side by side. But this is one thing I could not do with her. I couldn't walk her to the Gates. When my mom told me she passed, at first I didn't believe it. I ran out of the house, next door to Dolly's house. As soon as I walked in and had seen all the sad faces and the crying, I knew then that really my friend was gone.
To this day, I still think of her from time to time, and the friendship we had shared. And all the crazy things we would do. And tucked away, up in a box within my attic, I have the last picture that we had taken together, not too long before her death.
So, take my advice...VALUE your friends and your friendships every single day. Don't take for granted what there is in your life. Because one day, they could suddenly be snatched from your life. You never, EVER know what life is going to throw at you or at them at any given moment.
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