After two open-heart surgeries and multiple procedures, Rachel Owens, 33, has a lifetime of experience dealing with her congenital heart defect.
Now, that knowledge helps the Jacksonville, Fla., resident care for her 2-year-old son, Eli, with his heart conditions.
Rachel Owens draws on her lifetime of experience to help her son, Eli, battle his congenital heart condition. She had good training, she said, because her family taught her to manage her health from a young age.
“My mom never treated me like I was sick,” said Rachel of Jacksonville, Fla. “I know that my voice and my attitude will become Eli’s voice about his condition. Your confidence and encouragement will become what helps them manage their condition.”
Rachel, 33, said she tries to stay positive despite knowing how it feels to have had primum atrial septal defect, a hole in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart. She also had a cleft mitral valve, which causes blood to flow the wrong way.
Starting in 1989 when she was just 22 months old, she had two open-heart surgeries, plus multiple follow-up procedures to correct the conditions.
During college in 2011, she collapsed in the shower because of heart failure. She said she had been experiencing stomach pain and exhaustion for three years. Doctors labeled that as “gastrointestinal issues,” when the symptoms were really caused by poor blood circulation to the heart. She received an emergency surgery to install a defibrillator to deliver a controlled amount of electric current to her heart.
Rachel’s medical issues kept her on high alert when she was pregnant years later. Her first son, Keith, was born premature but otherwise healthy. However, during her second pregnancy in 2018, Eli was born with multiple heart conditions including primum ASD, cleft mitral valve and pulmonary stenosis.
Eli had his first cardiac procedure at 2 months for his pulmonary stenosis, which restricted blood between his heart and lungs. Then in March 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, he had procedures to correct his primum ASD and cleft mitral valve, with a second open-heart surgery nine months later.
Their health is stable for now, even though Rachel said they both will need follow-up procedures in the future.
Through all of the medical challenges, the family and lifestyle blogger relies on a motto: “Triumph through your trials and look good while doing it.”
“Even though we have these conditions, it’s important not to center your life around your medical situation,” she said. “Don’t let your condition run your life.”
Another reason Rachel is passionate about helping others with cardiovascular conditions is because her dad died of congestive heart failure in June 2020.
The struggles caused a lot of stress recently, she said. Plus, her husband, Troy, is on active duty in the military. This means Rachel is often the primary caretaker.
“I’m a big believer that the way you deal with things will be the way your body will react to them,” she said.
She’s learned to ask for help and find ways to lessen her load, advice she gives others in similar situations.
“It’s so necessary to have a good support system” she said. “Faith is big for my family. I do as much as I can to control the things I can control. And I pray about all the things I can’t control.”