To most families, the month of February means Valentine’s Day. A day where we buy silly cards and gifts for our partners and help our babies decorate mailboxes and valentines. This has been my February for as long as I can remember. That is until I met Jack Henry Hayes and he gave me yet another reason to love this month. February is National Heart Awareness Month or American Heart Month. To heart families, February is a time to reflect, to fight, to raise awareness and funds and in hopes of doing just that, I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend Michelle.
I met Michelle while I was in college and was introduced to Donn’s Depot, the bar she has worked for the last 17 years. We were fast friends but looking back I think everyone could say they have that same connection. We would catch up quickly when I would visit from NYC and when I moved back to Austin and started dating my now-husband Michael or “Boca” as everyone calls him, I would learn that Michael and Michelle had been great friends for even longer than I had known her. This bar and these relationships would eventually lead to a small piece I wrote for Tribeza back in 2012 and our wedding afterparty. It’s that’s special and she has a lot do with it. The only way I can describe Michelle is as a big, inviting, hug. She’s warm, kind, and nurturing, even from behind a bar when dealing with drunk idiots. That’s hard to do.
When she was pregnant with her second baby, son Jack, she was open and honest from the beginning about her son’s heart condition. The diagnosis, the next steps, the sacrifices. It was eye opening, devastating, and yet she was so hopeful and positive, we all knew the outcome was going to be ok. Pregnant with Bowie at the same time, I often thought, why Michelle? Why not me? Which makes this post and your awareness so important. There was nothing that Michelle did or didn’t do that could have avoided this outcome but she chooses to see the positive despite all the hardships Jack and her family have gone through. As she says, she refuses to stop accepting great things for her son. That’s love. That’s what February is all about. This is her story.
At the end of this post, you’ll find resources for families going through the same thing, ways you can get involved, and ways you can support your friends who might be going through something similar. We hope you’ll join my family along with Michelle’s on Saturday, May 5th for the Congenital Heart Walk. Sign up here.