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Good Content from: Naomi Gauthier, MD, Director of the Cardiac Fitness Program at Boston Children’s Hospital
Imagine you are standing in the morning mist watching a team lace up their shoes and warm up for their run. You watch them head off onto the trail, leaving you behind because you think you can’t join them. You think you can’t wear those same running shoes. You think you can’t keep up. You think you can’t even try. I want you to think about how often you say “I can’t” in a day. How will we ever know our capabilities until we turn that around and ask, ‘wait, what if I CAN?’
I see this doubt and dismissal every day in my professional sphere. I am a pediatric cardiologist, and I take care of children born with serious heart defects. Many need not just one but multiple open heart surgeries starting as very young babies. Thankfully, our medical and surgical advances have progressed so these babies not only survive but can live full lives with ongoing care. But the nagging thought of “I can’t” still follows them, as parents, teachers, coaches and even health care professionals send the message of what they cannot do without balancing that with all of the things they can do. I believe that the words “I can” have the power to transform.
Henry Ford is quoted as saying “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” For these children, I knew which way I wanted them to think.
To address this, we began the Cardiac Fitness Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. We enroll patients with congenital heart conditions into an exercise program where they train not only their bodies, but their minds to become fully fit and feel strong and capable. Our motto is, “Find Your Possible.” We were fortunate to have found such wonderful supporters in Saucony, who embrace the same philosophy of moving, achieving, believing, running for good. With the generous support of Saucony, we have been able to develop our mindfulness training portion of our program to pair with the highly specialized exercise training. We start with a commitment letter for our patients, inviting them onto our team. They get team bags and gear, and then we watch in awe as they blossom physically and in every other way possible.
Everyone can do something. Sometimes it takes modification, sometimes expectations are blown out of the water. Patients with congenital heart defects do not have to sit on the sidelines. They can run. They can run across the playground. They can run into their grandparents’ arms. They can run 5Ks. One young man just became the first person born with half a heart to run not one but two marathons. And if we start asking them, and by extension ourselves, what ELSE can we do, I wonder what will be next?