My name is Taylor Larsen.
I am 21 years old.
I am Imperfectly Perfect.

When I was born I was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease, specifically Tetralogy of Fallot. I had my first open heart surgery when I was 6 months old to patch the hole in my heart that was bigger than a dime, reroute my aorta and insert a flap to help control the blood flow to my lungs since I did not have a pulmonary valve. 19 years later I underwent my second open heart surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic to replace the flap with a biological valve from a cow! 

Growing up I was always active. My favorite sport to play was softball. Cardio was always a little challenging for me because of my heart condition but softball involved short distance running. My coach called me his lion because although I was the smallest on his team and had the most physical challenges out of anyone, I always played with all my heart. Later in life I stopped playing when I developed a love for singing.

Going through open heart surgery during a global pandemic stirred up a lot of emotions. My surgery was scheduled May 26, 2020. I was in isolation with my mother because we could not risk being exposed considering our underlying conditions. Watching the news became our new hobby since we were home all the time and noticed that all non-emergency surgeries were being canceled. Thankfully my mother was communicating with my surgeon’s assistant as soon as the pandemic hit and Dr.Bacha knew my open heart surgery was a necessity. When May 26, 2020, came around, my parents drove me into New York City and the entire place was a ghost town. I had to get tested for COVID-19 before my surgery and when the test came back negative, I handed my mom a letter I wrote her to read during the operation, and I walked into the operating room. Since I had my surgery during the pandemic, I was not allowed to have any visitors and only one person could stay with me. My mom had to sit there by herself for hours. 20 years ago, my godmother stood by my mom’s side when I had my first surgery. My godmother Linda passed away when I was 10 years old so I wrote my mom a letter to remind her that she will always be here with us in spirit.

When my operation was over, I woke up and people were shoving phones in my face because some doctors were working remotely. It was very chaotic. 2 days went by, and I started walking and the whole ICU staff stood up and started clapping for me.

That was the moment
I finally realized
how strong people with congenital heart disease are.

I spent three days in the ICU and then the fourth day in a regular hospital so that they could discharge me. The hospital stay was kept to a minimum due to the pandemic. The medical staff at New York Presbyterian gave me a heart pillow and I walked myself out the door.

I think we can all agree that the pandemic has had a significant impact on everyone’s mental health whether we realize it or not. The emotional healing process was a little more challenging than the physical healing of my heart.

When you go through something as intense as
open-heart surgery
you gain a completely different perspective on life.

I did a lot of journaling, I read self-help books, meditated, and listened to a lot of music. I did enjoy having the advantage of hiding from people when I got my surgery because of my scar. I am a very outgoing and confident person but when I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time after having surgery that girl I knew disappeared for a moment.

I had to remind myself that my scar is the reason why I am here today.

I wear my scar with pride & confidence,
and will show it off wherever I go
in hopes that other people
learn to love the body
that their spirit was born into.

I am so thankful for the blessings that have come with having CHD. Having two open heart surgeries helps you comprehend the true beauty of life. On a spiritual level having CHD has gifted me with the ability to walk through this life with an open heart to help others cultivate unconditional love for themselves and others. My message to the CHD community is, be unapologetically yourself! Share your story and show your feelings because they are important, and you never know who needs to hear it.

I decided to share my story with iP to remind those who have had an out of body experience or have scars of any kind know that you are loved, you are valued, and you are not alone.”