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“Love and appreciate yourself despite the circumstances thrown at you. Value people around you because life shouldn’t be lived alone. Always look up to God with hope.” – Grace Jerald
Born and raised in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Grace Jerald is a Malaysian of Indian descent. Grace received both her primary and secondary education in Assunta School and pursued her Bachelor’s degree in University Malaya. Currently, Grace works with Kingdomcity, a global Christian movement.
Grace looks like any other girl. One wouldn’t guess she was born with a congenital heart defect known as Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA). “I had a switch operation done when I was 18 months old. Growing up I had other surgeries and procedures. I had my first pacemaker at 9 years of age, that’s 21 years of living with a pacemaker now,” Grace shared.
Getting To Know Congenital Heart Defect (CHD)
Although being one of the most common types of birth defect, not many people are aware of congenital heart defects. Congenital Heart Defect is the most common type of structural defect in babies. When asked to share her knowledge on CHD, Grace explained, “Studies have shown that 1 in a 100 are born with CHD and it is the most common cause of infant death. Although surgery or other interventions can be done, those living with CHD face a lifelong condition that needs specialised care.”
Grace explained that based on her own experience, although she had her first open-heart surgery when she was just 18 months old, she had to have another open-heart surgery when she was 9.
In addition, there are also other procedures and surgeries that she had to undergo with the most recent one being only 3 months back; when her pacemaker had to be replaced.
“With that in mind, I already know that in another 10 years or so I would need another pacemaker replacement surgery”, shared Grace.
Growing Up With a Congenital Heart Defect
Grace admits that growing up with CHD wasn’t easy. Her time was spent mostly at the hospital and so she didn’t quite get to enjoy her childhood like any other child. “It was certainly difficult to explain to people why I was sick or not physically active like the other kids as my condition did not have a visible defect. I looked physically fine and well-built. I generally looked happy and confident growing up and so most people would not think that I was a heart patient with a pacemaker,” Grace explained.
Apart from that, she gets a lot of people pitying her and giving her hopeless looks due to her condition. “I have come across shallow-minded people who didn’t want to be my friends because they feared my heart condition was contagious. Some people also thought that since I had CHD, I was cognitively slow and unable to learn.”
“There are times when I actually have to convince people that I really do have a heart condition,” Grace jokes.
However, she refuses to let it define her so she chose to work hard and excel academically. “Thankfully, with God by my side, I was able to prove them all wrong.”
Living With Congenital Heart Disease
When asked about 3 fun facts about herself, Grace shared that she is a coffee lover, loves peeling prawns for others (even though she doesn’t eat them herself) and enjoys baking fruit cakes, even though she doesn’t eat them!
Living with CHD has certainly not been easy for Grace. “With God by my side I have been able to fight this well all these years,” she admits. Living with CHD means regular trips to the doctors and having certain limitations in her life.
“Since I have a pacemaker, there are certain do’s and don’ts I have to adhere to but to be honest, it does not stop me from living a fulfilling life,” explained Grace. “I successfully managed university life and there is nothing that limits me from pursuing my dreams,” she added. “Yes, there are days when I get tired easily or just feel weak but I have learned to pray, fight this battle and pick myself up again.”
How Grace Practises Self Care
Knowing her physical limitations due to having a pacemaker makes Grace more aware of her body. She takes care not to tire herself or over-exert herself. “Mentally, I don’t entertain thoughts that I am not good enough or that I have a lack because I believe that I am whole and created perfectly by God,” Grace shared.
She also says she only takes the good and throws away any negative words that people may say to her. Apart from that, she makes sure that she only listens to people who have her best interest at heart. “I believe in the power of Jesus over my life and nothing is impossible with God,” she lovingly reflected.
With all the negativity around, it is hard to not get swept by it. However, face negativity with grace and rise above it.
When asked about a superpower that she would love to have, Grace said, “To be able to reach out and touch people’s lives and tell them there is HOPE. Never give up!”
We don’t know about you, but even having someone peel our prawn shell for us would make us tear up so keep being you, Grace!
We hope Grace’s story has inspired you the way it inspires us! To never give up and have hope, even if life seems hard. Take it one day at a time!
Do you have your own story to tell? Drop us an email at: email@example.com
Grace’s Instagram: @gracejerald