This past year I had the pleasure of meeting the most courageous spirit - Antonia Giordano. She is a 9 year old, 4 ft 5 in fierce firecracker who has been battling TGA, "Transposition of the Greater Arteries," with Vascular Septical Defect since she was born. In simpler terms, Antonia was born with a hole in her heart that has caused her to undergo four major surgeries with several pacemakers. At only 9 years young, she has overcome fear in order to face life's toughest battle that most people take for granted - the battle of health.
When I met Antonia through a great friend and client, Dana Jorge, I was inspired. I was truly left speechless by the amount of strength Antonia portrayed when she spoke about her heart. While only in third grade, Antonia has a more mature perspective on life than people decades older than her. She is an old soul with a special purpose and I knew her story needed to be shared. I also felt compelled to celebrate Antonia for her courage and remind her of her special "you-ness" as I know thats what my father would have done. So thats what Karma for a Cure set out to do; we awarded Antonia with a Certificate of Courage in honor of her bravery, strength and spirit and declared one day a year be celebrated in the name of Antonia. With the help of her amazing Aunt Dana, we started the tradition this Fall at Antonia's favorite destination...the boardwalk.
A day filled with fun games, great friends and good food was enough to put a huge smile on Antonia's beautiful face. But I have an inner intuition that tells me she was even more thrilled with the opportunity to share her story with the world. When asked who inspires you, Antonia proclaimed, "My family, because they support me and love me just the way I am!" When asked what makes her happy, Antonia shared a confession, "My blanket, because I got it when I was born, it's the same age as me and it comforts me during every surgery. My mom got it for me. It gives me physical and emotional support." Yes, she is only nine, and this is just the beginning of her words of wisdom...
When asked a big question, what advice would you give kids going through the same journey, Antonia shared, "Be brave. A girl gave me advice and I can give it to other people. 'Don't be scared, don't worry about anything. Be happy you are alive and the doctors are there to help you.' Be happy the doctors found the problem and can fix it." When asked what have you learned, Antonia shared a glimpse into her future, "I am going to have to go through this in High School, I will have surgery for a newer technology pacemaker. But I'll be stronger and braver and nothing bad will happen to me. I have a positive outlook and everything will work out for the best." Now that is some positive inner strength coming from a third grade girl...
I then asked Antonia how she felt having a special day per year and her answer made me smile from ear to ear, "I feel supported and special because it shows me so many people care about me and love me. And that's how I want to always feel. I'm the only person I know who has this day, and I am lucky to be here on this day!" Her grateful attitude is a beautiful reminder to us all that every single day we are alive is a blessing. I am touched and personally grateful for the doctors at CHOP for saving her life when she was born and for the opportunity to learn from her beautiful mindset. From multiple surgeries, Antonia is left with an abundance of scars she recently noticed her other friends didn't have. She even turned this surgical characteristic into special you-ness, sharing "They are my pretty scars. They are unique and a part of me."
Antonia's life motto is deep, real, and one to live by. She shares, "To whoever has this problem, I hope you are alive and brave enough to go through surgery. And if you are alive you should be happy and always be brave in life. Be happy you are here on this day. Say thank you to your doctors, parents and ambulance staff. Be grateful for their help!"
Although science may say Antonia has a hole in her heart, I argue that the hole is simply there to be filled with her unique abundance of courage. Antonia is truly special and a gift to all of those she surrounds.