Most 25-year-olds don’t have to triple check their heart rate during spin class. Most 25-year-olds don’t get hooked up to a heart monitor machine and run on a treadmill until they physically have to stop. Most 25-year-olds don’t have a scar running down the length of their chest. But I guess I’m not like most 25-year-olds.

When I think about second chances, I think about the fact that my life started with one. On June 13, 1994, at the Thayer Center in Waterville, I was born with what could have been a fatal heart condition. Born with TGA (Transposition of the great arteries), my pulmonary and aorta were reversed – which, as you can imagine, is not exactly what my parents were hoping for. This meant that I would need open-heart surgery immediately, and I was rushed to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

A month later, after surgery and recovery, I came home. By the grace of God, my parents, Dr. Wade Hamilton, Dr. Paolini, the doctors and nurses at Thayer, Dr. Reed Quinn and the rest of the cardiology unit at Maine Med., I was given a second chance at living a long, healthy life with a strong heart. Although my years have been scattered with EKG’s, stress tests, ultrasounds and heart monitors, I live a relatively normal life, and I tend to forget about the scar on my chest – sometimes it even catches me by surprise.

After being graced with a second-chance to kick-start my life, I work on turning every moment into my one and only chance to do something spectacular. We’ve all backed out of doing things in our lives due to fear or anxiety, but I try to push my limits and enjoy each moment of my lifelong second chance. While visiting the island of Kauai this year, I stood on a zip-line platform, 100 feet above the ground, terrified. The guide could tell I was nervous, and he said to me “you really don’t have to do it.” Although my knees were shaking and I had tears in my eyes, I said, “I’m going to go, I just have to convince myself.” I knew I had one chance to zip-line over the waterfalls below me, and it wouldn’t take long for me to regret not taking the jump. With that, I closed my eyes, and ran off the platform.

June 13, 1994, could have been my first and last day. I’ll forever honor that knowledge by jumping off of zip-line platforms, sitting still for a tattoo I thought I’d never get (sorry, mom and dad), and speaking my true feelings when others may hold back. I was given my second chance for a reason, so I try to face each moment in my life as the only chance I’ll get.

Life will be bumpy and scary at times, but you just have to close your eyes and jump, because you never know if you’ll be lucky enough to get a second chance.

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