I have told you these things, so that in me may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33, NIV

“Laura, Laura, open your eyes! Move your fingers, move your toes! Your mother is here to see you!” Immediately, I woke up to severe aching chest pain with every breath taken, and multiple lines connecting me to various monitors. It was 6p.m. on Friday, July 1 , 2011, and I had survived my second open-heart surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC).

During my third year of medical school, I took a medical leave of absence between my clinical rotations in order to prepare for my pulmonary valve replacement. As I lay there with my chest incision and surgical drain, I thought back to all the life experiences that brought me to this point. I realized that my dream has always been the same: to become a pediatrician.

As a young girl, on March 2, 1988, I had my first open-heart surgery at LLUMC. Since I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot (a syndrome of four congenital heart defects), I had a complicated four-part surgery which included cutting open my narrowed pulmonary valve.

All the medical lingo seemed strange at the time, but one thing that clearly came to mind was that I was different from those around me, particularly my healthy younger sister. Although I could never keep up with her during swimming and tennis classes, I was still able to maintain a healthy and active life by being involved with marching band in high school and studying bioengineering at University of California, Berkeley.

In June 2008, I was accepted into Loma Linda University School of Medicine, where I truly found meaning and purpose for my life. Through my classmates, I became a Seventh-day Adventist. I learned how to cherish the importance of the Sabbath and the church’s health message.

Although I gained stronger faith as an Adventist, I knew that my spiritual convictions were being tested as I was facing the need for a new pulmonary valve. Fortunately my faith grew in more ways than ever possible when I discovered a classmate who also had a heart condition. He lives his life full of gratefulness which he shows by loving God and people. After reading my classmate’s testimony, I became determined to use faith and prayer in my practice of medicine.

My unique journey to become to become a pediatrician gives me an even stronger desire to encourage children with congenital conditions to appreciate and live life to its fullest. Sharing my surgical heart experiences with parents will allow them to have tangible hope for their child’s future.

As I lie down during the quiet hours of the night, the loud S2 click of my new valve gives me comfort–and I go to sleep knowing that I have a purpose-filled life ahead of me.

Laura Hwang, LLUSM class of 2013, is a pediatric resident at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. She had her first open-heart surgery in 1988 performed by Leonard Bailey, LLUSM class of 1696. On July 1, 2011, he and Anees Razzouk, LLUSM class of 1982, performed her second open-heart surgery.