Editor’s Note: Jamie Holmes of White Oak, Pennsylvania, learned at an early age that her real joy in life began once she focused on others, instead of herself. This amazing 24-year-old woman not only has helped herself but hundreds of others as well. In reading this week’s story of “Jamie Holmes – The Dream Giver,” you’ll find truths that may change your life forever for the better. Part 1 of a 4-part series.
Hi, my name is Jamie Holmes. I’m 24-years old and live with a condition called V.A.T.E.R. Syndrome, which was diagnosed in utero. I have endured over 42 surgeries in my life, with the surgeries starting at the time of my birth, to reconstruct my esophagus, trachea and lower intestine and to fuse several vertebrae in my spine. Presently, one of my kidneys has disintegrated, and my remaining kidney doesn’t fully function.
V.A.T.E.R Syndrome is a congenital birth defect that triggered anomalies to my vertebrae, urinary tract, bowels, trachea and esophagus. So, I was pretty messed-up medically. V.A.T.E.R Syndrome affected almost everything in my body but my big toe. To learn more about V.A.T.E.R Syndrome, you can Google this birth defect on the internet. You’ll see that V.A.T.E.R stands for vertebrae, anus, trachea, esophagus and renal – all areas affected by this syndrome.
Not all people with this syndrome are affected in all of these ways. For instance, some people’s limbs can be affected, as well as their cardiac systems. When the cardiac system and limbs are affected, the acronym for the syndrome changes to V.A.T.E.R.L.
As bad as V.A.T.E.R. Syndrome is, I haven’t let this medical condition become the focus in my life. Actually these problems I’ve experienced have shown me that others are far-more important than I am. And, my family never has treated me differently because of my medical conditions. I believe this sense of “normalcy” has been very important throughout my life and has helped me to be well-adjusted today.
And, no matter what has happened with my health, growing up I still felt like a princess, even though I was seldom without pain and even somewhat embarrassed about my condition. My friends and my family always showed-up at the hospital and brought me balloons and other gifts, whenever I had surgery, to let me know I was special. Even as a child, I wanted to share this feeling of joy with other kids I met at the children’s hospital. I always wanted to give the other children my balloons and have them feel and experience some of the happiness that others had brought to me.
As soon as I was born, the operations began. The first problems that the doctors addressed were that I was born without a rectum, and I also had a heart murmur. For the first part of my life, my entire world was doctors, nurses, hospitals and operations.
This was how I learned that the joy in my life came from making other people happy – even from my earliest recollections of hospital stays. I also learned that if I could make other people happy, I could be happy too. I thought, “Why should I get presents when other children in the hospital don’t get presents?” So, I shared my balloons and my gifts with the other children who weren’t receiving any gifts at the hospital.
The only time I didn’t spend a major portion of my life in the hospital or recovering from operations was from when I was 15-years old until I was 20-years old. During those 5 years, I didn’t have any surgeries. Then when I was 21, my colon started acting-up, because the enemas I was taking to help me go to the bathroom had quit working.
I started getting really, really sick. When I returned to the hospital, the doctors told me, “Your colon isn’t working anymore. We’re going to have to install a colostomy bag.” However, even after all my surgeries, I can walk and drive. If you saw me, you wouldn’t think I was physically handicapped. I even worked at a Hooters restaurant for a couple of years. But I’ll tell you more about that later!
V.A.T.E.R. Syndrome Resources
About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com