Meet Brittany Foster
Her heart may have given Brittany Foster lots of medical struggles throughout her life, but she has one of the kindest and passionate hearts out there. Brittany has used her experiences through pediatrics into adult healthcare to give back, to inspire others to take control of their health journey and become their own medical advocates.
From birth to 24 years old I have been diagnosed with quite a few conditions. Some chronic, others have been able to be “fixed” or “treated” with surgery.
At birth I was born a “blue baby” and would later be diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, right aortic arch, and a large VSD. These conditions have later led to having a thoracic bypass surgery due to anomalies related to the right aortic arch, atrial tachycardia, congenital sinus node disease, sinus pauses, bifascicular bundle branch blocks, and a permanent pacemaker implant.
My other conditions I faced as a child were a surgical repair for currarino triad syndrome which is a sacral teratoma. Throughout my teen and early adulthood, this has left me with chronic bladder control problems, and chronic lower back pain. An intestinal surgery I had for a blockage as a newborn later affected my late teen years due to scarring of the fallopian tubes. This led me to have both fallopian tubes removed at 18 years old as well as one of my ovaries removed at 21 due to endometriosis and large cysts.
Being a teen and going through a lot of these chronic conditions was extremely difficult.
I would advise everyone to actively listen to your body. It definitely does NOT come easy and it is something that I have to work hard at every day.
For much of my teen years I was always on the go. Whether it was playing ice hockey, soccer, keeping up with my friends, or being a “typical” teen.
When I had aches and pains or felt overly tired playing sports I just kept on going. Deep inside I knew something was going on.
My drive and determination to be “normal” and be like everyone else just ultimately made things worse both mentally and physically. Being in pediatric care was difficult especially given the fact that many of the conditions I was presenting with are considered not typical for pediatrics.
You must know that It is OKAY to do research on your conditions. It is OKAY to learn as much as you can and it is OKAY to ask questions and request further studies and tests. What I have learned is that you have to be your own advocate when it comes to your body and your care. The more knowledge you have of what you are going through, the easier it will be for you to understand what exactly doctors are talking about when they speak to you.
In pediatrics, doctors will often times speak directly to your parents and you may feel confused about what is being said.
You may feel scared and overwhelmed. It is normal to feel confused and it is normal to be scared or feel intimidated, especially if it is something that is out of your control. I always try to maintain as much control as possible in every appointment.
Something that helps is taking someone else with me to appointments, making a list of concerns, symptoms, questions, and suggestions beforehand.
Doctors need to remember that even when you are an adult patient, you don’t “get” medical terminology. It is best to have it explained in a way in which you understand, or if this is not what your doctor is doing it is YOUR RIGHT to stop them and say, “okay, so just to clarify, is this what you mean?”
Never leave the office completely confused and NEVER be scared to ask follow up questions if you think of more after an appointment is over. Being your own advocate is a lot of work and it may seem like a daunting task at first as you start to take control of your medical care.
Advocacy is something that can give you back a sense of control in a medical world where you feel as though you may not have any.
It took me years of talk therapy to be able to stand up for myself, to realize what it was that I needed, and to find my courage.
Although every day is a constant challenge, my conditions have taught me to appreciate the good days, appreciate the good hours, and appreciate the good minutes.
Being present and practicing this mindset of living in the moment has helped me through some of my most difficult times.
Knowing where you have been and knowing all you have accomplished will allow you to see the positivity in life.
Embrace positivity, and value courage, bravery, and perseverance.