I was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. The four defects included a large hole – called a ventricular septal defect or VSD – between the two main chambers of the heart, narrowing of the pulmonary valve (pulmonary stenosis), right ventricular hypertrophy and an overriding aorta. This wasn’t diagnosed until we moved to London from Nigeria in 1998.
At 18 months old, I had open-heart surgery in Great Ormond Street Hospital. Since I was still small when the surgery was done, the 15cm keloid scar literally appeared to stretch vertically down my chest to my abdomen. Dominating my small body.
This scar didn’t affect me until I was in primary school, from year 3. When I was 7. I knew I had this scar, and I always wondered why no one else had a scar that rose above the surface of their skin. As a child, I hated my scar and I didn’t want anybody to see it because it wasn’t “normal”. I had never seen anyone with such an ugly scar like mine. At school, I did get asked questions and get a few horrible looks from other children when they saw my scar, which made me feel very sad. I felt very insecure, shy and embarrassed when I wore anything that showed even just a small bit of my scar. It didn’t help that I had very little to no control of what I got to wear at that age; my mum and older sister didn’t understand how and why I felt the way I did, so I’d have to wear whatever they got ready for me.
I felt very lonely at times. But I met a girl at church who had the same operation and I didn’t feel so lonely anymore.
As I’m growing up, I’m learning to love my scar. I’m 19 now and these days I don’t mind wearing a V-necked top, or having the first few buttons of a shirt undone. I’m not so concerned about other people staring, what they think or say.
I’m happy about my scar, and it’s another thing that makes me unique.