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Millington’s Lindsey Harris overcoming birth defect to become three-sport student/athlete

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Lindsey Harris basketball Lindsey Harris family lindsey harris graphic

During a recent January day, the Harris family celebrated a milestone with 16-year-old Lindsey getting her license.
Although this moment is typical to many households across the United States, for the family in Millington the thought of Lindsey getting behind a wheel was a just a dream.
Born on July 14, 1997 to her parents Kenneth and Cathy, Lindsey began to have problems with her heart just a few days old.
“When she was three-weeks old, we finally found a doctor who agreed there is a problem,” Cathy recalled. “They sent us to Le Bonheur. They rushed her to resuscitation because she quit breathing.
“They resuscitated her,” she added. “In 24 hours we learned more about the heart than we ever thought we would. That’s when it all starter. Le Bonheur, they have been wonderful.”
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital quickly informed Cathy and Kenneth about what roads lay ahead for Lindsey.
“I didn’t know if we knew it would be a life-long journey,” Kenneth said. “But after the first time, we knew she would definitely have the second one. From there we didn’t know it would be a life-long journey. But as time went and the more we researched and the doctors kept talking to us, we knew it was pretty well ongoing from there out.”
Lindsey had a hole in her heart. She had her first surgery when she was one-month old. Then Lindsey went back under the knife at 11-months old.
Her most recent surgery on her heart came when she was 11 years old and a student at Millington Middle School.
“Letting her go when they take her into surgery,” Cathy said is the toughest part. “The first time, the second time and the third until I got her back, that’s the scariest part. Le Bonheur has done a great job of educating her.
“They talk to her and she’s aware of everything they’re doing and what’s going on,” she continued.  “They’ve educated us as well. We just put our faith into God and the doctors. So far, everything has been a success.”
Kenneth said during the surgeries he placed his faith in a Higher Power, the medical officials and his daughter.
“The toughest part, I don’t actually know if there is a tougher part than the wait through the surgeries,” he said. “She is a very strong girl. And that makes it easier. She understands a lot of it and knows every thing is going to be ok.”
Lindsey said the toughest part for her is obvious.
“When I had my surgery in sixth grade, the other ones I really don’t remember,” she said. “So going in there was the scariest part. They’re telling you everything like you could die. You don’t know what’s really going to happen.”
So far the doctors have been successful. And Lindsey is taking advantage of her chances at life. Now a junior at Millington Central High School, Lindsey participated in Trojan Track running the 800m and mile.
Before the spring, Harris can be found in the William Osteen Gymnasium on campus. In the fall she is a part of the Lady Trojan Volleyball team.
Then when winter descends onto Millington, Harris is a guard for the Lady Trojan Basketball team.
When she’s not at school or playing sport, her 13-year-old brother Kenny describes Lindsey as a typical big sister.
“She’s normal,” he said. “She’s a big sister to me. She covers for me sometimes. But she gets on me. And she’s there for me to pick on.”
When Kenny was about 5-years-old he accompanied his sister on a bus ride around the greater Memphis area to view billboards of her.
That was just one part of Lindsey’s commercial campaign in 2005 bringing awareness to the works at Le Bonheur. Harris and a group of her peers appeared in several 30-second spots talking about their experience of heart surgery and surviving.
“It was cool seeing myself on TV,” Lindsey said. “And I got 10 billboards around Memphis. That was cool. I got a chance to drive around and see myself.”
Le Bonheur also was there for Lindsey checking on her and educating her on how to take care of herself.
“Pretty much from knowing everything is going to be fine,” Lindsey said, “I go to Heart Camp every year. And seeing other, some who aren’t as bad off as you are. Then there are some that are worse. They’re not able to do as many things as I can.”
Every time Lindsey takes the court, she scores a victory in her brother’s eyes.
“She’s here,” he said. “It means a lot to me that she’s still here. She’s an inspiration to me. I look up to her.”
Kenny is watching his sister reach teenager milestones he hopes to obtain one day. And with another heart surgery in her feature, Lindsey uses school, sports, family, friends and faith to keep herself going.
“It means she’s determined,” Kenneth said. “She’s never really looked at it as a crutch. It means a lot to me. Its almost as if she’s there to teach others to not let anything get you down. You can work through it and build yourself up. She’s shown a lot of character.”
Cathy said her daughter is a precious role model.
“She’s everything to me,” she said. “She’s my hero. She’s overcome things that no one her age should have to go through. She’s an inspiration. She’s smart. She’s beautiful, sweet and athletic. God has a purpose for here. She’s a good girl.”
Lindsey said she will use her gift of life to impact others and fulfill the Lord’s will.
“It means that I’ve shown people that anything is possible,” she said. “You don’t have to give up when you can’t do something the first time. And to teach others you can get through anything.
“I do have a purpose in life,” Lindsey concluded. “Hopefully I can grow up and be a doctor and show kids they can overcome things and believe that they can.”

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March 2014
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