“The year was 2009, and as a junior at Landstown High School; I thought I had it all planned out. I had left my old Job as a Courtesy Clerk (fancy name they gave us bag boys) for a job more suiting to my interests, a computer specialist position at the new Best Buy that had opened down the street from my school. I did it all, I was a double treasurer; for my junior class, and for the National Technical Honor Society chapter at my secondary school.  I was fairly smart according to what I hear from old friends, and I tended to keep to myself, or my close circle of friends whenever possible.

Sometime in early November, the life that I lived would change forever. My memory of the day it all happened is still hazy to this day. All I can personally remember was that I was staying at a friend of the family’s place with my siblings. I’m told that I was getting ready for work when it all happened. I had a heart attack; the life I was currently living came to an abrupt end. My brother told me that when they found me dead, I had apparently hit my head on a wall during my fall and that there was blood everywhere. Sometime later, I awake in a hospital bed surrounded by strangers smiling and crying while standing over me. I remember thinking, “who are all of these people”? This same event occurred for the extent of my mentally grueling stay in the hospital. I don’t remember saying much aside from the continuous internal dialogues I had with myself about random topics.

To make sense of what had happened, I’ll tell you all now, I was brain dead for six minutes after hitting my head when I had my heart attack.  I was diagnosed with a rare heart condition; Wolff Parkinson White syndrome. To save you all a bit of time from the frantic Google frenzies I sent a couple of my professors on last year when I wrote about this story, I’ll give you the basics about this condition. Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, hereafter referred to as WPW, is a heart disorder where my brain and heart don’t work at the same time. I was born with a couple extra pathways attached to my heart, a few extra than people are normally born with. Basically, because my heart had a couple extra pathways on it, my brain didn’t know how to properly deal with/regulate my heart rate. As a kid, I always used to be so confused because my heart would randomly start beating as fast as if I had just finished a marathon and I would be doing nothing related to physical activity.

The story picks up sometime after I had been released from the hospital, or the “prison” it had become known to me as. I remember being so excited to finally regain my freedom from that hospital bed and confined space. Only thing was, this scene was more akin to a prison transfer. I remember waking up in another hospital bed, only I was in my living room this time. As I settled into my “new“ surroundings, I began to notice that at least I had a larger television, and I had three windows to myself. I finally got comfortable in my “new surroundings”, and began to rest.

The sleeping and eating phase only lasted so long before I got to return to school. I can remember all of the odd looks people gave me when I returned. The experience was weird to say the least. I mean I could hardly remember even my own family; throwing another 100+ new faces and personalities into the mix only made matters worse. I remember being a sort of reclusive individual prior to everything occurring; I liked to focus only on the task at hand, and my small circle of friends. However, the massive amount of new faces, personalities, and locations within the high school quickly overwhelmed me. I remember being dropped from a majority of my more “involved” classes due to me not being up to par for the workload. This only worsened my reclusive state to the point where I barely would talk to anyone unless addressed first. I remember how horribly I did academically when I returned from my 2 month “vacation,” because I hadn’t even done any of the work my teachers sent for me to complete while I was in the hospital.  To this day, I can’t even remember the mountain of work my mother told me I had accumulated from all of my classes that I had just blown off during my absence from school.

However, I eventually graduated on time with the rest of my class, but not with a degree I could be proud of. So since graduation I have been striving to accomplish bigger and better things. I have learned that I will get nowhere in life without a little perseverance of my own.  In the past year alone, I have worked to close a few chapters I left unfinished since high school. I have received multiple awards from clubs at Tidewater Community College (TCC), and served a full year as an officer in multiple clubs as well. I have been named to the Dean’s list once, and I am gunning to be named to it for the remaining time I have left at TCC. I aced the majority of my classes in the area of network security, and plan to ace the last one I will be taking this coming semester. Whenever I tell myself something is “too hard,” I simply think back to this period of my life where I had to struggle to just get by. Just the memory of the struggles I endured can get me moving again. I choose to carry these memories along with me wherever I go as inspiration to do better and to achieve better. I choose to share my story with whoever will listen, and needs inspiration. Whenever you feel like the challenge before you is just too great, or that you just can’t accomplish that “impossible” feat, remember my story.  I hope it will give you as much inspiration that it has given to those who I have shared it with so far. Just remember that with a little hard work, and determination, anything is possible.”

–Dexter Givens II

I had the privilege of going to the Advanced Technology Center with Dexter in high school. I remember hearing his story when it happened, but to really hear the truth behind his tragedy and ending triumphs from the man himself is truly inspiring. It’s baffling to know he had a heart attack at 17.  Always remember things could be worse. Use his story has motivation to keep striving for greatness no matter what obstacles you may encounter. Thank you Dexter for sharing your story.

Devona Stimpson

Devona Stimpson

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