Video gaming helps heart defect survivor connect with others in the LGBTQ community and beyond


Congenital heart defect survivor Mike Lane. (Photo courtesy of Mike Lane)


Mike Lane's heart journey began as a newborn – when his skin turned blue.


He was 2 days old when a cardiologist realized the reason. He was born with several congenital heart defects, including a missing ventricular septum, a narrowing of the pulmonary artery called stenosis, and a faulty pulmonary artery valve. In the coming weeks and months, even the most minor activity exhausted him so much that "we tried to keep him calm, so he wouldn't cry," said his grandmother, Norma Lane, a nurse.


Ten months later, doctors opened his chest and attempted to repair the defects. They were unable to repair all of them.


Throughout his early years, the problems continued to sap Mike's energy, making it tough for him to keep up with his peers. This led to trouble bonding with kids his age.


"Everybody looked at me like they were going to catch my chronic illness," he said.


One day, Mike noticed his grandfather had a scar on his chest, just like Mike did. His grandfather's scar came from open-heart surgery following a heart attack. While they never really talked about it, knowing he had this in common with someone he loved helped Mike feel less alone.


Mike was 12 when doctors said it was time to again try replacing the faulty valve. The day of surgery, he sobbed hysterically.


"I really didn't know if I was going to wake up," he said.


This time, doctors were able to give him the new valve. And in doing so, they gave him a new life.

More energetic than ever, he attended the Edward J. Madden Open Hearts Camp in the Berkshire mountains. Meeting other kids like him "was one of the best experiences in my life," he said.


Why?


"For the first time, I wasn't alone," Mike said.