Here, Shannon writes about her recent trip to a conference in Germany to speak about her experience with [email protected]:
"Back in January I received a very exciting email from the [email protected] team at the British Heart Foundation: I had been invited to speak at the European Heart Network (EHN) Annual General Assembly!
The programme has given me much more confidence
"The EHN is an alliance of heart foundations throughout Europe aiming to prevent and reduce cardiovascular diseases. This year the conference was being held in Germany and they wanted me to talk about the support the BHF offers to teenagers.
"Soon I was setting off to the airport to meet Amy, a member of the [email protected] team. A short flight later, we arrived in Frankfurt before catching a train to the picturesque town of Wiesbaden.
"Amy and I had an early night to prepare for the conference the following day. Everyone was extremely welcoming. We were the second speakers of the day. Amy kicked off the presentation with an overview of the [email protected] programme before it was my turn to speak.
"Here’s a snippet from my speech:
"When I was diagnosed I constantly felt like I was being told what I could and couldn't do, and even what to think and feel. [[email protected]] was the first time that I felt I was being listened to and being valued as a patient with her own thoughts and opinions, rather than just another case to doctors.
"Straight after my first [[email protected]] event I went home and emailed the team to get involved. I started blogging for them. I had the opportunity to interview a national radio presenter who also suffered from a heart condition and interview politicians in the Houses of Parliament about plain cigarette packaging.
"The programme has given me much more confidence, especially at the residential weekends. With the support of one of the BHF nurses I was able to go on the zip wire, something that I'd always been too scared to do with my heart condition.
"I've also made lifelong friendships. Even when there isn't an event on, we're our own support network. We have a Facebook group where we're always reassuring one another about tests or operations, or turning a bad situation into a funny one, or posting about the incredible fundraising others are doing. At first we all bonded because we had heart problems but there's so much more to our friendships than just our dodgy hearts.
"I used to be a competitive gymnast and dancer and I had to give up sport when I was diagnosed with my heart condition. One of the most important things that the [email protected] programme has given me is a sense of community again.”
Shannon Donovan (R) with Amy Corkery (L) at the Dorint Hotel Pallas in Wiesbaden, Germany
"I was nervous whilst speaking but I had lots of people approach me to congratulate me on my “inspiring” talk.
"That evening we got glammed up and headed to one of Germany's many castles for the EHN's gala dinner. We took a scenic coach route and got the ferry across the River Rhein. The view was breath-taking!
"We arrived at Rheinfels Castle and were given a funny tour by a man in costume with a guitar. Afterwards we enjoyed a local orchestra with our canapés in the castle cellar before it was time to sit down to our meal. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and one another's company.
"Many people fell asleep on our return journey. We arrived back at the hotel and I quickly departed to bed; we’d had a busy day and had a flight home to catch in the morning.
"The trip was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the conference from a personal and professional perspective. As the youngest there and one of the few heart patient representatives attending, everyone ensured I was warm enough, had enough to eat and wasn't breathless when walking around the castle.
I’d like to thank the BHF for this incredible opportunity and for all their support over the last five years."
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