Riley Champion Check In: Lexi Fuchs
The first thing I remember when waking up from my transplant at age 11 was the intense new sensation of being able to feel and hear a heartbeat in my ears. I was terrified, and convinced the new heart was too big for my body. For weeks after, I wasn’t myself. If it wasn’t for Cassie, my art therapist, I don’t know how long it would have taken to get my feelings straightened out. She helped me express what I was feeling, and we ended up writing and illustrating a book that told the story of my two hearts. Through creating the book, I saw my feelings all laid out. It helped me to deal with my underlying grief. Even though I received the amazing gift that was my new heart, I was grieving the loss of my old one. It was a part of me for so long and I felt so different afterward that it scared me. Not only did this program provide me with tools I needed to allow me to cope with what I had gone through, but I truly feel this experience sparked my passion for mental health and is what led me to my path now in studying psychology and mental health counseling.
A little over a year after my transplant, I was selected as a 2017 Riley Champion. Being a Riley Champion was one of the most valuable things I have gotten the honor to be part of. It was being a Champion that taught me how to advocate for myself and others, which I now take with me into my role as president of NAMI at Indiana State University, a student organization that provides advocacy and support for students struggling with mental health problems. It was through being a Champion that I learned how to be confident (or brave in the absence of confidence), which I have used to carry myself every day since. The memories I have and the connections I’ve made because of that experience are priceless, and I would not be even remotely the same person I am today without them.
People often ask me if I wish I was born different – or often in society’s eyes – normal. My answer always has and always will be no. I would not be who I am now if not for my experiences with Riley Hospital. They have saved me; they have shaped me. You grow through what you go through, and I hope to inspire other Riley kids to appreciate this part of their journey in becoming exactly who they were meant to be.
Riley kid Lexi Fuchs from Roachdale served as a 2017 Riley Champion Presented by Kroger. Lexi currently attends Indiana State University and is studying psychology and mental health counseling.