FAIRFIELD — Victoria Bristow, 20, chooses not to keep track of the number of heart-related surgical procedures she’s had.
“Too many,” she said.
Bristow was born with a congenital cardiovascular defect and had her first surgery when she was two weeks old. At 5, she got her first pacemaker.
Parents Jennifer and Jeff Bristow were expecting a healthy boy, weighing about 8 pounds. Their daughter was born two weeks past her due date and only weighed 4 pounds, 12 ounces.
“When she came out, you could almost see through her,” Jeff Bristow said of his daughter’s translucent-like skin.
Victoria Bristow, who was born in Texas, was flown to a hospital in San Antonio for care.
Shortly after their daughter was born, the Bristows went out and bought an outfit for her to wear on her first birthday. Jennifer Bristow showed it to the neonatal intensive care unit staff.
“You could tell in their eyes they thought she’d never (live) to wear it. She did,” Jennifer Bristow said.
When Victoria was discharged about a month after her birth, Jennifer Bristow was told to feed her daughter every two hours and to make sure she wasn’t too hot or too cold.
She was not allowed to play contact sports or ride roller coasters.
“We tried to treat her as normal as possible so she wouldn’t feel different,” Jeff Bristow said.
That was hard when Victoria developed a bad case of pneumonia and had to carry an oxygen tank to school. It was bigger than she was at the time.
She could exercise until her body gave her a signal it had had enough, which usually meant she would faint.
“I did Jump Rope for Heart in PE,” Victoria Bristow said.
“The irony of that was not lost on anyone,” her mother said.
Before she was a year old, Jeff Bristow was transferred to Travis Air Force Base and his daughter was connected with a pediatric cardiologist. That was the first time Jeff and Jennifer Bristow felt there was hope.
Victoria Bristow experienced some rebellion while growing up, such as climbing a tree and not wanting to wear the medical alert bracelet her mother gave her.
“It reminded me of what I had,” she said. “Now, I’ve got on my medical bracelet. I wear it every day. And keep my meds (medication) with me all the time.”
She’s had friends with the same heart condition who have died, and others who have gone on to become parents.
Death is a topic she looks at simply.
“People die every day,” she said. “Some people die way before they are supposed to.”
The Bristows contemplated giving their daughter a sibling. The odds were greater they’d have another child with a congenital cardiovascular defect the second time. They decided against it.
“We already had perfection. What do we need another one for?” Jeff Bristow said.
Victoria Bristow has been active in local theater, most recently appearing in Solano Repertory’s Company’s “Steel Magnolias.” She’s now attending Diablo Valley College and is majoring in library technology.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.