When her heart and lungs failed, inner courage kept this woman alive
Life after seven was a miracle for Tina Beckbessinger. Born with Congenital Heart Disease and Pulmonary Hypertension, doctors advised her parents to prepare for the worst. But what their stethoscopes, scans and blood tests couldn’t measure was the inner courage that would grow into full colour throughout Beckbessinger’s life.
“From a young age I knew I wasn’t normal,” she explains. “I was always the slowest and always the one who needed the break.” The realisation could have broken her. Instead, Beckbessinger was inspired to prove herself. But her body would only allow her to go so far. At 14 she already required the assistance of a pacemaker, which needed to be upgraded when she was 21 as her body became weaker. To avoid being bedridden for the rest of her life, she made the call to go under the knife again for a terrifying double operation.
Beckbessinger is now the longest living person in South Africa to have undergone a heart and bilateral lung transplant. “Being alive motivates me, being able to breathe, seeing a flower bloom,” she says. No wonder her favourite pastime is gardening. Different plants are suited to grow in different conditions, so nurturing a healthy garden requires an understanding of each organism. The same is true of people. Beckbessinger’s growth into the woman she is today is in no small measure due to the love and support of her friends and family.