A children’s book about living with an open heart surgery scar

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

When Zayna’s infant daughter Sarah was just five months old, the baby underwent open heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect she’d been born with. “The surgery truly saved her life!” says Zayna. “She went from being tube-fed to becoming a bouncing ball of energy.”

But a few years later, Sarah had an experience with her little friends – one that resulted in a new book for kids who are just like her.    .    . 

It’s called Heart Sisters: A Children’s Book about Living With a Scar”  (No connection, by the way, with this Heart Sisters site, or with me!)  The book is written by her mother Zayna Mougharbel, and illustrated by Sidra Mehmood.

Zayna told me about what inspired her to write this unique  book:

“When I picked her up from daycare one day last summer,  Sarah mentioned that she did not want to show ‘THIS’ (pointing to her chest scar) to anyone.

“I spoke to her daycare teacher, who explained that, as the children were changing into their bathing suits to go play on the splash pad outside, one of them  commented on my daughter’s chest scar.

“Sarah overheard the remark, and felt uneasy.”

Zayna added that over the years, whenever Sarah asked about this scar running down  her chest, she’d explained to her daughter, many times and in simple terms, what had happened to her when she was a baby.

“I wanted to help my daughter go through the challenge of accepting her body after such trauma. I can honestly say that, after what we have been through, Sarah is the most resilient person I know! I wanted to encourage that resilience and increase her confidence.

“So, since Sarah loves to read and listen to stories, I decided to write a book with a main character that resembles her.” 

The book begins with Sarah, a young girl who loves to swim – until another girl points out the scar on her chest. Throughout the book, the reader learns how Sarah’s mother helps her daughter accept the scar on her body and enjoy swimming again.

Zayna adds that her book also “gently touches on the topics of self-love, body acceptance, courage, self-esteem and resilience.”

If you’re the parent of a young child who has, like little Sarah, undergone heart surgery, this book may be a useful resource to help your child feel less alone.

And if you’re a clinician who cares for kids like Sarah, Zayna has this recommendation:

“I feel that the book can also be a useful tool for medical/psychology professionals, families, and educators to promote awareness of body acceptance after a major surgery.

“When I first read the book to Sarah, she commented that she liked it because the characters had a chest scar just like her!”

I know that Sarah’s reaction will seem familiar to readers of this blog, or to any woman living with heart disease who finds reassurance just by learning she’s not the only one.

Zayna’s book can be ordered on Amazon. For every sale, a donation will be made to the En Coeur Foundation for children with heart disease, a Montréal charity that helps families cope by providing financial support and a mobile cardiology clinic. 

Image: by Terri Cnudde, Pixabay

Q:   How does knowing about others who share your experience help – even if you’re a preschooler?

See also:

When babies with congenital heart defects grow up

Learning to love your open heart surgery scar


12 thoughts on “A children’s book about living with an open heart surgery scar

  1. Pingback: تجربتي مع عملية القلب المفتوح للأطفال إجابة لأهم 7 تساؤلات
  2. Hi olderrunner2! Thank you for your comment. I believe the book is a great tool to promote awareness of surgery scars – for all ages.

    I invite you to click on the Amazon link above to browse through the book and see if it’s right for you!
    Wishing you the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We spend our entire lives trying to define who we are. As children, sameness is comforting.

    As we grow older, we struggle between our uniqueness and our sameness, which are we? The woman that juggles her life with a flourish and efficiency that others are in awe of OR the woman who collapses in grief in the arms of a friend? In the end we are all of it and only by embracing our scars do we become whole.

    The greatest gift of this book is the love and compassion with which it was written. That the love of one human being is great enough to want to remove another human being’s suffering.

    As this child grows and rereads this book, that will become its most enduring message.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I did go over and read your post about learning to love your scar. I loved the quote at the end. “A scar is never ugly. We must see all scars as beauty. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means: I survived!”

    As you know, I just had my open heart surgery the beginning of January. The surgeon did a great job and it is healing nicely.

    The first time I got dressed to go somewhere, I did think about the scar, but then decided I wasn’t going to be ashamed of it, I was going to be proud of it. I’m not hiding it and I’m not flaunting it. If it shows, it shows. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

    I am not choosing my attire based it. I know that once I get back into daycare full time, the kids will probably have questions as to how I got the boo boo.

    Do you think the book would help with that, or is it more for a child to accept their own scar? Do you have a recommendation for a book to help children accept and understand the scar that someone else has?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your attitude about “not hiding it, not flaunting it.”

      And I suspect you’re absolutely right – when you get back to work, your kids will have lots of questions about your boo boo – just as they have questions about other people they see who are a bit different than they are used to – whether that is a visible scar or a leg cast. I like to think of those questions as an opportunity to teach empathy and understanding.

      A couple years ago, my then-3 1/2 year old granddaughter Everly Rose and I took a blind friend grocery shopping and then out for coffee. Rosie was very helpful while shopping (helping Auntie Gail to safely steer the cart around the store and then helping to move each purchase from the cart to the check out. She had many questions for me beforehand about what being blind might be like, and then over coffee when I’d left them at the table to go fetch our coffee, I looked back at them to see them happily chatting – Rosie had many more questions about blindness for my friend!

      Kids are pretty direct, as you know, so the more they understand about why and when and how, the better. See Zayna’s direct response to your questions about her book (above).

      Good luck with your continued healing!

      Take care, stay safe. . . ♥

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, yes it can! Especially when you’re asked loudly – and in public! – questions like: “What’s WRONG with that man?” I think keeping answers short and very simple, without too much detail at first, works pretty well. ♥

          Liked by 2 people

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