Project Sunshine first met Natima when she was only eight years old and recovering from heart transplant surgery. Today, Natima is a dedicated college student and proud Project Sunshine volunteer. Learn more about how Natima became part of the Project Sunshine family in our interview below.
Project Sunshine: What was it like growing up with a medical challenge?
Natima: I was born with a heart defect and had only one chamber in my heart, which made it very weak. I had to stop going to school at 6 years old, and I spent most of my childhood life in the hospital. I was not able to act like a kid and do what everyone else my age was doing. My favorite thing [school] was taken away, and I always had to be careful not to overly exert myself because of my heart. Although I am grateful for the transplant, it was also a time of sadness for me. I really just wanted to be a kid again.
Project Sunshine: When did you have your transplant surgery?
Natima: Almost thirteen years ago – January 27, 2006. I waited in the hospital for my heart for three months.
Project Sunshine: How did you feel when Project Sunshine volunteers arrived at the hospital?
Natima: I was in my bedroom at Columbia Hospital, and I remember that day I was very upset. I thought that it was finally my turn to get out of the hospital and go home but was told that I had to stay longer. Later that day, I was told some better news…Project Sunshine was visiting! It was so refreshing to have someone new come in and hang out with me and actually have some fun while I was in the hospital. Project Sunshine has been a source of happiness for me from that point on. When I was named “Miss Project Sunshine,” it took my breath away. I finally felt like I was a part of something for the first time in a long time. It is an amazing feeling to be a part of an organization that helps children and understands what children need while being treated for all kinds of medical challenges.
Project Sunshine: What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Project Sunshine?
Natima: The first word I think of is “sun.” Project Sunshine always knows exactly how to brighten a child’s day, spread happiness, and spread positive energy.
Project Sunshine: What would you tell your six year old self today?
Natima: I would tell myself to always keep smiling, keep positive thoughts, and hold onto faith.
Natima volunteering over the years [left]. Natima at a recent Pediatric Heart Transplant Reunion program at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital with her cardiologist Dr. Addonizio and Project Sunshine’s Executive Director Whitney [right].
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