By Mike Beas
In January, Meghan O’Brien was named Champion Senior Showman at the National Junior Swine Association’s (NJSA) Southeast Regional in Perry, Ga.
For this and assorted other reasons, O’Brien, a junior at Danville High School, has had her reasons to smile.
Perhaps foremost is the fact O’Brien, who has experienced her share of uncertainty in terms of her health for the past year, is again enjoying a sense of normalcy.
“It’s been really hard. But just having family and friends and the things I enjoy made it a lot easier,” said O’Brien. “What I’ve learned most about myself is that I’m stronger than I thought I was.
“I’m not taking life for granted, and am enjoying the moments I have with my family.”
O’Brien has lived the majority of her 17 years with a disease that primarily affects children under the age of 5.
“When Meghan was 4, she was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. It’s extremely rare, and is only diagnosed based on symptoms,” said O’Brien’s mother, Ginger. “She had a swollen neck lymph node, and cough and cold symptoms that progressed to fevers.”
Meghan O’Brien spent nearly a month at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis following her initial diagnosis.
In the years that followed, she has returned to Riley cardiology and endured numerous tests and procedures all the way up to today.
More recently, Meghan called her mom in March complaining of chest pains. She was taken to the hospital where it was discovered Meghan had 100% blockage in her right coronary artery.
She was sent to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where a stent was placed in her heart.
This past December, while at Riley hospital for a follow-up appointment, it was discovered Meghan was again experiencing 100% blockage in her right artery.
This time around, doctors chose not to place another stint.
“Her vessel was so damaged and her blood flow was so disrupted that another stint could have caused a blood clot,” said Ginger O’Brien. “Her heart function, thankfully, is now totally normal.
“At the time, it was the scariest time in my life. In December, it was a smidge of relief because they said she’s stable and nothing should change.”
Besides family and friends, being involved in 4-H is also close to Meghan O’Brien’s heart. She started shortly after completing her third-grade school year.
Meghan likes to show pigs, having won Senior Showman at the Hendricks County 4-H Fair; O’Brien has twice won at the Indiana State Fair in Senior Showman and Intermediate Showman categories.
“I tried out a couple of other species, and pigs just stuck with me,” said O’Brien. “The things I enjoy the most are the competition, and I like that it teaches me responsibility. And, I’ve made a lot of friendships through 4-H.”
Her involvement in 4-H has potentially poured the ground floor of O’Brien’s eventual career, as well.
Said Meghan: “I would definitely like to stay around the (agriculture) industry because I’ve grown up around it.”