Faith, family and friends.
It's how Angele O'Link has survived three heart surgeries, three stomach surgeries, anxiety and depression.
The 26-year-old Coniston resident was born into challenge — at birth, she was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. O'Link suffers from tetralogy of fallot, which, she said, “basically means there are four things wrong with my heart.”
She has a heart murmur, an enlarged heart and both the pulmonary valve and aorta are too small.
At age three, she had her first open-heart surgery. Her second took place when she was 15. The most recent procedure was in August 2012.
Not surprisingly, her heart condition has had a significant impact on virtually all aspects of her life for as long as she can remember.
“I can't do a lot of things most people can,” she said.
As a child, other children would make fun of the scar on her chest, but she retaliated by calling it her “trophy.” She even went as far as saying she'd marry the man who kissed the scar — which she did.
If heart stress isn't enough, she recently began dealing with severe stomach problems. Acid reflux was the root of the problem. It caused third-degree burns in her esophagus.
“My stomach was above my diaphragm in my esophagus,” she said.
The first surgery on her stomach put everything back where it belonged. The next two were repair jobs, after wear and tear displaced the organ.
While her physical health is now stable, O'Link is still faced with a plethora of other challenges. Since her repeated stomach surgeries, doctors advised her not to return to work. She said she was really enjoying her job as a school bus driver, as it gave her the opportunity to spend time with her three-year-old son and let her interact with other kids.
When the doctors recommendation, along with her own pain, became too much, she was “devastated.”
“I loved my job,” she said.
Working also helped support her young family; A responsibility which now rests solely on her husband Stan, a mechanic.
“Life happens, but you keep going,” O'Link said.
Maintaining a positive attitude throughout her struggles has recently attracted some positive energy — something for which the young wife and mother is grateful.
To help ease the financial burden, local singer and songwriter Kassie Tyers volunteered to help. O'Link and Tyers grew up together and became close friends in high school.
On Feb. 28, Tyers is playing the Grace Family Church, starting at 6:30 p.m., and donating all proceeds to O'Link and her family.
“Kassie doing this fundraiser for us is amazing,” O'Link said. “I'm so grateful. I wanted to cry when she told us.”
Tickets to the performance cost $5 at the door. Merchandise and baked goods will be available, and donations will also be accepted.