Michelle Bingheim is always making music. Whether she’s in class working toward her goal of becoming a music therapist, or playing trumpet in the Western Illinois University wind ensemble.
Even though you can’t hear it, unlike her classmates and friends, Michelle’s heart is singing a song of it’s own with a different sort of beat.
“I have a hole in the wall that separates the left and right ventricles of the heart,” the WIU Junior said.
Michelle has a congenital heart defect – a condition nearly 40,000 babies are born with each year in the United States.
“As soon as I was born, I was only 3 pounds 4 ounces, so I was really tiny, so right away they knew that something was wrong,” Bingheim said.
She doesn’t let the her difference hold her back.
“I haven’t really had any limitations or anything, like I ran cross country in high school, and was in band and everything,” she said.
Michelle says she’s one of the lucky ones. She knows many patients with this birth defect endure surgeries and complications.
“Why am I so lucky that I haven’t had any issues, and like sometimes I think yeah I have a CHD, but can I call myself a survivor, because I haven’t had to go through anything compared to what other people have had to go through,” she said.
That tiny hole in her heart that never closed has actually opened doors for Michelle. She wants to use her little story to make a big difference.
“I have a shirt and I have a headband that I wear a lot of times, and people are like ‘Oh, I like your headband because it’s blue and red with white hearts.’ That gives you the opportunity then to share about why you’re wearing it,” Bingheim said.
Her experience with CHD is part of what brought her to study music therapy. One of her friends in the major, WIU Senior Caitlin Pennington says Michelle is someone you can always count on.
“She’s dedicated, very outgoing, she makes friends with everybody anywhere, and is very motivated to succeed,” Pennington said.
Although her CHD doesn’t cause many problems, there are always risks. She has to see her cardiologist every two to three years to make sure all is well.
For now, Michelle keeps beating to the sound of her own drum. She’s a Quincy native and plans to use her talents this summer right here at Western as a counselor for WIU’s summer music institute.