SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio woman who was told she wouldn't live long enough to go to college is graduating from Our Lady of the Lake University, and she hopes to inspire others who are also struggling with their health.
Sel Tope never let her heart condition stop her from loving life.
“When I was born, they gave me, like, a 50 percent chance of living just as an infant,” she said.
Tope was born with a rare heart condition called dextrocardia, which means only two of her four heart chambers are working.
“On top of that, I don't know which surgery it was, they actually punctured one of my lungs,” Tope said.
Over 23 years, she had 23 surgeries, but she finally made it to her college graduation.
“The hardships, the pain, the tears, the physical bruises I've been through to get to this point, they're so worth it,” Tope said.
Tope can’t play sports or be in the heat and she’s even been bullied, but she never let that dampen her spirit or her voice.
“In the hospital, instead of giving the little breather thing to practice how much I'm breathing, I would sing,” she said.
Come Saturday, Tope will graduate with a major in drama and a minor in singing. Her graduation cap is extra bright and reads “make your own sunshine.”
They’re words she’s lived by her whole life and that she’ll carry with her forever.
Tope will be graduating at the Freeman Coliseum, where she’ll be singing the National Anthem. She hopes to audition for plays and even become a professional singer. Doctors will continue to treat her heart condition.