Michael Novak is the St Mary’s Star

By Anne Corelli-Grover BBC Travel Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. Advertisement Though he may look like a smiling glowing St Mary’s star, Michael Novak is anything but – this is…

Michael Novak is the St Mary's Star

By Anne Corelli-Grover

BBC Travel

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. Advertisement Though he may look like a smiling glowing St Mary’s star, Michael Novak is anything but – this is a real-life circus performer and in many ways he is the most challenging ‘St Mary’s Star’ they have ever worked with. Michael was born with a congenital heart defect and it was a fairly early pregnancy that warned doctors that he had a very high chance of being born with congenital heart disease. And so on her third pregnancy – Michael was born needing open heart surgery when he was just 18 days old. His mum Diane said that in her worst moments she would find herself refusing to let her child live and in those terrible weeks she became aware that Michael had become her strength. “Michael was born with this very open heart condition, which made it quite difficult to live in the beginning,” says Diane. “I certainly didn’t think he’d be able to survive the initial stages of his life. “So when things became difficult we had to rely on a lot of support at home.” Expensive operation Again living with that kind of uncertainty is almost all too familiar for Michael, a Canadian circus performer with a heart that has been given the right kind of help to stay alive. He will undergo another operation, which involves two open heart operations in six months, once his contractions have been accompanied by breathing difficulties and an inability to swallow a normal meal. We’ve been on a great journey – we’ve had a lot of help along the way

Michael Novak So is it a life of constant worry? “I do worry but it is a lifestyle choice I’ve chosen so I am not worried about the future,” says Michael. That lifestyle choices is a key aspect of having a life full of possibility. Michael has been living with a challenge for the last 13 years since he was born. He has had to wear a defibrillator for over seven years, while also having two other operations, and since age five has been waiting for one of the first cardiac stents in the world. These are “widows” which are placed under the heart to keep a swollen section of artery from completely collapsing. For the past 15 years his regular cycle of life-saving surgery has meant that he has had to miss school regularly. At times he has been refused admission because he did not have his medical certificates. Later he would have to be supported by the Canadian emergency services to drive back and forth from hospital, no where near home. “There have been a lot of changes to our lifestyle and we are thankful that we have been able to enjoy something as fun as a circus show to keep us busy,” says Michael. So although being on the road can be stressful, it is only temporary and Michael is determined to make the most of it. In his battle to survive is the sheer strength of this Australian-born circus performer and he knows that. “I am not a typical circus performer,” says Michael. ” I’m thankful that I have everything I need at home. “We’ve been on a great journey – we’ve had a lot of help along the way and this show makes us just want to get on and enjoy life. “I really do appreciate how hard everyone works and gives their all to make a show better.”

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