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Heart to heart with Lauren Simmons

Natanga Smith

Heart to heart with Lauren Simmons

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LAUREN SIMMONS walks around with a seven-inch scar on her chest. But it doesn’t bother her.

She says she wears clothing that makes the scar prominent, so much that she forgets about it.

“I can see the stares . . . . I can feel the stares . . . . But it doesn’t affect me. People have summed up the courage to ask me about it and I have answered their questions. I feel better when they ask rather than stare.”

Lauren is in her final semester of her degree programme in dance and theatre at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

“I have a love-hate relationship with dance. I started when I was five years old and stopped when I was 12,” said the past student of Rock Christian Primary and St Ursula, adding that she was doing ballet. Lauren said she got into dance at UWI after she changed her major.

“I actually enrolled to do psychology and I needed an extra course and saw the dance course. I started that and in that same semester switched to dance. In my second year I got introduced to theatre.” Lauren said her parents, Andy and Melena Simmons, were supportive of her decisions, with dad coming around a bit later than mum.

“Dance is a challenge . . . . A personal challenge for me. You not only have to have your body right but also your mind, and spirit. “But there is no greater feeling when you put on that costume and your hours of practising pay off. It is a rewarding feeling. You invest in your character also in the dance piece.” Lauren said while she still gets short of breath, the heart surgery doesn’t affect her.

“I had the surgery when I was seven years old. They found out about the congenital heart defect when I was three months doing a checkup but the doctors said to let me get older to do the surgery.”

While the doc did say Lauren could have lived with it, as she got older it would have presented more issues.

“My aunt had the same problem and did the surgery. My parents said let’s get it done,” explained Lauren, who said the heart problem symptoms were similar to those of an asthma attack. She said she was continually monitored in the years leading up to the surgery.

“We did it in the summer so as not to miss school. I wasn’t nervous but more excited to go back to school.”

Lauren said she was a brave girl, going into the surgery by herself as her parents weren’t allowed.

“I was a happy girl in the hospital. I had a grand time. I made many new friends. My brother Jared, who is older, took it harder than me.”

The surgery was a success.

“The scar, it seems to affect others, not me. My aunt who had the surgery bought me turtlenecks and high collar shirts, assuming I should cover up,” she said wistfully, adding she wasn’t insecure about her scar.

Lauren said she sometimes forgets she has a scar.

“I think it’s cool actually. People stare then look away and when they feel curious and get comfortable they ask about it. I love the beach so I am there a lot in my bikini top,” adding that while she isn’t bothered about her scar she is more insecure about her weight.

Lauren said when she was about 18 she had chest pains and it was a harmless scare, but they were vigilant because of the nature of the surgery.

“I had occasional chest pains and went back thinking it’s something major, but it was just acid reflux,” she said laughing loudly.

Lauren said she eventually wants to end up in artiste management, a field she is highly interested in.

“I am still not sure what my life will end up to be. When school is finished I want to backpack and travel the world. I want to see things, learn new languages, new cultures. My mum is from Trinidad so I am always there, so I am fascinated by different cultures.”

When asked why not end up in dance she said: “To do that in Barbados you have to have that drive. I enjoy the benefits of it as I get to perform in different events, even with the National Cultural Foundation Crop Over programmes and at school but I don’t have the passion to do this for a lifetime.”