At just twenty-eight years old and as a first-time-mom-to-be, Melissa Thomason, a former public school teacher, suffered a Type I aortic dissection in October 2008. Melissa survived her first open-heart surgery that day and two more in the year that followed. She was diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder, Loeys Dietz Syndrome, that same year. After discovering that no one on her healthcare team had even heard of LDS, the passionate teacher very quickly became her own best advocate and a champion for Patient Engagement. Today, Melissa works to inspire others to believe in the transformational power of Patient Engagement. She serves as a Patient and Family Advisor for Vidant Health System in Eastern North Carolina, chairs East Carolina Heart Institute’s Patient Advisory Council, and sits on NCIOM’s Patient and Family Engagement Taskforce. She has shared her story with hundreds of healthcare workers and has finally “found purpose in all of the pain.” She lives in Eastern North Carolina with her husband, Will, and her now-five-year-old son, Nate.