~The next National Wear Red Day will be on February 3rd, 2012.
February 3rd, 2009
I grew up thinking I wasn't very good at sports, I was a bit lazy, and I especially hated running. In college, I started having more regular chest pains, especially after exercising. I tried swimming and got out of breath easily. Many different doctors had many different explanations: exercise-induced asthma, old chest injuries, etc. I just learned what I could and couldn't do and got on with life.
As I got married, moved, bought a house, landed a career, and moved on into the "adult world", I started having more chest pains, usually with stress. With my new adult life came health insurance so I insisted that I find a doctor who could tell me why my chest ached, sometimes so severely it would cause me to gasp in pain. We wanted to start a family but I refused to do so until I knew I was healthy. A simple EKG revealed that something abnormal was going on in my heart. Further testing was required, revealing symptoms that the doctors were very concerned about. I received a phone call that brought my life to a stand-still: the doctors let me know that my heart could have a serious condition that would require surgery very soon but we would do an MRI for more details to narrow down the problem. Upon hearing that something was seriously wrong with my heart, the one organ that seems so vital to our lives and well-being, I became very scared. I was only 26! How could I have a heart defect!?
Fortunately, the MRI revealed the lesser of the heart defect/disease evils - I had an Atrial Septum Defect - something normally detected at birth (blue babies), but somehow mine was lying hidden until now. This hole in my heart was causing a recirculation of blood, not allowing all of the much needed oxygen to make its way to the rest of my body - hence the many life-long symptoms I had displayed: easily tiring, easily running out of breath, 2 flights of stairs feeling like 4, and oddly -clubbing in my fingernails. My whole life I thought I wasn't very good at sports and that I was lazy - to find out my body had simply had to work around the lack of oxygen was sort of a relief in a weird way.
Ok - now what? We repair my heart as soon as possible. Thanks to modern medicine & a terrific surgeon, my chest was not cracked open (perhaps it was best to wait out those 26 years!) and the almost quarter-sized hole was repaired intravenously, with teeny cameras and tools, in an out-patient procedure and one miserable night in the hospital (I wasn't allowed to turn over and then stand up for HOURS afterwards).
In only a couple of months, my body had quickly responded to being whole-hearted, allowing me to breathe easier (stairs aren't so bad!) and work out harder in the gym - even the fingernail clubbing went away. I came out on the positive end of a heart problem, very lucky indeed!! I am somewhat of a "novelty" as my cardiologist said; my health profile (age, weight, gender, etc) doesn't fit this type of diagnosis very often so he is keen on keeping tabs on how my heart progresses over the years. My husband and I try to be more health-conscious, attempting to eat better and work out more. We are now expecting our first baby and are very happy to know that everything is going well and so far, my heart is still doing great.
11/19/09 - Added note - my heart was GREAT for the pregnancy! My cardiologist said everything was fine and I shouldn't have anything to worry about.