11.11.2011

Getting to know me: my heart

So I mentioned in this post that I was born with a heart defect.

It's called Aortic Stenosis, and is actually fairly (I believe 1 in 100) common.  But, I think my defect was a bit more dramatic as most people live with a heart murmur or this condition throughout their whole lives with no issues.

My mom tells me that when I was born, she had to ask to see me after an hour or two, because they were still checking me out.  Which means she found out immediately that there was something "special" about my heart.







See how the aortic valve (almost right in the center of the heart) is sort of like a Mercedes logo?  Instead of having three "flaps", my valve only had two.

So, when I was six, just before Christmas, I headed into the hospital for open heart surgery to have the valve repaired.  My most clear memories from the experience:

  • my dad giving me a "fake" cabbage patch doll before we went to the hospital.  I totally didn't understand that because it was his birthday. Shouldn't I have been giving him a gift?
  • that night, a doctor or nurse showing me what was going to happen, and I think they used that doll (or a bear, that I still have to this day--and has also had open heart surgery {wink, what young kids do} ) to show me.  
  • having to miss our 1st grade Christmas pageant because I was recovering at home.  They sang "The Little Drummer Boy".  That song still holds a special place in my heart.

When I was young {think pre-teen years} the doctors told me I would eventually have to get my Aortic valve replaced.  At that time, they told me {and this is what I remember, might not be exact}: "you'll probably be about 35 when it needs to be replaced, you'll have a choice between mechanical or a cow's valve, you'll have to take a blood thinner for the rest of your live, so you will want to try and have kids before that."

Wow, how things change. 

When I was 25, I started getting short of breath with not a ton of physical exertion{if you are from Minnesota, I couldn't walk around the Metrodome without stopping}.  I remember a specific time when we were pulling bushes out of our front yard that I actually got dizzy as I was doing it and had to stop.

During my yearly visit to the cardiologist, I learned that very soon I would have to get a replacement.  {Hmm, guess I should have brought J#1 with me to that appointment.}  I went straight out to my car, called him and my mom, and frankly, was in tears.  

But at least medical advancements were on my side.  I had more choices as to what to have as a replacement, and decided to have a cadaver's valve so that I wouldn't need to take blood thinners and would still be able to have children without the use of blood thinners.   

I have a few photos from when I was in the hospital.  Not gonna show the one from RIGHT after the surgery.  That one is dreadful. This one is from the day I headed home. 
I still wasn't exactly looking my best. 

I went home, spent six weeks at home, and then another six working part time before being back at work full-time. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.   I successfully gave birth to two {beautiful & precious} children via planned c-sections.

Will I have to have it replaced again?  Likely, yes.  

But, hopefully, not anytime soon. 


1 comment:

The Expat Wife said...

Oh, I can't help but think about how stressed your parents must have been while you were little and especially when you needed open heart surgery.

You do look ill in that photo. I am really glad you have not had any serious ongoing issues and were able to have your gorgeous babies :)

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