04 May 2017

Planning

I didn't plan to have a pre-existing condition.

I didn't plan to have it originally dismissed.

I (luckily) didn't plan to participate in athletics growing up.

I certainly didn't plan to have heart surgery in my mid-30s.

But it all worked out for me.

When I was born, my mom quit her job (not entirely out of the ordinary in the early 1970s) because the doctor said I had a heart murmur and referred me to a pediatric cardiologist. Mom and dad were relieved when the cardiologist said my heart was fine, and would fully develop to being 'normal' with no further treatment. Yay!

Fast forward a few decades...

I had a cough that just wouldn't quit. I wasn't very worried (it happened every spring and fall) but my primary care doctor sent me for a chest xray to see my lungs, since H1N1 was a thing right then. We got more great news - my lungs were totally clear, and my cough was just a cough.

But the doctor was very thorough. He said the lungs looked great, but a chest xray also showed my heart, and it was enlarged. Together we went over the list of risk factors that cause a heart to be enlarged, and I had none of them. So this was pretty odd for a 36-year-old woman with one child. He sent me for more tests.

Through an echocardiogram and a trans-esophogeal echocardiogram (blech - I don't recommend this one!), the first cardiologist said I definitely had a substantial ASD (atrial septal defect - a hole). The defect the original cardiologist when I was born had dismissed, had never healed over. My primary care doctor as an adult referred me to a fantastic pediatric cardiac surgeon, since I now officially had a CHD (congenital heart defect).

I am so, so grateful for my cardiac surgeon. Of course I consulted with Dr Google along the way, and that jerk said I almost definitely would need open heart surgery for my 14mm ASD. With all the long recovery required when your chest bone is cracked open. My surgeon however, said, "Nah! We got this." And he did. He and his team went in through my femoral artery with both a camera (to see what they were doing) and the device to fix the hole in my heart. To keep an already long story as short as possible, they did it! Subsequent tests have shown my heart returning to its right size, and my family and I are so thankful for everyone involved in getting us to this point.

Without this surgery and repair, my life expectancy would have been around 10 years more with the un-repaired heart.

My family could have now been planning my funeral.

Instead, I'm planning echocardiograms for each of my children when they're old enough to lie still for a half hour. I'm so glad it's financially feasible for us, and available, to have a full sports physical including an echocardiogram for my children.

I'm reminded of this whole story not only when I can run across my yard with the kids, but also solemnly when I hear of another child-athlete or young-person who drops dead from an undiagnosed heart condition. I think only half-jokingly how lucky I am that I preferred to read and write in school, rather than participating in sports.

3 comments:

GeekDad248 said...

Tough thing to go through but glad they found out the problem and you are going to be alright. As much as our medical system gets bashed they can really do some amazing things now to save lives.

Crystal Wachoski said...

That's such a beautiful story. I'm thankful that someone took the time to look into the matter further.

DetroitDuchess said...

I'm glad they were able to catch this and fix it! You are doing the right thing by taking preventative measures for your children.