“Courage, dear heart.” – C.S Lewis
As heart patients, we are used to weathering the storms of our disease; a disease that cannot be cured. We are born with these heart defects, some which can be repaired, and others that are masked with medication, and other treatment options. The longer I live with Congenital Heart Disease, the more I realize that it will always evolve and morph into something else or something new.
Just today, I stepped into my cardiologist’s office, hopeful that I could magically beat this disease, due to my daily rock climbing and running.
As my cardiologist pulled data from the device implanted in my chest, we quickly found an inconsistent picture. You see the normal heart beat pattern, then six irregular objects come along, a flat line, then a normal pattern. My cardiologist began to put ink marks on the piece of paper, talk with the assistant, then continued writing more things on the paper; they seemed perplexed, saying words I didn’t understand, and acting concerned. I finally asked them what it meant….
“Your heart was going over 300bpm over this 6-second window of time”. I looked at him with wide-eyes, and it took a second for me to absorb what he said. I didn’t realize that was a possibility. He asked me if I had remembered that day; it was a day that I had activated the device in my chest, due to what I thought was a palpitation. It was an evening with my son, and fiancé, playing wiffle-ball in the alley behind our garage. As I pitched the ball to my son, I felt my heart beat rapidly, without any noticeable pattern, and beat on my chest; I dropped to the ground and waited for it to go away. The event scared me, i walked inside, activated the heart device in my chest and broke down crying for about 60 seconds. I was afraid. After allowing myself to feel, I picked myself up, went back outside, and finished playing with my son.
Until today, I had completely forgotten about that event. Finding out from my cardiologist what had really happened disturbed me. As we continued discussing this new type of event he found, I realized the magnitude of having what is called Ventricular Tachycardia. When this type of arrhythmia lasts around 30 seconds, fainting can happen, followed by cardiac arrest. After discussing some potential options, we both made the decision to start me on a new type of heart medication. If any of you are heart patients, you know that beginning new medications is never something to look forward to. My particular medication will cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and a decrease in athletic performance. However, the medication is meant to relax my heart, prevent these potentially life-threatening events, and allow me to continue giving my heart the TLC it deserves.
I was told there is a potential that I will not be able to climb as hard and as long, that even running performance may decrease. Rock climbing is something that I fell in love with, and allowed me to become the strong, healthy, confident individual that I am today. When I was suffering from PTSD due to my life-threatening heart events, rock climbing taught me that I wasn’t weak; I was a strong individual who could accomplish and overcome any mountain in my way. I don’t know how I will respond to this medication, or how much it will affect my current life. What I do know, is that I will overcome, just as I have with everything else heart disease has thrown my way.
Congenital Heart Disease is an ever growing storm, but so are you. I think it’s up to each one of us to decide which storm is stronger. Keep the courage, hold your chin high, and don’t accept defeat. We are 1in100 and can beat any odd.
Be the storm.
“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.” – Mahatma Gandhi