Today is a HUGE day for me. It is my second birthday…yes, you read right. I get 2 birthday’s every year.
You see, 16 years ago today I was given the 2nd chance at life. I was born in 1972 with a heart condition called a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). At that time, it wasn’t as well known as it is today and I honestly can say that I don’t know what kind of prognosis my parents were given. I do know that they took me home, they loved on me and that I had a cardiologist for as long as I can remember. I went yearly for check ups and was always told that as I got bigger, the hole in my heart would get smaller and it would eventually close.
I played sports as a child and even tried out for the Jr. High Tennis Team and the High School Swim Team. I didn’t make the tennis team but I did make JV swimming and really enjoyed it. In college one of my roommates played on the Rugby Team and I even participated in that. As far as I knew I was fine, healthy and my heart was working as it should.
Fast forward a couple of years. I was 20, newly married, working full time at a daycare and loving my “adult” life. It was time for my yearly check up so I went because I always went and knew that it was important. Much to my dismay something was not quite right. My doctor asked me to come back the following week for a stress test. Stress was right – he had me run on a treadmill for at least 20 minutes and I remember getting so tired and not being able to make it the entire time. The following week he called me with the results….my heart was in BAD shape and I was going to need more tests. I had those tests done (of course) and then I got the call….I was going to need surgery. Like, now….not next week or next year but NOW. I don’t remember much about that following week except that I met with a surgeon on a Friday. He explained to me what was wrong with my heart and that it wasn’t going to close or fix itself. He needed to fix it and he needed to do it then. He asked me if I was available on Monday. What??? No…I am NOT available on Monday!! I had a classroom full of kids that I needed to think about, my mother lived out of state at the time and he expected me to be off work for 6-8 weeks!!! Was he totally insane??
He agreed to give me 2 weeks to get my life worked out, get done what I needed to get done and the surgery was scheduled.
So on January 28th, 1994 I had surgery at Swedish Medical Center. Ironically this was the same hospital that I was born at. The surgery went as planned and by late afternoon I was in ICU, awake, alert and hungry! I remember asking for food (which I was denied!) and staying up very late that night to watch Johnny Carson. I had not been able to watch him for years and was so excited! The nurses that night thought I was totally crazy. They kept telling my I needed to rest and I was not going to have any of that until after his show was over.
I was in the hospital for only 4 days, discharged on Feb. 1st, 1994 and my life has never been the same since. If you knew me back then, or ask any of my friends I was a walking zombie getting through life before the surgery but did not know it. I didn’t know what it was like to have a heart that worked properly until after it was fixed. I had several follow-up appointments with both the surgeon and my regular cardiologist and after only 1 year was given the all clear! I would never need to see them again!
So today I reflect on all I have been able to do since then. I was told that without the surgery I would never have children, I would get sicker and sicker and that basically my life was half over! That means that had I not done it, today, at 37 I would be either on my death bed or near that. I cannot imagine! I know that God has so much more planned for me and I am so thankful that I had good insurance at the time that paid almost all of my $24K+ bill, that I had a supportive family around that was willing and able to take care of me during my recovery. That I had a great boss who understood I needed to do this and that I am still here today to share my story!
Today I celebrate my second lease on life!