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Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Change of Heart: An Introduction

(Author's note: This was written June 23, 2010)

I was born with restrictive cardiomyopathy of the right heart. I was undiagnosed until age 19. I had a hard time keeping up with my friends in childhood and my teenage years, but I was determined not to be a “wimp”. So, I pushed myself. Even after my diagnosis, I still pushed myself. It was how I lived and how I did all the things that I wanted to do. I went to college, then to work full-time. I led church choirs; I wrote and directed church productions. I sang and played keyboard full-time in a band for 10 years. I traveled, lost sleep, sang and played my heart out, set up equipment, etc. I did it, because I pushed myself.

At age 35, I went into congestive heart failure and, eventually, into chronic atrial fibrillation. I kept pushing, but my limitations were increasing. I could only push so far before my body could no longer respond. My strength was slipping away. I didn’t realize it at the time, but so was my life.

I told my doctor I was feeling weaker and he referred me to a transplant doctor for further treatment. I did not believe I would be a candidate. I didn’t think I was sick enough – which just shows how your perception is shaped by your experience. I thought I would need to have oxygen and barely be able to move before transplant would be considered or before I would consider it. What if I didn’t have the transplant? I heard the words: “Maybe a year.” I never expected it. My dad had the same condition. He hadn’t had the pacemaker/defibrillator and other medical intervention that I had and he lived to be 68. I was only 50. I needed a change of heart.

It happened fast. I was hospitalized and, within a couple of days, I was at the top of the transplant list. Within a few more days, I got the word about my new heart. I was transplanted on my birthday, May 6, 2010. What an amazing birthday present!

It’s been 6-1/2 weeks. My new life is just beginning. I’m still healing and making my way through the post-surgery process. I’m not pushing myself, but I can tell, when it’s time, the strength will be there. I have color in my face and my lips aren’t purple. My voice is stronger. I get more oxygen when I breathe. My body wants to move. I start cardio-rehab this Friday and I’m excited. I can’t wait to be stronger, to exercise more. I can’t wait to go bowling, walk all over an amusement park and a mall, ride a roller coaster, run on the beach with my brother, ride a bike with my husband…. I’m ready to go forward. I can feel the possibilities pumping inside me. I can push into the future with purpose, passion and power….I’ve had a change of heart.