I remember riding with my parents and sisters in our station wagon as we made our way to my grandparents' house in Euclid, Ohio. I was going to be entering the Cleveland Clinic in a few days for heart surgery.
We were fortunate that my Mom's parents lived so close to the Clinic. I was 19 years old at the time and had just completed my junior year of college--it was the summer of 1983.
I had what I would call the typical childhood growing up in the 1970s. I remember playing outside for hours and riding our bikes all over the neighborhood. And who could forget those pogo sticks we all had to have? I don't remember when I started experiencing issues with my heart, only that in junior high I passed out during a choir concert. I recall being told not to stand with your knees locked.
I graduated from high school and began my college life at Alderson-Broaddus College. I began feeling very tired all the time so my Dad got an appointment for me with his cardiologist. You see, Dad has lived with heart disease his entire adult life. Dad's cardiologist examined me and did an echocardiogram in his office and could tell right away what my problem was. I had patent ductus arteriosus. PDA is a condition in which a blood vessel, called the ductus arteriosus, fails to close normally in an infant soon after birth. This condition leads to heart murmur, as well as abnormal blood flow between the aorta and pulmonary artery. The doctor said my heart was working harder than it should due to the abnormal blood flow. I had been living with this problem since birth! At that time, no one in WV was performing surgical repair of PDA in adults, so my journey to Cleveland began.
I realize now that I was fortunate to survive with the condition undetected for so long. The surgery went well and I spent a few weeks at my grandparents' house recuperating. That was almost 30 years ago.
I tell my story in hopes of raising awareness in women that heart disease is not just a man's disease. We as women are the caretakers and superwomen who do it all at home and at work and we tend to put ourselves last. You must take care of your heart so you will be around to receive all that love you give brought back to you!