Heart to Heart
In this blog, I am only going to talk about writing a little bit. Although, technically, I am seriously considering making the subject of this blog into a book at some point, so it’s either all about writing or, again, not all that much.
I’d like to have a heart to heart chat. That’s sort of a tortured pun, as you’re about to learn.
In November of last year, in a routine medical exam, the kind me and most healthy people have each year, my doctor heard something “funny.” Although he didn’t laugh, which indicated to me that funny was not the appropriate adjective.
What he heard was “funny” enough to schedule me for an echocardiogram, which is basically an ultrasound of your heart. Yes, now the heart thing is starting to come front and center. The test itself was a little painful—getting poked and prodded really hard with this jelly-covered metal and plastic brick—and a fascinating combination of sights and colors and sounds that was interesting but frankly meant absolutely nothing to me.
On the follow-up visit, my doctor told me I had a congenital heart defect, that I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve (normal people have tricuspid valves), and it was leaking. My research has found this to be called an aortic valve insufficiency, which sounds almost sweet, and aortic valve regurgitation, which sounds like it’s puking all over the place. But basically, every time my heart pumps blood out into my body, some of it slides back into the heart. And the heart has to work harder.
At some point, I would need to have the valve replaced. So, basically, the heart that I’ve had my whole life was turning on me.
Quick aside, a bicuspid aortic valve is the most common congenital heart defect, and it is estimated that between one and two percent of people are born with it. Many of them will die from it, or from complications caused by it because it wasn’t discovered in time.
I am lucky. Although my condition is severe, it was caught early enough that I have no symptoms and my heart has not been damaged. Many people aren’t lucky—which is why I want to eventually make this a book. I know one other person who has it and they basically pooh-poohed my concern. They get checked once a year and it’s “no big thing.”
Interesting fact: I have a lot of doctors now—no surprise there—not all of them can hear the bad sound my heart makes. I could have been undiagnosed. Instead of having open-heart surgery in February, which is the plan.
Since my diagnosis, I have had a barrage of tests and have begun counseling to ward off panic attacks and living in terror and dread every day. I’d recommend it.
There’s a lot more to the story—you’ll have to wait for the book—but I’ll end with a writing quote I like.
“That which doesn’t kill you gives you something to write about.”