I have always been very active. My family works hard and plays hard. From as early as I can remember my mother had instilled in me the importance of healthy food and nutrition. This was a priority I kept with my four children and my husband. As my children got older I even found time to exercise more...4 to 5 times a week.
In September 2009 I began to feel progressively worn down. I also felt an anxiety that increased over a month and then never seemed to go away. Indigestion was becoming a problem with almost everything I ate and I had a pain between my shoulder blades that would not subside. At first I thought I needed to get more rest and that I was just under stress with the extra traveling my husband had been doing with work.But when I began to feel a slight discomfort in my chest, especially at night while trying to sleep,I went to my family doctor. Over two weeks I was treated for seasonal allergies, possible acid reflux, and had an ultrasound to check my gall bladder. I wasn't feeling any better so despite a low blood pressure, good heart rate and a normal EKG I was referred to a cardiologist. The cardiologist heard a slight heart murmur but wasn't alarmed saying this was common in thinner women. Given my physical symptoms I was given a wide array of tests that same day. Finally, an echocardiogram revealed that I had a heart birth defect that I had never known about. A week before my 42nd birthday I was diagnosed with BAVD (Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease). My valve was wearing out and the extra work my heart was doing was progressing my physical symptoms rapidly.
I sought a second opinion at Cleveland Clinic where my diagnosis was confirmed. Despite a healthy diet and exercise, I had heart disease. I was born with a defective valve that needed replaced or repaired. On January 7th I had open heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic to repair my bicuspid valve. The stress for my husband and children was intense, but we were surrounded by supportive family and friends and good doctors.
Just a week and a half after surgery and it is amazing how well I am recovering. I know I still have a ways to go, but I also know my family and I will recover well. This is something we will always live with so we will continue to stay educated.It is more important than ever that we have a healthy lifestyle and let others know that heart disease does not discriminate.
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Elizabeth is interested in giving support to other women with heart disease. Contact her if you'd like to receive support.