As a child, I loved the outdoors. I could play outside for hours on end, despite the weather. Growing up through my teenage years into adulthood, I found that it was becoming more and more difficult to be outside. One day at age 29, I decided to take my boys out for a hike at our local state park. We were no more than a quarter of the way on our hike, when I became short of breath. We turned around, and headed back home, as this was not normal. I scheduled an appointment with my physician who put me through a battery of tests, including a holter monitor. When the results came back, it showed that I was having some tachycardia events, and it was suggested that I follow up with a cardiologist.
The cardiologist I seen was the same man who treated my grandmother and father for their heart conditions. Given my familial history, he wanted me to have an echocardiogram just to be on the safe side. The conclusion of the echo was that I had mild to moderate aortic insufficiency. He said that all was ok, but in 30-40 years time, I would have to have my valve replaced. I went back to lead the life that I was previously living.
4 years later, I had relocated to Pennsylvania and fell victim to the economy. I had lost my job and all health care benefits. The day following my last day of work, I was admitted to the hospital with various symptoms including shortness of breath, swelling of the limbs, and dizziness. I informed the emergency room doctor of my previous diagnosis, and he ordered a consult with cardiologists. Seeing it was the weekend, I would have to wait until Monday, as I was not in a life threatening condition. Within that time period, I had seen all different types of doctors, trying to rule out different things on what was going on. When I finally saw the cardiologist, he had me go for a TEE. It was determined that my AI had progressed to moderate to severe. Despite what the cardiologist had found, the in house doctor thanked me for wasting his time, discharged me with the diagnosis of panic/anxiety, telling me that it was all in my head.
After that visit, I was not able to follow up with a cardiologist because I did not have medical insurance. I had gone to the ER several times with the above symptoms, but now I was having chest pains. The ER went through their normal routines of EKG’s and blood work. All which came back normal, and I was sent home every time with them saying the same thing that it was all in my head, despite them knowing about my Aortic Insufficiency.
In late 2009, I finally acquired a full time job with benefits. I was finally able to follow up with the cardiologist that found my heart condition had worsened. I updated all of the tests that they had done in the hospital, to come to the conclusion that I had been in Congestive Heart Failure, since the time he did preformed the TEE. He requested that I follow up with the cardiovascular surgeon.
At age 34, I am now as happy as I could ever be. I had a successful aortic valve transplant, and am loving life as much as I did as a child. I can now sit outside, watch my boys play, and breathe normally, all due to this surgery. I am so thankful that I followed my gut and headed back to the cardiologist that seen me in the hospital. I am a SURVIVOR!