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Vanessa King’s Story

Cardiomyopathy Survivor, Age 54, Columbus, OH

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Vanessa's Story

In January 2013, I was busy at work.  I wasn’t feeling well, but went to work anyway.  After about two hours of working and a confrontation with one of my supervisors, I begin to feel worst.  I had had similar feelings off and on over the past three years, but all test showed everything was normal.  But this time, something felt a little different.  When my friend arrived to pick me up, I told him to go to the emergency room.

At the hospital, they began to run a few tests and the cardiologist on duty noticed that I had a distinctive heart murmur.  After several minutes, which seemed like hours, the cardiologist returned to my room and said, “Well your instincts were right this time…there is something wrong.”  He explained that they were going to do a heart cauterization to see if I had any clogged arteries and he had called in a technician to do an echocardiogram.  Fortunately there were no clogged arteries, but the cardiologist noticed something that let him know exactly what was happening and he cancelled the echocardiogram.

While performing the heart cauterization, the monitor showed that blood was seeping outside of my heart.  The cardiologist said I had a rare disorder called takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome), which mimics the symptoms of congestive heart failure; my left heart muscle had weakened, which in turn weakened my heart valve, so my blood wasn’t flowing the way it should.  He said if he could not get the seepage to stop, I may be dead by morning.  He explained that the next step was to insert a balloon pump in my groin area to take pressure off my heart so that it didn’t have to work so hard.  The cardiologist also explained that if this didn’t work, they would have to perform emergency surgery to repair my heart valve.  The balloon pump begin working almost immediately.  After three days and finding the correct combination of heart medication to help take the pressure off my heart, the balloon pump was removed.   The following day I was released from the hospital.

I had my first post-operative exam with the cardiologist a month after my release and he said my heart looked 100% better than it did while I was at the hospital.  The medication has continued to work and my heart is getting stronger every day; as long as it continues to work, I will not have to have heart surgery.   I still continue to take medication and will hopefully be able to stop taking at least some of my medication soon.

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Vanessa is interested in giving and receiving support from other women with heart disease. Contact her if you'd like to give and receive support.

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