Living with a Bandaid Heart- Life with ASD, PFO, and a Leaky Tricuspid Valve

Before Surgery: When my husband and I started dating in 2011, he agreed to exercise with us.  We were participating in at least one 5k a month and my oldest and middle son would run with me most days to prepare for them.  We were married in 2012 and by that fall I started to get tired often and we noticed my anemia was starting to get out of control. My heart rate was also between 110 and 130 and my blood was continuing to rise.  In February of 2013 my doctor found a murmur and sent me to a cardiologist.  Due to my family history and current issues he decided to send me for a Echocardiogram with bubble.  In this procedure they inject normal saline that has been mixed rapidly with air into your blood stream.  In a normal heart the patient should not feel any difference.  With my heart though, they found a pretty decent hole that was allowing the bubbles to go back and forth so that it felt like I was a human ant farm or my blood had been changed into champagne.  They decided I would need surgery.  They concluded that I had an ASD (Atral Septal Defect) /PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale),  in essence  I had a hole/ flap in my heart that should have closed at birth but instead,  after my first two births and constant stress, it continued to grow.  By March I was admitted to the hospital with a mini-stroke related to my heart.  I went from running a 5k to needing to take breaks while walking up the stairs in my own house.  My surgery was scheduled for the end of October, but with my heart continuing to get worse they moved up my surgery to August.  To say I was nervous was an understatement, but everyone was so kind and supportive that it made it bearable.  My Cardiologist was a Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon as it was not as common for adults to need this surgery.  He placed a Gore Helex in my heart  (which is the neatest thing ever).  It essentially places a patch on my heart and my muscle grows over it.  I also didn’t need open heart surgery and instead they went in through the artery in my groin.  My recovery was so fast and I was only out of work for a week.  My family was amazing and my children were so interested in the procedure, we watched videos to prepare for it.

 The Result? I felt better almost immediately, but it took a while for my heart to get used to not having a hole.  I went back to doing a 5k every month although now we walk quickly instead.  My heart rate is still pretty fast and my blood pressure is still high,  but now it is reasonably controlled with medications.  Less than a year later I was given permission to get pregnant and soon after my baby was born.
My Leaky Valve:  I went to the Cardiologist recently for a checkup and was informed that I still have a murmur, but he also found that I have a leaky Tricuspid Valve.  After I scheduled my Echocardiogram, I got in my car, cried, and then called my husband and mom.  Now I wait for my Echocardiogram and the results to see what happens next.  I guess the good news is, this explains my frequent migraines and being more tired than normal.  I thought I’d still have a few decades before I’d have to worry about my heart.  That’s okay though – with lots of prayer and my family at my side,  I know I’ll be just fine.
Have you ever had these surgeries or are you in the process of preparing for them now?  Or do you know someone who is?  What is it like for you?  How do you cope?


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2 Responses

  1. Kristenne says:

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