This experience has taught
me the true meaning of
gratitude. I live every day
being thankful for my life and
for my daughter’s life.
what was happening to me, but I had to remain strong for my
baby in the NICU.
I was discharged from the hospital a week later and
referred to a cardiologist, where my cardiac journey really
began. My cardiologist confirmed that I had mitral valve
regurgitation and stenosis, aortic valve regurgitation and
tricuspid valve regurgitation. I was devastated. He needed
to know if the pregnancy and hemodynamic shift caused
my heart failure to worsen and so decided to follow up
with me after a year to see what my post-pregnancy
echocardiogram would reveal.
Sadly, a year later my follow-up echocardiogram revealed
that the mitral valve regurgitation was severe, and there was
some heart enlargement as a result.
After consulting with my cardiologist and doing my own
research, the decision to repair my valve was made. On
December 11, 2012, I underwent my first open-heart surgery.
It was terrifying. I felt a lot of emotions because I had always
seen myself as a healthy person and did not expect to
undergo heart surgery at the tender age of 31. The heart-valve
repair was successful, and after a six-month recovery period, I
was cleared to continue living my life as an active 31-year-old.
I felt the ordeal was over, but it was not — when I went
in for a routine echocardiogram in October 2015, I learned
the repair did not hold up and the mitral regurgitation had
returned. I was devastated and so angry. I had a lot of
questions about why my mitral valve repair did not hold for
more than three years, but we made the decision to replace
the troubled valve. On May 6, 2016, I had my second open-heart surgery. I opted for a tissue prosthetic valve, rather than
a mechanical valve, which means I will have a third surgery
in the coming years due to my age and the fact that tissue
valves deteriorate faster in younger people.
Today my daughter, Ashley, is a vibrant and healthy
6-year-old. I am fortunate to resume my active lifestyle with
no medical restrictions and only a daily medication regimen
to control my heart rate. This experience has taught me the
true meaning of gratitude. I live every day being thankful
for my life and for my daughter’s life. There is nothing I
could have done to prevent rheumatic heart disease, but I
want to help educate others about the importance of living
a healthful lifestyle. When I share my story, the standard
response I get is “you’re too young to have heart disease.”
This is a common misconception about women and heart
disease. I don’t feel sorry for myself; instead I share my
story to bring awareness to this issue through my work with
my local AHA chapter, as well as my heart disease blog and
podcast, called “The Heart Life.”