When David & I moved to Florida in 2003, I was 32 years old, and we had a PLAN. He had a job lined up in the construction business, and I was ready to start work with the school district as a bus driver. In mid June, I went for a D.O.T. physical, and was denied certification because I had a heart murmur. I had never had a murmur before, and was sure there was a mistake. I went to a different clinic the next day, and the Nurse Practitioner confirmed that I did, in fact, have a murmur, but it was not so severe that I couldn't be certified. She made me promise that as soon as I had health insurance, I would see a cardiologist. I cried a lot that day.
I started work the next day, and when I finally was eligible for coverage, I saw a cardiologist. He ordered an echocardiogram. It's an ultrasound picture of the heart that measures openings and blood flow. He said I was in pretty good shape, but that I had Aortic Stenosis, a thickening of the aortic valve. I was told to expect a valve replacement surgery in my future, but "probably not until you're 50 or 60."
I returned for another echo in 5 years, and also had a stress test. There were no changes indicated in my condition. We moved out of the county in 2007 when we bought our home in Holiday. I switched doctors all around, and my new cardiologist put me on an annual schedule for ECG. I was still in the "Mild" range of stenosis, but inching toward "Moderate."
In January 2013, I was moved up to "Severe Stenosis" status (SCARY!!!!!!) and sent to the hospital for a cardiac catheterization. I am proud to say I had no blockages or leaks! After the procedure I had to stay flat out in the hospital for 8 hours. They were pumping fluids in to me and kept bringing me cups of water. After 8 hours they released me, and shortly after getting up to pee and getting dressed, I nearly fainted. My blood pressure went down to at least 55/30, so they kept me for the night.
Come to find out, they were hydrating me to get the dye out of my system (makes sense, right?). I was offered a bedpan by a rather unenthusiastic CNA, and I declined due to modesty and inexperience (I didn't want to make a mess....and I have NO IDEA how to use a bedpan!) No doctor or nurse ever told me I needed to pee. So when I finally stood up after being flat for 10+ hours, and drinking about a gallon of water, and having an IV in my arm for 8 hours, then voiding all that fluid, what do you think would happen? At least I was sitting in a chair. I guess it gave David quite a scare though, because the crash cart was in my room in about 1.6 seconds. Anyway, I went home at 5am the next day, with quite a lot to think about.
I met with the cardiologist to go over the results of the procedure. He said I was getting closer to needing surgery, and wanted me to meet with a surgeon. I made an appointment with Dr. Joshua Rovin of Cardiac Surgical Associates in Clearwater. He looked over my most recent ECG and catheterization results, and said I'm not currently a candidate for AVR - Aortic Valve Replacement - yet. He wanted to see me again in 6 months. Phew!
In August 2013, I went to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater for an ECG, and the tech asked me why I was a candidate for TAVR (Transcatheter aortic valve replacement - it's a minimally invasive surgery usually reserved for those patients too frail to survive open heart surgery). I said I wasn't, as far as I knew. She said, "That's all we do here." And that, folks, gives me a glimmer of hope that I won't have to have the full-on open heart surgery. That's the most terrifying thing to me. Anyway, Dr. Rovin gave me another 6 month pass, but did say that my AVA - Aortic Valve Area - is getting smaller, and my surgery is getting closer and closer. I should expect to start experiencing more symptoms.
I don't know if it's the power of suggestion or not. I do sleep more. I don't have as much energy. I get shortness of breath walking up a flight of stairs or after stretching intensely. If I lift 2 or 3 heavy boxes in the span of 10 minutes, I'm EXHAUSTED. When I get chilled, it takes a long time to get warmed up again. And I can sometimes feel my heart pounding in my chest.
When I go to sleep, I am careful to make sure my ear is not folded over, or my arm is not touching my ear. Because then I hear the flub-whooshizzle instead of the healthy flub-dub. And then I don't sleep. At all.
I had full open heart surgery on March 5, 2014, to replace my aortic valve. I am the proud owner of an On-X mechanical heart valve, and instead of flub-whooshizzle I now sound like "flub-DUB-tick." I'm 42, and looking forward to at LEAST 42 more years of happy, active life!
More Info About Me & My Heart
More About Me
I am from:
Oak Ridge, TN
My surgery date is:
March 5, 2014
I was diagnosed with:
Bicuspid Aortic Valve