I walked through Grand Central Station. I passed NYPD officers hoping that I wouldn’t be stopped, hoping that I would have to explain the wires and the device I was wearing. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what suicide bombers felt like. The difference: my weapon of destruction wasn’t explosives, it was my heart.
After knowing for 15 years that my mitral valve prolapsed, the monitor that hung around my neck would help determine what I always knew was inevitable—surgery. The weeks that followed were disrupted as if someone had strapped explosives to my chest and threatened to set them off: I was consumed, I was stressed, and I was impatient. After feeling like crap—immense fatigue, panic and anxiety, dizziness, inability to concentrate, palpitations, and depression—for over three years, I had a reason and a solution and I couldn’t wait to get back to my old self.
When I was first diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, an EMT friend of mine told me:
You’re the healthiest sick person I know.
Then, racewalking half-marathons and hiking were regular leisure time activities; working out every morning, and eating well were as much a part of my schedule as waking up. While my activity level has been in a state of flux over the last decade and a half, my diet has always been on the healthy side. So, even though I tired easily, get winded, and get light-headed, I just powered through it. Never did I make the connection that my bum heart was making me less fit.
Fast forward to September 2013, the heart monitor, and walking through Grand Central Station, my cardiologist’s voice still echoing through my head:
You need surgery.
Yes, it was time. My heart’s structure had been compromised, but my stress test was excellent—thanks to my physical prowess all these years. Despite its handicap, my heart was strong.