Early on in my childhood, I could feel that something wasn’t quite right. I became easily fatigued and my heart would beat in such a strange way that it would scare me sometimes. At that young of an age I was too afraid to tell anyone because I knew it meant a trip to the doctor. I think I had what they call “White Coat Syndrome” (Basically the fear of doctors).
As I got older the condition worsened. Too much excitement would send my heart into a strange erratic beat. It was almost like having a muscle spasm in my chest. At one point my heart fluttered so long it caused me to pass out in class. This was the point I knew I had no choice but to visit my physician,
Sitting in the cold room waiting to see what test they were to run and how many needles they were going to be poking me with set off another crazy fluctuation in my heart and I nearly passed out from it too. This is not to be confused with a panic attack (I have had those most of my life as well) it is a gurgling, off beat, almost painful rhythm that leaves you breathless and lightheaded.
To my great relief, the test they chose to use to check out my heart was an ultra sound. Not to say they didn’t use a few needles for blood work but that was minor. As the placed the “warmed” jelly on my chest area they moved the instrument back and forth, clicking things on the monitor and taking notes. It was all foreign to me. I had no idea what ventricles were or any of the other medical jargon they were using meant. I was only nine years old at the time.
The results were there almost instantaneously. I suffer from a not so uncommon congenital heart defect. It effects more women per year than it does men. The name of my defect was Mitral Valve Prolapse. This is where the flap of the mitral valve does not close properly and allows blood to flow backwards into the heart. It can range from mild to moderate and in some cases severe. I was fortunate enough to have a moderate case.
There is no repairing this condition. There is only a change in lifestyle and being a child at the time – I was definitely not ready to slow down. I had to though. No more sports, or anything that could over exert me. I was to remain calm as often as possible and not rough house and so many other things children enjoy doing. I could ride my horses though and that in itself was like being given a gift.
As I have grown older I have truly learned my limitations. I am not held back from leading a normal social life. I’m able to drive and I have two beautiful children. One of which unfortunately I passed the gene to and now suffers the same as I did. Fortunately she has learned that it does not limit her ability to live life to its fullest. Only to be cautious in the activities she pursues.
For extreme cases of Mitral Valve Prolapse some doctors choose to prescribe medication while others take a more invasive route and attempt to surgically repair the valve itself. I have been very fortunate thus far, as well as my daughter, to not have to go to such extreme measures. I can say now though, if it were necessary to save one of our lives, I’d give consent in a “heart beat”.
There are many horrible things people are diagnosed with each year. I feel fortunate that my case is mild compared to others. I will not and have not let this defect control my life. I keep it in check by staying healthy and active (not overly) and enjoying every minute of this beautiful life.