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It’s been a decade since...

September 14, 2013
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

I'm coming up on 10 years of my diagnosis of a congenital heart defect. I remember several of the events that led up to it. Early on a Saturday morning, the low coolant light went off in my dash. I went to get coolant and filled up the reservoir as I had to cover Minneota's Boxelder Bug Days. I managed to get to and from Minneota three times that weekend, and on Monday morning, my car's water pump finally decided to give. I got that replaced the same day. The following day I was sick to my stomach and threw up. I felt bad all week. I was starting to recover from that bout when I was told I still looked ill and I was fighting a couple of other symptoms, one being night sweats. I eventually dragged myself to the clinic where I was told I had a small heart murmur and was scheduled for a cardiac echo. The following Monday I learned the news that I had complete atrioventricular canal. It was a shock to say the least. Here I had gone through more than 30 years of my life with a bad heart of sorts. No wonder I was bad at running; now I had an excuse.

The surgery that came two months after the diagnosis was uneventful. And here I was agonizing over the "what-ifs." Like what if my mitral valve needed to be replaced? Or what if I'm that small percentage that doesn't make it through the surgery? I spent several nights looking up heart-related information on the Internet. I was a nervous wreck. But by 7:40 a.m. surgery day, I was prepared for anything. And when I woke up more than 4-1/2 hours later, I knew I had conquered my fear.

During the past 10 years I've tried to take better care of my heart. Whether it's trying to keep my weight down (which has been a losing battle these last few years) or making sure I don't consume too much sodium. It's not always easy. There have been times when I'm out hiking, and I'll still get short of breath (that tends to happen when I'm going up an incline, when it's humid, or both). One of the biggest challenges was going up the trail to Timpanogos Cave in Utah. The trail is 1 to 1-1/2 miles long and up 1,000 feet. There is a sign right away with a warning about those with heart conditions. But I hoped for the best as it had been a few years since my surgery. And I had a bottle of water. There were some trying times, and I felt like I was holding up the people I went with on the trail. Ross even took a photo where I was sitting on a bench for a rest. My pallor looked kinda gray. But I kept going, and we made it to the cave by our tour time.

Three years ago, I decided to join the YMCA. Now I know exercise is good for me, but I wondered how much stamina I would have. What I have found out is that I'm still not much of a runner, that the dancing exercise of Zumba is really fun, even if you are uncoordinated, and yeah, I can swing a heavy iron cannonball with a handle. Yes, there are times I can get winded, and there have been occasions where my heart will feel like it's beating out of my chest, but the key thing is that I can do it. And hopefully I'll be able to continue exercising on a regular basis for years to come.

Will I ever need another heart surgery? I'm not sure. So far, the cardiac echos I've had have shown no problems. Knock on wood.



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