My Journey Begins ...My journey actually began back in early 2000, when for just 73 short days, I used the diet pills known as phen-phen. Pretty much as soon as I started taking them is when the massive recalls began because of the potential for heart damage. Well, I only took them for 73 days, my doctor said all should be fine, no worries. Then I started receiving the letters and phone calls to "get in" on the class action lawsuit. I wasn't interested in that, but my neighbor who had also taken the medication asked me to go with her to one of the big cattle calls where we would be provided with a free health screen and echo "just to be safe" and see if we qualified to receive any compensation from the lawsuit. I went, she was fine, I was not. It appeared I had very minimal damage, but damage nontheless. Thus began the journey of the yearly visits to a cardiologist to make sure the damage didn't get any worse and to monitor everything. This continued for many years until my cardiologist told me I didn't need to come back unless I started having any kind of problems. My damage was so minimal and hadn't changed in all those years, we figured it wasn't going to. Fast forward to July 4, 2015 ... at this point it has probably been about five years since I've seen my cardiologist. During the last week of June 2015, I had just received word that I was cancer free after a bout with cancer earlier in the year, so July 4th weekend was a true celebration for us. July 4th was on a Saturday, everything was good; that Sunday, July 5th, I started having chest pains. I blamed it on all the physical exertion from the day before and just took it easy. I called my doctor on Monday, July 6th and asked to see her and told her what was going on, she refused to see me and immediately sent me to the local hospital. I'm sure you all now the regime, test after test after test followed, a night in the hospital and then being told on July 7th that I had severe damage to my aortic valve and damage to the tricuspid and the myocardial valves as well - they recommended open heart surgery to fix it. So, at the ripe old age of 46, here we went. Little did any of us, including the doctors, know what they were actually going to find. Since I appeared to be okay physically and had not actually had a heart episode on July 5th, I was told that I could go home and we would start the process of getting everything scheduled. More tests, more doctors appointments. I was scheduled for surgery on September 15, 2015 a Tuesday. My family and I were told that this would be about 4 to 5 hour procedure. My surgery was 9 hours - when they opened me up - SURPRISE - there was a great big ole aortic anuerysm! This thing had never shown up in any of the tests I had done prior to the surgery. The cardiac surgeon told my family it was the largest one he had ever seen inside the aorta in a living person (that's an awfully scary thought). He told them that he did not know how it had not burst and why I was still here for him to operate on.
Fast forward ... a year later, and while I am still struggling with the weight, I feel the best I have felt ever! Prior to my diagnosis and my surgery I had felt bad for years with no reason why. Myself and my family doctor blamed it all on my weight, most of the women in my family are overweight but have always been full of energy and overall healthy, but I accepted the "overweight" logic. I had little to no energy, could hardly walk from my front door to my mailbox without being completely out of breath and just sweating profusely from the exertion. Today, I am walking a minimum of one mile at least 4 to 5 days a week, riding an exercise back and spending so much time outdoors with my grandkids it's unreal. My family makes a trip to the mountains every year during the Thanksgiving/Christmas time frame and I've never been able to do much but sit down somewhere while the rest of the family ran around the little town that we go to, I couldn't physically do it. In November of 2015, just two short months after my surgery, I walked the entire town for the first time ever!!! I only sat down to rest one time.
My journey is far from over, they were not able to repair 100% of the damage so there is still a small amount of leakage, but I'm taking it day by day, following my doctors orders and feeling the best I've ever felt! I am eternally grateful to my entire team of doctors and nurses, that literally saved my life on September 15, 2015.