February is heart health awareness month. Did you know that I (Jess) am a two time heart surgery survivor.
My first surgery was in October 1984, just 4 months after I was born. The doctors tried a new procedure, and used veins from the back of my leg to repair my heart, instead of putting in synthetic ones that would have to be replaced as I grew.
They told my parents that I would be lucky to reach the age of 2. When I was 2, they told my mom I would be on medication for the rest of my life. When I was 5, they told my mom that I would be just fine. She never treated me like I was sick, and as she says “I just let you take naps whenever you were tired”. Now, I’m almost 32, and I KNOW I have limits, and I don’t push myself too hard (usually 😉 )…
Then, when I was 12, I started having crazy chest pains. I wouldn’t be able to breathe and it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. It didn’t last long, only a minute or two, but I’d be exhausted after. This went on for years. When I was 16, I finally started seeing a cardiologist again, and after just 2 heart monitors and 3 visits, I was told I needed to have another operation.
My cardiologist was stunned when I didn’t freak out, but honestly, after hearing for years the only reason I was having these chest pains was because I was “too skinny”, it was really nice to know there was an answer for it. There was a reason I felt awful. New Years Eve 2001, I went in for my second surgery.
Now, I’ve gotten an (almost) 30 extra years, and I’ve got a mini human. I love hiking, exploring, and in general, not defining my life by my limitations.