Introduction: Of Malfunctioning Hearts and Mechanical Parts

I am not your typical lab rat. I am, as of this writing, a twenty-four-year-old ginger non-obese American who, for the first twenty three years of her existence, lived a relatively healthy, relatively normal life. My worst medical complaints were migraines and the occasional cold or bout of the flu. I never had food poisoning, never got into smoking or drugs, never so much as broke a single bone or needed stitches. The only daily pill I took was a vitamin.

That all changed back in December 2014 when I found out rather suddenly I was due for open heart surgery.

The bicuspid aortic valve I’d been born with (and barely knew anything about) was in the process of breaking down, causing severe damage in two other areas of my heart. Aortic valve replacement surgery was my only option, and (for reasons I’ll go into in a later post), in the end I chose to swap out for a mechanical valve.

My life changed overnight with a single test result, and my concerns about anxiety disorders transformed into abject terror at the thought of surgery. Despite several doctors assuring me I could, and would, wait till after the holidays, I was equally terrified of dying before I ever even made it to the operating table. As time passed and complications inevitably cropped up my condition worsened, and so did my fears.

The thing I craved the most at that time was reassurance. I wanted to know I would be all right, that I could beat this, that this drastic change would not be for the worse. I wanted to know what to expect from the surgery, but also beyond. I wanted to know what life would be like on the other side of the looking glass. Other people’s successful surgeries became my bedtime stories, and I spent many a night browsing the internet for a vlog, a blog post, a forum thread, anything and everything applicable to my situation.

Tick Tock Ticker is my attempt to help others the way those stories helped me. It’s a drop in the bucket, of course, just one blog floating in a sea of words and memes and cat videos. But maybe someone out there right now is facing a major surgery and is just as scared as I was. Or maybe someone with a mechanical valve like mine is frustrated with their circumstances and looking for a little hope. Maybe, just maybe, I can help these people in some small way.

If I’m honest, this blog is for me, too. This is me practicing the art of literary alchemy in an effort to transmute some very bad memories into something meaningful and good.

Image (c) Kim Berkley 2015

To be clear: I am not a medical professional, and I have absolutely no training in any health-related field of study. Any information and advice I offer here is strictly casual in nature and personal in origin. While I will attempt to answer any questions or comments as candidly and constructively as I can, I am not a replacement for a doctor, pharmacist, life coach, etc. I’m just a girl with an experience and a willingness to discuss it. I can’t cure you — but maybe, with a little luck, I can help you weather the storm.

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