Being fair-skinned and occasionally coordination-challenged means that I have always been quick to bruise. As a kid, black and blue blemishes on my shins and elbows served as constant evidence of having a good time. My knees were perpetually red for years after multiple run-ins with mailboxes while attempting to ride my bike, and though I never got into fisticuffs, or even so much as a slap-fight, with anyone, I still managed to wind up with a black eye one time when I tumbled face-first into the wooden edging of a planter in the front yard.
Being on blood-thinner medication has not exactly improved this facet of my existence. Continue reading
Though the nurses warned me there would be good days and bad days, I think I still expected recovery to go fairly smoothly. After the hell I’d been through, surely I deserved it, right?
I don’t know how long it was until I woke up. I know I gained consciousness in ICU at some point — later my parents said when they visited me I’d tried, multiple times, to pull my breathing tube out — but mostly what I remember of it now is a Hollywoodesque montage of masked faces, bright lights, and a bite of strawberry jello.
I remember the exact moment I realized I needed heart surgery. After being sent to my cardiologist for an echocardiogram, I’d waited with bated breath for my test results. What I actually expected to see, I have no idea. At the time I was convinced my problems were mental in origin, that I was developing some sort of anxiety disorder — it would certainly have explained the panic attack-like symptoms I’d begun experiencing, including breathlessness and an increasing tightness in my chest like an invisible corset, the strings of which were being pulled tighter all the time.
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.