Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Interesting Story

This was posted on by Andy, a fit young man who lives in Australia. It is typical of the kinds of stories you read about people with heart valve disease:

My story seems quite common here: an asymptomatic, fit and otherwise healthy person suddenly finding out they have heart disease which needs fixing soon. Life is turned upside down; mortality suddenly becomes very tangible. I’m 42 and have exercised virtually daily for many years (gym, swimming, cycling, walking etc). In August 2008 I fainted while swimming (at the end of a final lap, sprinting as fast as I could). The fainting episode must have been brief as I didn’t take in much water (or drown for that matter!). While passed out as I was having a nice little dream (I can’t recall the details now but it was pleasant). It was thus something of a shock to come to underwater, out of breath and unable to breathe, rather than waking up warm in my bed. Even though I’d not fainted before I put off seeing a doctor for a month or so; he soon identified a murmur with the stethoscope and sent me off for an echocardiogram. I didn’t get the result until some weeks later, but the news relayed by the GP was grim: ‘I’m sorry to tell you this on your birthday, but I’ve spoken to the cardiologist and we think that you’ll need mitral valve surgery; don’t do any strenuous exercise’ (he knew that I went to the gym regularly).

That feeling of "this can't be happening to me" is quite common, especially in asymptomatic people who exercise regularly and stay healthy. That's why valve disease is sort of a cruel diagnosis. I'm lucky to have made it to 60 with a BAV. Many people don't make it that long before they need surgery. Still, while I consider myself lucky in one respect, I'm not happy about it. However, eventually everybody has some medical problem to deal at least I may be able to get a fix that will buy me some time.

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