Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hiking Up the Hill of Recovery

I'm not sure if I have shared my CHD discovery story on this blog yet, but this past week it has become relevant and so I will share here.  As a child, I was told I had two defects, Atrial Septal Defect and a cleft in my Mitral Valve. Both were repaired by Open Heart Surgery when I was 18 months old and the impression my parents received after the surgery was that I was cured. While I would need yearly (later turning into every three year) appointments, my family and I had come to believe I would not need surgery again in my youth, and if I did need surgery again, it would be 40 or 50 years into my life. Living under this idea I experienced life to the fullest, playing church basketball, mountain biking, dancing, singing... you name it, I tried it (although normally with very little skill). Still, I loved being active.  Under this mindset I agreed to go hiking six miles with a sorority sister last summer, the summer between my freshmen and sophomore year of college.  It had been ages since I had gone on a hike and the opportunity seemed like a great chance to get to know my friend better and enjoy the beautiful summer nature.  We started the hike together and everything was normal, but by the end of the walk I could barely make it 100 feet before I had to stop, rest and try to catch my breath.  I felt like I couldn't breathe and worried I was having a serious asthma attack.  When we finally made it back to our cars I gave my mom a frantic phone call and we decided to try two doctors: the allergist and the cardiologist.  While worried about the episode, I felt certain it was more related to being outdoors during heavy allergy season in combination with exercise induced asthma and not using an inhaler before the trek. However, after the allergy appointment proved I had very few allergies it became a bit more nerve-racking and at the fateful cardiology appointment the seemingly unlikely truth was realized: my heart was no longer working as it should.  That appointment was a catalyst to many subsequent ones and finally led to my surgery in December.

Since then, as you've read, I have been on the road to recovery.  Each day, week and month offering new abilities and opportunities, blessings and gifts.  This past week, with school behind me and my lovely boyfriend in town, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue further up the trail, and take my first hike since my diagnosis and the surgery. For me, it marked an important occasion.  I was finally going to try the thing which I had most obviously been unable to do before the surgery. It was one further test to prove my newly fixed heart was up to the life I wanted to live.  Alert with the giddiness of adventure, my boyfriend Ryan and I set off to hike through Paris Mountain.  We started on a simple, very flat, lake trail.  By the end, both of us were yearning for more adventure and so we proceeded to the next trail, the Turtle trail.  Then, realizing we were craving just a few more hills (probably more honestly, we yearned for more time to chat in such a beautiful setting) we continued onto the Sulphur Springs Loop.  In all, we hiked approximately 4 miles.  Here and there I would call for us to stop and take some breaks, but compared to my hike last summer,my energy levels and breathing were incredible.  I never made it to a point where I felt I could not go on, quite the contrary!  As we continued onto Sulphur Springs Loop an amazing amount of energy surged through my body, something I had not experienced before the surgery.  Every step was energizing and I couldn't help but continue on my energy kick.  The only thing that forced us to leave the trails (well... our feet were aching a bit) was our stomachs begging for food as it was nearing 2:00PM.  By the end of our adventure, smiles were plastered on both of our faces. Between the hobbling from blistered feet, we celebrated the incredible day and I was overcome with joy that through the surgery this activity was now possible.  My heart had passed the test. I could now do something not previously possible, as proven by the hike with my sorority sister last summer.  To me, this adventure proved my heart, at least for now, is prepared to pump me through my goals and dreams ahead.

While this surgery is not a permanent fix, it has given me a new lease on this incredible life finally evidenced by my hike with Ryan. I am alive and filled with new-found energy that has allowed me to complete all these ventures over the past few months, including my most recent undertaking.  I've been blessed with absolutely amazing friends who are willing to participate in my CHD recovery journey. To share on such an important venture with Ryan was an absolute gift.  I was able to combine the new energy from my heart, and the developed friendships I've experienced through this surgery ordeal.  Hiking up the hills in Paris Mountain I have reached a new height in my recovery.  With only 11 days left until my sixth month's OHS anniversary, I am hiking to a new level of potential possibilities.  I can now confidently attest that I am ready for the new and improved trail ahead!
Ryan and I during our hike at Paris Mountain

1 comment:

  1. Hi katherine, your blog has been such a great help! Im 25 and have my ohs in 2 weeks time and there is very little info in the UK for young people needing OHS. So thank you :)