Thoughts Before My First Open-Heart Surgery

My heart never bothered me until I entered my sophomore year of college. I felt different. I was tired; I still am. I had trouble going up a flight of stairs and making it in time for my next class; I still do. After a failed catheterization over spring break my junior year, I was faced with my worst fear. Some people fear spiders and snakes. My greatest fear was and remains open-heart surgery (although I am still deathly afraid of spiders).

Things started out slowly. I was experiencing palpitations at random moments. My parents, worried, would rush me to the hospital, only for all my EKGs to come out normal. Well, as normal as a CHD patient’s EKGs are. I still have these palpitations. While I was still sedated from my last catheterization, and my cardiologist broke the news, my heart rate shot up to 162 beats per minute (bpm). My cardiologist thought I was having another palpitation episode, but the truth was, this was my reaction to the devastating news.

I am meeting my surgeon in two weeks, as I finish up my junior year. I will be taking next semester off to take the time to recover. It’s hard having an invisible illness. In part, having a CHD is a constant mental battle for me. Many times, I cry myself to sleep, asking God, “Why me?” And then I think of my younger sister and am thankful she doesn’t have to face these hardships. I am thankful for my best friends, whom I wouldn’t dare to wish this upon. I am thankful for my parents, who are in good health.

With CHD, every day there’s a war in my head. One second, I’ll be carefree, oblivious to the fact there’s something wrong with me. And all of a sudden, a feeling of anguish will fall upon me. I sit under a tree on campus and watch some students throwing around a frisbee as finals week comes to an end. I long to be a part of them. I want to join the Indian dance team with my Bollywood-obsessed friends. But at this point, my heart cannot take it. Heck, I had enough trouble attempting to pack my apartment into boxes and take them to my car.

I am a firm believer that everyone was put on this earth for a reason. I am here to fulfill my purpose. I may not know what that is yet, but I know I am a fighter. I can do anything. I have hope. I pray every night that my surgical team will succeed in replacing my valve and creating a powerful, healthy heart once more.

And I will come back stronger after this. Stronger than ever.

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