Always get a second opinion!! That is the very important lesson I learned this week. In my last blog, I wrote that my doctors had diagnosed me with a severely dilated right ventricle, and after three weeks of continuous testing they were still at a loss for the cause. I was told my only option at that point was a very invasive procedure called a Right Heart Catheterization and heart biopsy, meaning they would put a catheter into my neck and pinch a piece of my heart. I just about fainted when I heard that bit.
My mom had a gut feeling that this procedure was a bad idea so she insisted I get a second opinion at another hospital and someone up there must be watching over me because I was able to get an appointment with a world-renowned cardiologist the next day! The new cardiologist did another echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) and lo and behold he found a hole in my heart, or an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). He immediately scheduled me for what’s called a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) to confirm the heart defect diagnosis.
I vaguely remember sitting in the cardiologist’s office two days later, having just woken up from my procedure a few minutes before. My brain was still foggy from the anesthesia, but it didn’t stop me from staring at the ultrasound pictures of the 1.3 cm hole between my right and left atria. From what I remember from ninth grade biology, the right heart pumps blood into the lungs, which then returns freshly oxygenated to the left heart to be pumped to the rest of the body. However, because I have a hole between the two atria, some of the blood goes back into my right heart without ever going to the rest of my body so my heart has to work double-time to keep me alive. No wonder I’m always tired! Furthermore, the doctor pointed out that the wall of my right ventricle is especially thin, and had the first doctor biopsied a piece of my heart like he had wanted to, the results could have been disastrous.
For 22 years I’ve seen countless doctors who all but threw up their hands and said, “You’re healthy! There’s nothing wrong with you! Are you sure you’re not depressed?” And more recently, “Something’s wrong with you, but we can’t figure it out.” But I knew deep down that I had to keep searching for answers, and I am so happy that I did. Had this defect been left undetected for another 10 years, my chances of having a stroke or suffering from other complications would severely increase. A part of me wants to go back to every doctor who told me, “You’re fine! You’re just lazy. Do you work out? Let me write you a prescription for Prozac” and say to them, “Hey, Doc! I have a hole in my heart! Thanks for not believing me!”
Although the “I told you so” might feel good in the moment, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. What matters now is that I am finally getting the care that I need, and have an amazing support system consisting of my immediately family, friends, fans and everyone at The BIZ – I don’t feel alone anymore! In fact, I’ve never felt so loved. You all have been so wonderful to me and have helped to mend my broken heart (ha, bad joke!) in your own way.
The doctors tell me that if you are going to have something wrong with your heart, then this is the defect to get. I will need surgery to repair the hole in the next couple of weeks, but I’ve been told there’s a high success rate and I will be able to live a nice long happy and healthy life afterwards. I meet with my cardiologist again tomorrow and will get more surgery details to share.
Until then, I hope everyone learns from my story and will never, ever hesitate to go with your gut…in all aspects of your life! There will always be someone out there with more schooling than you, or more experience in a certain field, but you are the only expert on yourself – and yours is truly the most important opinion of all.
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