My Beautiful Life

by Anna Ryden
(Duluth, MN.)

Since I was 5 I knew that one day I would have to have surgery. Of course, as a child this didn't present itself in the scary and serious light that it truly is. It was fact, nothing more to it. I had a congenital bicuspid aortic valve. I had echos done every five years until I went through puberty, then they upped it to every 2 years.

All was fine. I felt fine and had no restrictions. I even went into the military. My heart started to become an issue when I was about 23 years old. I didn't realize what was happening at the time. I kept going with my life as normal. When I was 24 I had my second son. It was about 8 months after having him I really started to have issues with being exhausted. I figured that it was from having a three year old, a seven year old and a new baby. I decided to join the gym. Working out usually gives people energy.

The first time that I worked out knocked me off my feet. All I could think was that I was very badly out of shape. I went back to the gym a few days later after I had "recovered" and the same thing happened. It was really a downhill slide from there. I started having to make choices. Choices that were odd, not good ones. "Do I take a shower or do I feed the kids breakfast?", "Do I do the dishes or sit down because I am so exhausted?" I decided that it was time to see the doctor.

My first visit I just did testing. Lots of testing. They were very thorough. I went back in for a follow-up. At this point I knew that it was my heart, I really didn't need to be told.

When I went to the doctor they had a different story for me. Do not ever let anyone tell you that you don't know what you are talking about in reference to your own body. This is so vital. Had I done what the doctor told me to do and not listened to my heart I would be dead right now.

I was told that I had depression and that there was no reason to look at the results of the test. The doctor tried to prescribe me pills for chronic fatigue syndrome. I left and did not fill the prescription. I saw a different doctor a month later that told me what I already knew. My heart was not in good condition. It had developed into a bicuspid aortic valve with stenosis and insufficiency and my left ventricle was pooling blood. That was the source of my exhaustion.

On July 5, 2004 I had aortic valve replacement. I was 25 and scared to death. I had my babies at home that needed me. The surgery went so well. No complications. I felt amazing even through the recovery. I was so thrilled with my new lease on life that I didn't care about my scar. I was very upset about the scar that would be left on my chest before the surgery, but now I find it the most beautiful reminder that we can overcome.

My scar did spread and is a bit larger than most. I have quite a few family members who ask when I am going to have it fixed. My answer is that it is fixed and that my scar tells my story. There's nothing more beautiful to me than my scar.

I am now 33 years old and am still taking care of my babies.

Comments for My Beautiful Life

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by: Anna

Good for you! I'm so happy to hear that you're doing well.

Life Take 2
by: Steve

Hi My Beautiful Life, I fully back you on trussting your own body. My doctor also diagnosed stress or some form of panic attack but decided to cover all bases and conduct ECG after I convinced her it was more than that which revealed a heart attack. Now 10 weeks later, triple bipass and better than ive been for a long time. I too am proud of my scar but then being male I think thats the norm wherever the scar is.

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