My defect was a surprise. My mother had a seemingly normal pregnancy, without any complications or difficulties. When it came time for her to push, my heart rate and pressure bottomed out. Then they lost my heart rate. Everyone started panicking and the room quickly filled with people. My mom said they “turned me, back and forth and front to back to try and get the heart rate back.” I didn’t respond. She was petrified that they were going to have to perform an emergency c section. Luckily, one of the obstetricians used a vacuum to help guide me out and I was delivered safely.
Soon after my birth, the neonatal team came to examine me to try and figure out why I was in such distress, and that is where they discovered the abnormal heart beat. Later they performed an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, and they discovered I was born with three holes in the muscle separating the two lower chambers of my heart. They weren’t impacting my heart function, but they were there and they were leaking blood. All other components of my heart were working fine at the time.
I was set up with a pediatric cardiologist, who followed me from infancy until my 18th birthday. I was an outpatient, and weekly appointments. Then I had monthly appointments for the first year of my life. This turned in every couple months, then biannually, then annually and now as an adult, I see my cardiologist once every five years and once during each pregnancy.
Two of the three holes I was born with closed on their own within the first two years of my life. The last hole is still there, and it still has a murmur and still passes blood. It hasn’t impacted me in any way. What is strange though, and baffles every cardiologist I see, is that the electrical pattern my heart emits is very different from a normal pattern. The way my heart beats is so strange that everyone is shocked that my heart functions normally.
My childhood was normal despite having this defect. I was able to participate in sports and other adrenaline based activities. I was able to ride a bike, go swimming and ride rollercoasters. I could have sleepovers with my friends, and do pretty much anything normal kids could do. The only real setbacks I had were always whenever it came to something medical. I had to have penicillin before any dental work. I had to wear a holter monitor annually to record my heart rhythm for analysis, and back in the day they were the size of Walkman’s. Not that easy to hide.
Now I see my cardiologist every five years, and once during each pregnancy. My most recent visit showed no additional struggles, and they recommended I would be okay for labor and delivery. That’s fantastic news. My labor and delivery with my daughter was without complication, and that makes me hopeful for this pregnancy as well. Unlike my pregnancy with my daughter, this pregnancy shows a minor issue: my son has inherited my heart defect.
Now I have even more appointments. I have more consults with my OB, and additional ones with pediatric cardiologists, anesthesiologists, neonatology and my own personal cardiologist. So far a fetal echocardiogram has shown that he has one hole, in the exact same place as mine. They don’t know the extent of what his heart issues are and they said they won’t until after his birth. This makes me nervous, but also hopeful that he has the same experiences as me. I will create a separate post explaining all about him, and our journey to discovering his ventricular septum defect. Subscribe to my blog to get an email for that post later on.
My defect is a nuisance, and I have to explain it to every medical professional I see. Other than that, I barely know that it’s there. I’m reminded every now and then of its presence, and it’s usually in the form of palpitations. They come and go, and make me lie down for a little bit but they don’t leave any lasting impact. I feel fortunate that I was born with the hole where it was born, and I escaped the need for open heart surgery or any risky procedures. I feel blessed to have lived the way I’ve lived, and try not to take anything for granted.