All my life I’ve had a heart murmur. But I really didn’t think it prevented me from doing any activities.
This past year, though, something changed. Going up stairs, I was becoming more and more “breathy.” I chalked up my lack of stamina, as well as other symptoms, to work stress and menopause.
In November 2016, I went for my yearly physical. My doctor noticed the heart murmur was more pronounced. However, it was not considered urgent. I was scheduled for an echocardiogram the following May. I was diagnosed with severe Aortic Valve Stenosis.
On July 26, I put my life in the magical hands of Dr. Pallav Shah, who put in a mechanical aortic valve to give me new life. I was put at ease at every step, from meeting one of the surgical staff on the way to the surgical ward, to Dr. Shah’s comforting word as he greeted me and my family before going into the OR.
In the OR, I had my choice of music. I asked for Bon Jovi, which played as I was put under. I was so scared in the lead-up to that day, but that morning I felt confident knowing I was in such good hands.
After surgery, I was moved next door to the I.H. Asper Clinical Research Institute’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. My family tells me the staff were amazing, attending to me with compassion, while also giving comfort to my family. I stayed there for less than 24 hours and was then moved to the Cardiac ward on the 4th floor.
The rooms on the Cardiac ward were spacious and bright. And the team of nurses – oh those amazing nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists and various support staff all played key roles in my ability to leave the hospital 5 days later.
They didn’t just handle my physical needs, but also the emotional ones that surprised even me. Even the lab technicians that I saw for weeks after, because I was such a hard poke to draw blood, were gentle and compassionate.
Now my focus is on cardiac rehabilitation. I’m extremely grateful for each person who played a part, from my diagnosis to the operation to my recovery. My hope is that the next person who goes through what I did will be able to say the same thing.
I was 56 at the time of my operation. Just 2 months later, I was able to celebrate my 57th birthday.