Well doctor, am I going to live?

Usually when we go to Hopkins for the day, it’s related to Corey’s CHD. But not yesterday. Yesterday was for me.

My own heart is weaker than normal. This is a result of viral myocarditis, which means that a virus attacked my heart and left me with scar tissue. The attack and resulting scar tissue weakened my left ventricle. And it didn’t just happen once. It happened twice. A cardiac MRI (otherwise known as 90 minutes in a dark tube spent holding my breath – panic attack anyone?) showed two spots of scar tissue in my heart. Two viral attacks. Lucky me!

After the first viral attack, which happened around the time of Corey’s birth, my ejection fraction (ef) was 45% at its lowest. A normal ef is between 55-70%, though many experts consider 50-55% to be borderline normal. 45% is abnormally low. So I asked my cardiologist what my long term prognosis looked like. He hedged. This led me to believe that I was on borrowed time. He also told me that more children were out of the question. That news hit me like a sledgehammer in the face, because I only had Corey, and he has a life-threatening condition. What if I was doomed to have only one child, a child with CHD? 

Because I am a firm believer in a second opinion, I went to Hopkins and got one. My Hopkins cardiologist, Dr. Schulman, disagreed with the other cardiologist and gave me the green light to have a second child. And thank God, I had my beautiful healthy-heart Mason.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Another viral attack occurred, leaving my heart weaker, requiring me to take medication and dedicate myself to an exercise regimen that would strengthen my weak left ventricle. Which I have done, and happily my heart function has improved. Unhappily, however, Dr. Schulman advised me not to have the third child I wanted so badly. I was hoping for a little sister for Corey & Mason. But having a third baby would have meant leaving the babies I already have. I chose to stay with them. It was the right choice, but it still saddens me. Nobody should have that choice taken from them.

So where am I now, six years after the birth of my second child? Six years after the second viral attack? Has the medication and exercise worked? Am I still on borrowed time? How long with the boys have their mother? Will I live to meet my grandchildren? 

To try and get some answers to these questions, I spent almost all day at Hopkins yesterday. There’s been so much new construction recently that Hopkins has more towers than a medieval castle. So I got there at 7:20 AM, checked in at the wrong tower, hoofed it to the right tower, and then finally had everything in order and plunked my behind in the waiting room chair at 7:55. At 8, the nurse came to get me, and it took 90 minutes to get my echo done. That’s a long echo, but not too much of a surprise. My shortest ever echo was 45 minutes – I am hard to image. ??? I’ve heard this grumbled at me so many times by so many different techs that it must be true. I wish they’d give me a lollipop and let me watch “Shrek” like Corey does for his echos. 

I finally saw Dr. Sculman in the afternoon, and the news was good! Better than I hoped, actually. He showed me my heart. My ef has improved to nearly 50%! And there are no signs of hypertrophy (thickening of the heart wall). That’s the big concern with a weaker left ventricle. But all the exercise is keeping the muscle strong. Yay!

And that wasn’t the best news. The best news I got yesterday was that I will in fact live to see my grandchildren. Unless something else kills me, of course. But my heart is not going to give out. Dr. Schulman didn’t hedge on this point. He said with confidence that I look good and should continue to look good for decades to come. I love that guy.  

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