Acceptance of My Diagnosis
When I was first diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, I never knew that my journey would end up changing the trajectory of my life. I didn't realize I was in heart failure until it had advanced significantly. My former cardiologist failed to closely examine the signs until I experienced another stroke. To make matters worse, I was relatively young when I received the diagnosis.
A life-altering diagnosis
As a healthy and athletic 25-year-old, it was a complete shock to me. I had always been the healthiest person in my household. I started competing in sports at a young age, and health and fitness have always been deeply important to me. In fact, my passion for health and fitness led me to become a personal trainer.
Facing limitations while following my passion
A few years later, I began participating in fitness competitions while also training others. Some people mistakenly believed that I was using steroids, attributing them to my heart-related journey. Little did they know that it was a result of hereditary issues and a family history of heart disease.
One of my dad's cousins passed away at a young age due to a heart condition. In those days, there was not as much research conducted, and the technology wasn't as advanced. Interestingly enough, I experienced my first stroke backstage at a fitness show. Along with the diagnosis, I faced limitations that drastically changed my life. I can still vividly hear my mom and my uncle urging me to find a low-stress job since my heart wasn't pumping efficiently.
The possibility of cardiac arrest
The limitations were primarily physical. I couldn't go to the gym, and I had to monitor my intake of vitamin K from leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce. This was necessary because I was taking warfarin, a blood-thinning medication. Those familiar with the drug know that vitamin K aids in blood clotting, so I had to limit my daily intake.
The doctors believed that by ceasing my workouts and reducing stress through medication, my ejection fraction would improve. Consequently, I stopped exercising for about 4 months and underwent an echocardiogram, which showed that my ejection fraction had only increased to 25%. It was at that point the doctor recommended the implantation of a defibrillator in case of cardiac arrest.
Discovering the power of acceptance
I remained in denial for a significant portion of my heart journey until I received a diagnosis of advanced heart failure. Prior to that, I lived the life of a typical 25-year-old, enjoying outings with friends and being the life of the party. I was independent and employed. However, upon being diagnosed with advanced heart failure after my second stroke, the reality of my mortality hit me, and it completely changed my perspective.
I remember on my 31st birthday in November, I came to the realization that life with the LVAD was now my reality. Instead of dwelling on my limitations, I started focusing on what I could still accomplish. I adopted the mindset of making the best out of a difficult situation.
Soon after accepting my new life, I was placed on a heart transplant waiting list in December. By February, I received a call that a suitable heart was available for me.
Heart failure is a continuous journey
Each person's journey is unique, and not everyone experiences what I did, but maintaining a positive outlook and cultivating gratitude can be immensely helpful. As someone once said, there are always people who are worse off than you, so it's crucial to concentrate on what's going right rather than what's going wrong. Even with a heart transplant, my heart journey continues. The journey never truly ends.
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