On the evening of 31 July I had a raised heart rate (140 -150bpm) while trying to sleep, the hospital chalked it up to anxiety so I went home with some pain medication and rested at home that Friday. Once again, on the evening of 1 August I had a raised heartbeat, but this time accompanied with blood in my cough and so I headed back to hospital. Upon seeing the cardiologist and after a cursory echocardiogram, he was concerned and said that surgery will be required and that I will not be going home until the after the operation.
It was confirmed that I had a “severely regurgitated” mitral valve. On 10 August, after plenty of consultation and tests, it was decided that they would go in and replace my mitral valve with a mechanical St Jude’s Valve, at this point no cause of the condition was found. Finally, the surgery took place on 16 August 2015.
I spent 3 weeks in surgical ICU. I was told my valve was literally hanging on by a thread and blood was barely being pumped. Post-surgery in ICU was awfully traumatic, being surrounded by terminally ill patients, 4 patients passed away while I was there, I was on pethidine for 17 of the 21 days I spent in surgical ICU (an insanely strong, very addictive and comforting) sedative/pain killer, getting to grips with my physio rehab etc.
Thereafter I was moved to a general ward for about 5 days before being fully discharged and sent home.
This was an exceptionally frustrating time for me as the pain was intense and I was not self-reliant. With hard work and rehabilitation I finally got moving and started walking with accompaniment. My employer was awesome, they arranged for the Human Resources Officer and our wellness counsellor to visit me at home and start the counselling process. The support from family, friends, running friends, Cross fit community, random acquaintances from all aspects of my life was outstanding, it is still emotionally overwhelming now as I write this story.
All follow ups with surgeon and cardiologist were great, my recovery was well ahead of where it should be and all is well. I resumed work at the end of October 2015 and walking then turned into running! Being able to accomplish running was very emotional for me, I sat in the car for a good cry after managing 3km around the Rondebosch Common. I refused to stop there so I added hiking and rowing to my regiment as well as hill running. All my training prepared me for a milestone that I am very proud of, the Two Oceans half Marathon, done and dusted!
Today, life has gone back to normal apart from my lifestyle changes and the click of my prosthetic valve which clicks on every heartbeat, but honestly I don’t even hear it anymore. Lastly, I wear a medical alert bracelet, really not my style, but it’s for the best.