Monday, September 19, 2011

Impetus

This past Thursday (September 15, 2011), I walked into the cardiologist's office at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, fully expecting this visit to be like so many I'd had before. But this one would be different and would be the impetus for the creation of this blog.

In early August, I went for a bike ride along Chicago's lakefront path after work (a common thing for me to do in the summer), and I later woke up in the ER at Northwestern, completely unaware of what had happened. The doctors and police officers who were there told me that I had been in a bicycling accident. According to reports from witnesses, it looked like I swerved to avoid hitting someone or something on the path and then just fell. (I have no reason whatsoever to think that I was attacked or that there was any foul play involved.) As it turns out, I had a concussion and (likely) a seizure just after falling; but I have no recollection of the accident. Aside from a small scratch on my left hand and one on my left elbow, I had no physical signs of any injury: no broken bones, no major cuts or gashes, and no major pain. I later discovered that my bike helmet was cracked in about four places, clearly explaining the concussion.

Because of my preexisting heart condition (which very well may have been conveyed to the emergency responders thanks to my Road ID), I was put on a heart monitor while I was in the hospital. Thankfully, all of my tests had come back normal, and the necessary period of observation had passed after I spent the night there. The attending physician was preparing to discharge me the next day; but in the final moments of printing out my release paperwork, she discovered an arrhythmia that hadn't shown up during the rest of my visit. Long story short: I wasn't getting released that day!

This past Thursday's appointment with the cardiologist was a follow up visit that was scheduled while I was still in the hospital in early August. The doctor would review not only the results of all the tests administered in the hospital, he would also review the information collected from the heart event monitor that I wore for a month following my release from Northwestern. What I expected would be a brief visit with the cardiologist mirroring those that I had growing up turned out to include a preliminary recommendation for another open heart surgery to address a pulmonary artery aneurysm!

During my visit, the cardiologist took a great deal of time and care to talk with me about my overall health and activity level, to interpret the results of my various tests in great detail, and to clearly explain why he believes a surgery is necessary in the coming months. At this point, however, nothing is definite. The doctor is meeting with the surgical team in the coming weeks; and they will schedule another follow up appointment with me in mid-October, at which time they will present to me their joint recommendation, presumably to proceed with the surgery in the near future.

I've created this blog for three distinct audiences and for three distinct purposes:
  1. For myself: to document this upcoming journey, both for the immediate therapeutic benefits and the longer term archival purposes;
  2. For my family and friends (I am very fortunate to have such an incredible support network!): to keep everyone as up-to-date as possible with all the details; and
  3. For the public (eventually): to provide others with a glimpse into the life of someone who is living a healthy adult life with a congenital heart defect.
Regardless of which category you fall into, I welcome you to this journey!

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