“I have been followed by a cardiologist practically since birth due to a heart murmur. During childhood, I was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and underwent a spinal fusion when I was 12. I then underwent a spinal reconstruction when I was 21 as my spine had spiraled over the years, crushing my lungs. That surgery left my spine straighter (secured with three rods), but my lungs took a hit from the trauma of the surgery. I was down to 25 percent after all was said and done. Breathing was never my strong point after that.
So I went about my everyday life. I was followed by a wonderful cardiologist who diagnosed me with mitral valve stenosis. It didn’t seem like a big deal. I took some medicine and carried on with my everyday life. I graduated college and started my career in fundraising. I got married in 2000. I landed a great job working for two Philadelphia sports teams and life was good. Our daughter was born in February 2005 via my sister-in-law who was our surrogate. We were blessed beyond belief.
Then it happened. In August 2005, I was washing baby bottles (you never forget what you were doing when something like this occurs), when I lost vision in my right eye. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I covered my left eye to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and when I did, I saw nothing. At first, I thought something was wrong with my contact, so I calmly went upstairs and took out my contacts, and again covered my left eye. This time, it wasn’t completely dark, rather blocked by a strange jagged image. I walked downstairs and told my husband and we rushed to the emergency room. By the time we got to the hospital, my vision had returned, but I was scared beyond belief.
They said I either had a mini-stroke, or an optical migraine. I saw specialists in Philadelphia and Minneapolis and it was decided that I needed to have my mitral valve replaced…open heart surgery. We acted quickly and I underwent the surgery on April 13, 2006 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Because of my lung problems, I had some post-surgical complications, (one of which resulted in implanting a pacemaker), and was still oxygen-dependent when I was released from the hospital five weeks later. I battled back and returned to work (with my oxygen tank in hand) exactly three months after surgery…July 13, 2006…my 33rd birthday.
That was nearly 13 years ago. I always say I feel like I live on borrowed time. Every day since my surgery is a day I thought I’d never have. I seize the day. I smile. I laugh…often. I treasure my family. In 2013, we adopted our second daughter. Shortly thereafter, I decided that I wanted to work closer to home so I could spend more time with my family. I was lucky enough to be hired by the Y in the Development office. I love the work I do, the people I work with, and the mission of the Y that helps members of our community receive the programs and services that they deserve, regardless of their ability to pay.
Since my heart surgery in 2006, I have been involved in one way or another with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women. My family has been taking part in the Philadelphia Heart Walk for the past five years and we’ve raised nearly $5,000 during that time.
Life is too short and I plan to make the most out of my borrowed time.”