3/11/2013 3:51 PM
Unlike so many with a CHD, I lived a healthy active childhood. I was always outside climbing trees and running around, took dance lessons for 14 years, and began training to swim competitively in high school. At the age of 16 I was undergoing a routine physical to obtain clearance to swim with the high school team. My new physician listened to my heart for an unusually long time and then asked, "Has anyone ever told you that you have a heart murmur?"
That question led to a few frightening months of ECHOs and catheterizations, and the advice of my doctor that I stop swimming competitively - the day before my first meet. The diagnosis was an ASD; the cardiologist was certain that he had passed the catheter through the defect but that I was incredibly healthy and no repair was needed. I was told I would need antibiotics for anything but routine dental work and sent on to live a happy life.
Six years later, as a graduate student in New York City, I began having 3-4 second episodes of arrhythmia; as soon as I noticed the flutter, it was done. There were never any other symptoms. One morning as I lay in bed, I began experiencing an arrhythmia that did not stop; in all reality it lasted only 10-12 seconds but in that time I began to black out. I called my parents later that day who called my physician who urged me to find a cardiologist in New York and not wait until I returned home to see mine. A TE echo (which was not available to my doctors 6 years prior) revealed that I did not have an ASD but did have Partial Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (PAPVR). Four months later, I underwent surgery to reroute the flow of blood; I went home 4 days after surgery. That was 17 years ago and I have been lucky to need nothing more than checkups from a cardiologist.