4/15/2013 9:45 AM
How-to guide for Truncus Arteriosus:
1. Be born with one outgoing valve, one ventricle, and a heartbeat that sounds “like a washing machine.” Through surgery, receive a VSD patch, prosthetic pulmonary valve and conduit.
2. Fail to understand the importance of this until Elementary School, when the mile run becomes mandatory for everyone except you. Glare at kids who call you “lucky”, but enjoy standing at the finish line with a stopwatch.
3. Be told by your cardiologist, every year from 9-17, that you will need surgery to replace the valve/conduit “probably next year.”
4. Wear a holter monitor one day in 7th Grade. Allow teacher to explain to your classmates that no, it is not a pacemaker.
5. Get permission to use the elevators in High School. Explain this to a 16-year-old boy, who is notorious for cutting class to do drugs in the cemetery, who yells at you for using the elevator. Explain this again to an aide. Be dragged to the nurse’s office anyway. Fail to receive apology when the nurse confirms your story.
6. Have second surgery in the summer between Junior and Senior year, to replace pulmonary valve/conduit and add stitches to reduce aortic valve regurgitation. Receive hilarious video from friends, but don’t have the heart to tell them that laughing hurts.
7. Go to college. Study abroad. Come back. Explain to Freshman girl that no, that is a scar, not a hickey. Tell your friends about her and laugh. Graduate.
8. Go abroad to teach. Realize you are terrible at it. Return early. Be told by your cardiologist, “Actually it’s good you came back now, because we just found out from an MRI we took 11 months ago, that your aortic valve is severely regurgitating and you’re at risk for heart failure.” Resist urge to bang head against wall.
9. All but beg the surgeon not to give you a mechanical valve, because Coumadin sounds terrifying. Have third surgery, receive a “state of the art” tissue valve from a cow, and laugh at the irony (you are vegetarian). Eat a baby aspirin every day for four years.
10. Live/work in Boston for two years. Love it. Move to UK for Grad School. Love it.
11. Experience symptoms of heart failure. Be told by clinical nurse “don’t worry, valves don’t just fall apart.” Eventually be sent to hospital to find out that, apparently, yes they do. Find out that one flap of aortic valve is not moving, for no apparent reason.
12. Make international call to parents. Hope they don’t freak out.
13. Have fourth surgery. Receive new pulmonary valve/conduit and mechanical aortic valve. Start Warfarin (UK term for Coumadin) and find out it’s not so bad. Feel amazing. Freak out housemates with the audible ticking sound your new valve makes. Hum songs in time with your heartbeat.
Steps 14-? Unwritten. Have amazing friends/family. Laugh at everything.