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Health Above All

Mar 25

Posted by: ACHA
3/25/2014 12:43 PM  RssIcon

By Brenna

Last night as I tried to pull my sleepy boyfriend off the couch, I realized that I might need to do more weight training. The fact that I can even consider lifting weights is a far cry from where I once was. If open heart surgery has taught me anything, it’s that the numbers on the scale don’t matter—being as healthy as possible is most important and should never be taken for granted.

After my first pacemaker implant, I was told that I would need a Fontan revision open heart surgery. I was 23 years old, didn’t even remember my first open heart surgery, and was deeply unsettled by this news.

Soon after the implant, I would be slipping in and out of arrhythmia. Trying to work out was impossible and I drowned my sorrows in mac and cheese. Four months and 15 pounds later, I went in for open heart surgery. In the hospital I was motivated to move around as much as possible, hoping to get out by Christmas.

Once the last tubes came out I went home and felt weaker than ever. My entire body ached, I couldn’t hold down any food, and I slept too much. I couldn’t even pick up a half gallon of milk. In one month I lost 35 pounds. I was finally the weight and size I had always wanted to be, but I was miserable.

Once I began cardiac rehab, regained some lost muscle mass, and started eating normally, I gained weight. I didn’t care. I knew my alternatives and I wanted to stay healthy. That first year after heart surgery, every move I made would make me nervous, especially workouts. I was still slipping in and out of arrhythmia. Once I had my last ablation, I knew I would still have to stay alert.

Nowadays, I try all the latest workouts: Kettlebell, Barre, TRX, Tabata—you name it, I’ve tried it. Of course I talk to my doctor all the time, and she encourages me to continue working out, but to keep the mac and cheese to a minimum—but she didn’t say anything about cupcakes! I don’t’ want to be thin; I want to be healthy. I work out for strength. Besides, who else will put my sleepy boyfriend to bed?

Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine.

Brenna is a happy, healthy marketing professional living in San Francisco. She loves to volunteer, talk politics and sustainability, find excuses to eat cupcakes, explore San Francisco, and try new workouts (TRX, anyone?). Brenna has had two open heart surgeries (one Fontan and one Fontan Revision) and two pacemaker implants. Follow her on Twitter @obisaacson and on her blog  

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