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Baby, I Was Born This Way

Thursday, January 12, 2012

By Alissa Butterfass

On my first date with my husband, he took me to a restaurant on the Upper West Side of New York, we discussed his upcoming vacation, and he told me he loved to cook homemade pizzas and apple pie (both of which he wouldn’t cook for me for nearly a year, by the way).

But this post isn’t about my first date with my husband. It’s about the last first date I had before I met my husband.

Coincidentally, it took place at the same restaurant. But more relevantly, it was with a cardiologist who I’ll call Dr. J. Great, I thought. We had an automatic topic of conversation. How could I not share that I was born with TGV? How could I not ask if he knew any of the many doctors I had seen over the years? It’s been more than ten years so I don’t recall everything we discussed that night—and it definitely was more than just my heart—but I do remember that it was he who told me about an emerging medical specialty to treat adults with CHDs. He even gave me some names to look up (So, thank you, Dr. J!).

When I told someone about the date the next day, she couldn’t believe I had talked about my heart condition on a first date. To her, it wasn’t first date material. She told me that I’d never hear from him again—which turned out to be true.

But here’s the thing about having a congenital heart defect. I was born with it. I don’t know life without my heart condition. It is as much a part of me as my blue eyes, my being left-handed and my love of chocolate. I tend to be a pretty open book to begin with, so it’s just not in my nature to filter my thoughts and conversations in that way. It’s not like I talk about my heart condition all the time or randomly bring it up at cocktail parties if it’s not relevant to the conversation at hand. But I was sitting across the table from a cardiologist, for goodness sake!

(And let’s just forget for a moment the fact that my body is covered with scars, so at some point if I am going to get physically intimate with a guy, I’m going to have to tell him, right?)

So, when is the right time to tell someone about having a heart condition? More than ten years later, I still think about this first date and still believe that it is never a good idea to feel like you have to hide something or that your condition is something to be ashamed of.

Sure, it may make some people uncomfortable, which is never my intention. I’m not trying to throw my medical condition in anyone’s face or make them feel bad in any way. But how or why would you keep such an innate part of yourself a secret?

What are your thoughts? Any stories to share, good or bad, of telling people about your heart condition?

PS—Years later, a friend of a friend ended up dating Dr. J. I heard he was a jerk to her, so his leading me to a cardiologist who specializes in ACHD is probably the best thing I ever would have gotten out of a relationship with him anyway. And, my very next date was with my hubby! Happy ending!

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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