December 30 is a special day for me—it is my heartiversary, and this particular December 30 marked the one-year post-surgery milestone! For heart patients, I know three months, six months, and one-year post-open heart surgery are all big deals, but I think the one-year mark is the most significant. On my heartiversary, I decided to spend the day with reflection and time celebrating with loved ones. It was a wonderful day, but the most amazing and encouraging part of all is thinking about what a difference a year can make!
On December 29, 2014, I organized my closet and room. It was exhausting and took far too many hours, but felt great. I was listening to music and drinking tea, and my mind was completely relaxed, preoccupied with only the task at hand. On that same day a year ago, December 29, 2013, I was in a car headed to the hospital. I remember being really quiet and only talking to my family when I needed to ask questions about how a 24-year-old should fill out an advanced directive. Even though my surgery was low risk, the day before felt very heavy and real, and my mind was preoccupied with anything and everything you could imagine.
On December 30, 2014, I slept in until 9:30. I went to a Pilates class at 11:00, lunched with a friend afterward, and met my loved ones for celebratory drinks and dinner downtown. Really rough day! A little over a year ago, on December 30, 2013, I believe I woke up at 5:45. I remember feeling tired, but so relieved that the day had finally come! I showered and washed my body with the weird orange soap for five minutes. Once I got to the hospital, everything was a bit of a blur in terms of timing. I think I waited in a room with my family a bit, then changed into my outfit for surgery (that was weird), prayed with my family and the parishioner on duty, and then was wheeled away. I felt so ready and hopeful, but obviously very anxious (although the drugs helped with that). After arriving in the OR that morning, I don’t remember anything until about 4:45 a.m. the next morning when I heard the good news!
Like I said above, it is so wild the difference a year can make. No doubt 2014 was the most challenging year of my life, but it was also a really good year. I am so thankful for everything that’s happened and I really wouldn’t change a thing. 2014 was a year of major personal growth, perspective change, and amazing family/friend support. It was a bit of a selfish year, rightfully so, but still—it was all about me and my health. When I look back on the pain and struggle I experienced immediately after surgery, it blows my mind to think I’m now complaining about being sore from a workout or feeling sick after too many Christmas cookies. Within a year, I went from totally dependent to independent, a very strict diet to too many holiday indulgences, no stairs to running 5Ks, and a mind preoccupied with my heart rate to worrying about what to wear on New Year’s Eve.
It’s embarrassing to admit how much my perspective has shifted as my health has improved, but I think it’s important to be aware of that change and remind myself of it constantly. I am forever grateful for my skilled doctors and a successful recovery. I also know that what I’ve been through is not even on the same level of how most people struggle every day. So, as I wrap up the year of me and my heart, I want to remember all these things I learned: life is so very precious, health and loved ones come before all else, and the little things, like how cool your Instagram feed looks or what restaurants you frequent, are never of importance compared to the big picture.
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