By Kelly DiMaggio
24 Jun

COVID-19: An Eye-Opener For Life With CHD

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has certainly turned everyone's world upside down, and my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected. To every single person working as essential personnel, thank you doesn't even begin to cover it – but thank you! While the last three months have been a huge adjustment for many, I can't help but think how quarantine has offered people a glimpse into what life with a complex CHD is actually like on a normal basis. It's strange to feel like – for once – the rest of the non-CHD world and I are on a level playing field.

Quarantine served as one giant pause, which is something I think everyone, and everything, desperately needed. In today's worlds, our calendars are jam-packed, we juggle a million and one things daily, sleep less, stress more – I'm sure many can relate. The past few years I found myself stretched too thin almost constantly. Between work, social obligations and worrying about getting sick (when the average healthy person didn't have to worry nearly as much), I was running on fumes more often than not.

I don't know about you all, but I always wrestle with guilt when it comes to speaking up about things “being too much.” I pride myself on not letting my heart condition define me and I never want to be seen as different. My cardiologist advised me to start working from home about two weeks before my office switched to remote work and I was so upset that I'd be singled out – looked at as different. While this certainly wasn't the case (my employer is amazing), my own anxiety prevented me from seeing it that way originally.

And then boom, two weeks later our entire state was shut down. I previously spent so much time worrying about how I'd be seen for canceling plans and then the whole world’s plans stopped. I've always been extremely nervous about getting sick, as I tend to get sicker than the average person due to my heart, and then all of the sudden everyone was on the same page regarding fears of getting sick and taking extra precautions to stay safe. I felt like the world had a glimpse into what living with a complex medical condition is like on a day-to-day basis.

Three weeks into self-quarantining, my husband remarked on how I looked the healthiest he'd seen me look in a long time. I was getting plenty of sleep, finding a perfect work-life balance, and not burning the candle at both ends every weekend juggling a million plans.

We had just moved, so we spent our weekends online shopping and decorating our new place. We recommitted to healthy eating and tried tons of new, nutritious recipes. We went for daily walks and weekend hikes, soaking up the power of nature and the simple acts of moving our bodies. We began doing Instagram live workouts and downloaded a new fitness app – and I am now the healthiest and strongest I have ever been.

I realized one of the greatest things to come from committing to this exercise routine was an immense feeling of gratitude for my heart. I went from feeling resentful about all the things I felt it couldn't do to being in awe of all the things it can do.

Again, I cannot stress enough how in no way am I mitigating the terrifying tragedy of COVID-19, but rather trying to highlight the small silver linings that have emerged. Everyone, CHD patient or not, has been forced to pause. To slow down, to prioritize their health and wellbeing, and their families. To evaluate what is of true importance to them. Nature and the environment have certainly benefited as well. It is my hope that whatever our new normal ends up looking like, it is a healthier and more balanced lifestyle for all.

To wrap it up, I believe there is an innate power in sharing your story and learning from – and empathizing with – others’ stories and experiences. COVID-19 has certainly given many a glimpse into our world. I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone's love, support, concern and understanding of the fact that I am a high-risk patient and all that comes along with it.

Wishing everyone a very safe and healthy second half of 2020!


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