When you have health concerns, not only are you affected physically, but it takes a very negative toll on you mentally. Your health becomes a constant distraction, making it difficult to think positive thoughts beyond the worry for your health. Until you get a handle on it, you’re just going to have a hard time being happy. I know this from personal experience.
Because of my background, my thirst for information, and my love of research, I was able to figure out what makes a body function well. This chapter lists what I went through, what I learned along the way, and how I got myself back on the track to healthy and happy.
In 1988, I had open-heart surgery to repair the mitral valve of my heart. Although, I was otherwise healthy, I had somehow contracted an infection (endocarditis) that damaged my mitral valve. I consider myself lucky, as my physicians were able to actually repair the valve rather than replace it. The surgery, though traumatic, went very well. However, one side effect I’ve experienced following surgery has been my heart’s tendency to go into atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular, often rapid, heart rate.
By 2016, my heart had gone into A-Fib four times. Each time, it became necessary to enter the hospital to be “cardio converted.” Twice, the procedure was accomplished by injecting a drug into my body to restart the heart; like rebooting a computer. The third and fourth time, drugs were not successful and further hospitalization was required. In those cases, electrode pads were placed on my chest; sending shock waves to the heart to bring it back into a normal rhythm.
Atrial fibrillation is very hard on one’s heart and can cause damage to it. Because of this risk, after each event, my cardiologist recommended an echocardiogram to measure key statistics, including the ejection fraction of my heart. “Ejection fraction” refers to the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time the heart contracts. Ideally, you want this percentage to be somewhere between 50-70%. The fourth time I went into A-Fib, my echocardiogram showed an ejection fraction of 26%. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I’d known something was very wrong; it was difficult for me to make it up a flight of stairs; I was exhausted all the time, I was consumed by worry, and unhappy.
Upon leaving the hospital, my morale was low. Not only did I need to improve the condition of my body, I needed to improve my mental attitude. From all I’d been told, it would be very tough to get my heart and health back to a normal status — should I just throw in the towel or could I fight my way back to health? I had a brief internal debate and I made a decision, not only did I want to be well again, I wanted to thrive; I wanted to defy all the odds.