Last October 12, 2019, hubby and I participated in the Greater Maryland Heart Walk. It was a half-day event held at the Camden Yards Sports Complex. The Greater Maryland Heart Walk is a yearly project of the American Heart Association. The Heart Walk aims to raise funds to save lives from the US’ No. 1 and No. 5 killers – heart disease and stroke.
So that Saturday morning hubby and I arrived at Camden Yards Sports Complex at around 6:00. We were very early. But we wanted to get a good parking spot near the event plus it took out the hassle of dealing with the I-95 traffic. We also brought along our two doggies, Sissy and Nala, because, well, they needed the walk too.
For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a nurse in one of the hospitals of the University of Maryland. The university is one of the top participants of the event. They even placed 2nd, behind Johns Hopkins Medicine, as the leading top company fund-raisers. They were also one of the companies with the most participants.
What is the Greater Maryland Heart Walk?
The Greater Maryland Heart Walk aims to raise funds for the American Heart Association. The fund generated by the event is used for continuing research on heart disease and to cultivate awareness of heart disease and stroke and promote healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association’s research programs has contributed to many important scientific advances, one of which is the first artificial heart valve.
What made me join this year’s Heart Walk? Remember when I said that the American Heart Association’s research contributed to the technology of the heart valve replacement? Well, 19 years ago, I was blessed to be a recipient of one of those artificial heart valves. I am a heart disease survivor.
My Heart History.
In 1999, I was diagnosed with mitral valve stenosis and already had a 75% calcification on that valve. This was the reason that for about 2 years prior to the diagnosis, I was slowly, but noticeably, having a hard time performing simple tasks like walking just a few meters, or my first love – dancing. I would begin to wheeze, run out of breath and feel very tired immediately. On my last and worst bout of these symptoms, I was already living in Canada. And it happened on my way home from a flight from California.
Right after I got off the plane that night, I felt so tired and had to stop so many times. This was just the short walk from the entrance of the plane all the way to the immigration area in Calgary and to the luggage section. I almost had to be rushed to the emergency room by the cab driver I rode with altho I insisted to just be brought home to my apartment. But that really alarmed me. This was not like my other days. Something seemed to be very wrong.
Early morning the next day, I went to see my doctor. Dr. Kanta Dave, to tell her about it. Without any second to lose, she contacted a cardiologist. In turn, the cardiologist agreed to see me that very afternoon. If you’re familiar with the Canadian health system, you know that being seen by a specialist on the very same day you called means bad news. Normally, a specialist visit takes weeks, worse, months, after you make an appointment. That was my indicator something was terribly wrong.
My Heart Team.
I was seen by the cardiologist, Dr. Patrick Ma. He asked questions and wrote me forms for a series of tests. After all the EKGs, ECGs, and heart monitoring were done in a span of a week, I was told the sad news – I have heart condition. Dr. Ma was very knowledgeable but very straightforward. He told me I would need major heart surgery. I was told the pros and cons of not doing the surgery (there were no pros, actually). Not performing the surgery would be fatal. I didn’t have a choice.
But Dr. Ma also reassured me that I will be in good hands – I will be under the care of the best cardiac surgeon in Calgary, maybe even in Canada. Soon after I got to meet my cardiac surgeon, Dr. Alexander Bayes. Like Dr. Ma, Dr. Bayes was very competent. He had the answers to all my questions, he laid everything down – risks and benefits. He explained how the procedure was going to be done. And he assured me that at my young age, the chances of the risks happening were very small. I opted to have a mechanical valve replacement (as opposed to the tissue valve replacement). We agreed to set a date for my surgery.
A 180-Degree Lifestyle Turn.
That surgery was my 180-degree turn. It was a new, clean slate – like day from night. I began to feel good just a few days after. I felt like I could already join a marathon. And so just 3 months after surgery, I was already taking long walks, starting to lightly jog even. A year after I took swimming lessons and have gone back to the gym for aerobics. I’ve gone back to dancing, and every physical activity I can do. Just like what all 3 of my doctors said – there is no physical activity I couldn’t do anymore.
Now, after almost 20 years, I still have my St. Joseph mitral valve in my heart. This artificial valve enabled me to have a new lease in life. And because of this I will always be grateful for all the medical research and advancement made for all heart diseases. Of course, I will have to forever take my blood thinners, would need to have my PT/INR tests every month. Since I now live in the US, I visit my GP, Dr. Thomas Miller and my cardiologist, Dr. Mansoor Mozayan like clockwork. I do have to watch the vitamin K-rich food I eat because it will mess up my INR numbers. But these are all small prices to pay for the new life I have. I cannot complain.
This is why I walk.
And this is why I walked that autumn morning of October 12, 2019. This is the reason for my renewed life 20 years ago.
Hubby and I had a very happy walk that morning – all 2 miles of it! Easy-peasy walk! Had I not had a chance to be cured of my heart ailment, this would be next to impossible.
Congratulations for another successful project, Greater Maryland Heart Walk! And to the American Heart Association, more power! Here’s hoping more people will benefit from all the research you do.
Till next post, my movies!
The once named “godmother of the Philippine Blogosphere”, Gigi Manaloto-Refugia, known by her pen name “Ate Sienna” has been blogging since 2002 in her old pansitan.net community where she housed famous bloggers. She now writes about being 50-something and shares her tips on fashion, makeup, skincare, travel, food and thrift-store diving.
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