Living with a heart condition

As a baby, I hardly ever cried and slept all the time. Unfortunately, my parents hadn’t hit the baby jackpot, in fact, I was actually quite sick. On one of my regular hospital visits dealing with my kidney reflux, it was noticed I had abnormal blood pressure in my legs. This was caused by a narrowing in my aorta, the main artery of the body.

To fix this, I underwent heart surgery, known as a coarctation of the aorta, at 18-months-old. Other than a scar that spans the width of my back, my parents were told I was fine and would now live a normal live.

It didn’t turn out so simple. Aged 16 I was asked to take part in a study that looked into how blood pressure in patients that had my surgery were affected. Mine was high. I’ll be honest, some of this is caused by the fact I’ve been overweight my whole life. But a large portion of this was out of my control, and something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Since the study, I take my health a lot more seriously. I think about a lot more than I did before. I now have a cardiologist who I see every year or two and yearly scans of my heart called electrocardiograms, or ECGs. These scans are unpleasant and a little bit painful, but really not a big deal.

The difficulty lay with accepting that this is a part of me that won’t go away. A lot of the time, seemingly unconnected things become more difficult because of my condition. Simple things like I wasn’t allowed to donate blood until I had my cardiologists written consent, and having a lot of trouble finding a birth control that was safe for me to use, as well as mental health issues which some believe stem from the trauma this operation had.

Really though, I’m lucky. I have a normal life expectancy, and more than likely I won’t need further surgery. It’s an interesting part of me that I have learned to embrace and accept.

Hannah Kelly

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