Go Red for Women! What is it? “The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!” according to goredforwomen.org. Don’t think this affects you? Think again, young and old and every race and socio-ecomomical level.
But why do I care? Because I was born with a heart defect. I was born with coarctation of the aorta. Simply put, my aorta was too narrow in one place. A pediatrician with a good ear heard my heart murmur at the age of 2 and I was sent to Riley Children’s hospital for evaluation. At the age of 4 my blood pressure was very high and my legs would hurt if I got too much exercise because of the lack of blood to my legs. After 2 catheterizations (which were more like surgery back then) and 2 surgeries (the last when I was 11), my blood pressure was normal and I no longer got so fatigued. However, I was one of the first people of my age to have this type of repair and, frankly, I don’t think doctors knew what to do with me. I was told I could not play competitive sports or get my heart rate up too high indefinitely.
When I was a senior in high school, a researcher at Riley Hospital was following up with cases like mine and asked if I would come in for a follow up exam. My mother brought me in and after many tests and a clean bill of health, we asked again about my restrictions. The doctor said, very matter-of-factly, that she could not see any reason why I couldn’t do whatever I wanted. Research had caught up to me! I was free to compete if I wanted to.
I entered my first bicycle race in college and raced throughout my early 20’s. The freedom was wonderful.
I rarely even think about the fact that I was born with CHD, except when someone asks about the scar on my back. It does not bother me, I wear it like a reminder. Oh yeah, I’m lucky to be alive!
Now my understanding is that my type of CHD is not as big of deal as it was back then and I am so glad little kids do not have to go through as invasive of surgery as I had. This is why this month I am supporting GO RED FOR WOMEN! Make a donation or read about goredforwomen.org