At age 37, I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Now I am on a mission to raise awareness by running 37 races over 37 months.
I should start with a disclaimer -- I am NOT a runner. Some people might tell you that I am a bit uncoordinated and not exactly athletic. A nerd... yes. A mom... yes. A lawyer... yep, that too. But a runner- probably not. But for the next 37 months, I am going to turn myself into one to bring awareness and raise money for a cause that is - forgive the pun - near and dear to my (slightly defective) heart!
After struggling for many years with unexplained symptoms, I was finally diagnosed at age 37 with a congenital heart defect called a coarctation of the aorta. On January 18, 2013, my husband and my two kids traveled with me from Louisville, Kentucky to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the Adult Congenital Heart Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where I underwent a procedure to repair my heart defect. Thanks to great advances in medical care and through the great work of the Adult Congenital Heart Association, I was able to avoid open heart surgery (which I was originally told was my only option) and was able to receive care from doctors, nurses, and surgeons with specialized training on helping adults with congenital heart defects.
Heart defects are the most common birth defects; in fact, almost one in 100 babies are born with some kind of heart defect. Advances in screening of newborns and children have resulted in greater identification of children with heart defects earlier in life. Interestingly, this has also led to a situation in which it is believed, today, that as many, and perhaps more, adults are living with congenital heart defects than children with congenital heart defects.
Through a combination of advanced research, greater knowledge by practitioners, my own advocacy for my health, and perhaps some luck, I was diagnosed and my congenital heart defect repaired at age 37. My prognosis is very, very good. I continue to have some challenges with my body's ability to maintain normal blood pressure, due to the effects living with my heart defect for so long had on my kidneys, but otherwise, I should be able to have a very normal, healthy life. Many people with heart defects however struggle with multiple surgeries, lack of access to the right kind of care, lack of access to health insurance coverage, and other obstacles. Much more research needs to be done and continued developments in the diagnosis and repair of heart defects is needed.
So, now, in January 2014, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my surgery, I am on a mission to raise awareness of congenital heart defects ("CHD") in both children and adults, and to fund-raise for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Over the next 37 months, I am going to run 37 road races of varying distances to bring awareness to this issue. I am running for me and for my own health. I am running for my husband and children, who went through this journey with me, and in celebration of the fact that my future as a mother and wife looks a lot brighter. But, mostly, I am running for those adults and children with CHD who cannot run. And I am running for all those adults and children with CHD for whom just living to 37 is a dream.
Along the way, i will post pictures, blog and let you know if I am, in fact, becoming a "runner." I will try to share successes for the Adult Congenital Heart Association, and perhaps some personal ones as well. I hope you will take the time to talk to health care practitioners you know about congenital heart defects in adults and children. I hope you will consider helping me to reach my goal of $12,080, which also happens to be the blood pressure that I am fighting to get to and maintain (120/80), and the blood pressure you should maintaining as well.
Please join me on my journey - both literally and figuratively! Grab your running or walking shoes and come run with me, check out my future blogs and pictures, and donate to the cause.
With thanks to my generous sponsor Ashton Advertising for lending their support to this journey!
With gratitude! Michelle