Exactly one year ago, I was getting my heart ripped open. And not in the metaphorical sense.
I remember not being able to sleep much the night before, and scrolling through Twitter and being blown away by all the support from people who had read this very blog. Some people I knew, some were complete strangers, but the overwhelming compassion from so many allowed me to get out of my hotel bed and face a day, and a reality, that I had been dreading.
I walked to the hospital with a bolstered confidence, and a knowing calm that everything would be fine.
In the grand scheme of things, I was right, but what I didn’t realize was how much of a challenge the next few hours, days and even year would be.
From the first moment of consciousness after the surgery where I struggled to open my eyes and frantically tried to get someone to take the breathing tube out, I’ve been fighting.
From the next day when the doctors made me walk around the ICU hallways, despite an overwhelming pain that is like nothing I can ever describe.
From a few days later to when I was told I would need a pacemaker because the surgery had caused complete heart block and my lower chamber couldn’t beat without it.
From a failed first pacemaker implantation surgery a few days after that — which caused my heart rate to drop to frighteningly low rates, every time I so much thought about moving.
If you told me a year ago I would be writing a blog post today, I would have assumed it was because I was preparing to run a half-marathon or because I had one of the most impressive recoveries in recorded history or something to that effect. I went into the surgery with the hope and belief that I would feel like a new person, and that I would never have to deal with another symptom again.
However, life isn’t always perfect, and my hope, quite frankly, did not come true. But, I wouldn’t change a single moment of the last year.
While living, and more specifically actively living, with a pacemaker has been difficult, and requiring of constant adjustments and doctor’s visits, I have made the best of my situation, and for that, I will always be tremendously proud. I’m not training for a half-marathon, but I am running in a 5K next week. After successfully completing seven months of cardiac rehab multiple times a week with the most patient and incredible nurses, I am now running about four to five miles most mornings on my own.
Some runs are good, some runs are a struggle and, occasionally some are impossible, but I’m always glad I tried. The first two minutes are always horrible as my heart tries to adjust, and it feels like it’s being squeezed so hard the blood has stopped flowing all together. It usually recovers fairly quickly, and I can continue, but it’s not the ideal way to start a workout to put it mildly.
But, when I make it through that horrible feeling, and I usually do, and I keep going, it makes the rest of my day feel comparatively simple. I feel like I can do anything. A big project at work due in three hours? No problem! Trying to balance 700 things? Easy.
While all my symptoms might not have ceased, and I even have some ones I never had before, there are other things I’m able to do that I never could have done before. Things like walking up a flight of stairs while carrying on a conversation or going on a hike up a steep hill had become very difficult, but now I am able to do them regularly.
And, more importantly, I have a new perspective. I appreciate the little things and all the amazing people in my life, and try not to sweat things that are out of my control. A few days after getting out of the hospital last year, I wrote about hoping to always appreciate feeling the sun on my skin after being stuck in a stuffy hospital room for so long. I’m happy to say, I still do appreciate that every time I step outside. I don’t take a ray of sunshine, a breath of fresh air, or even a hug from someone I love for granted.
When I think back to a year ago, I wanted to one day share a perfect tale of recovery and redemption. That day isn’t today, and it might not be ever, but I’m so grateful for everything I do have, and for all of the incredible people who I’ve encountered along the way. To all of you I say simply, thank you.