I had my appointment with the surgeon yesterday, so I thought I should write an update on what the plan is in relation to the future care and maintenance of my heart.
First of all, I probably need to explain what the problem with my heart was in the first place, in case anyone doesn’t already know. I was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries and a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). Translation: the arteries sending the blood to and from my heart were the wrong way round (right one on left side and vice versa) and had to be re-plumbed. VSD is just the medical name for a hole-in-the-heart between the two ventricles. This had to be mended and the valve on the left side had to be replaced, because they had to create a bit of an artery as it had been in the wrong place/non existent, I’m not sure which.
Sorry, it’s a lot easier to explain with a diagram! I did have one but I left it in my drawer at work, after subjecting my long-suffering, lovely and supportive colleagues to an anatomy lesson about the strange workings of my heart.
The original repairs have held good for 26 years, but due to general wear and tear both arteries are now quite calcified* and hence narrowed and the replacement valve has been leaking for quite a few years now. As a consequence, my heart is having to work harder and harder to pump blood and if nothing is done it will fail.
So, the surgeon is going to re-do all of the things that were done when I had my original operation. He will put in a new replacement valve and a new replacement bit of artery on the left side and will re-do the joining of the artery to the ventricle on the right side, which will include re-repairing the VSD. At the same time he will scrape out the calcium and other deposits that may be in the arteries and try and widen the right artery a bit more. I hope I’m getting this the right way round – I need the diagram!
The surgery is a bit more serious than I (and other people) expected it to be. We always expected that the valve would have to be repaired or replaced, but the problems on the other side of the heart only came to light after the recent tests were done. I think even the medical staff were quite surprised by it. My heart is in a weird position, so you can’t see everything on an ultrasound or even a CT scan. It was really only when they did the catheter test that the full extent of the damage was revealed.
The good thing is that the repairs they will do to the right side of the heart should be permanent. The valve will probably have to be replaced again in 10-15 years, but by then it should be able to be done via keyhole surgery, so hopefully there will be no need for me to have open-heart surgery again.
The surgeon said that the surgery should be done within the next five months, as I’m now on the waiting list. I’m trying to remain calm about it all, but if I have no distractions and sit and think about it (e.g. while on the train!) I just want to run away and/or curl up in a corner and cry! It has to be done, so I just have to accept it and find some way to deal with the worry as and when it surfaces.
So, there you have it, you are now fully updated! I hope I’ve managed to explain everything sufficiently. Trying to explain it all to other people actually helps me to understand it better, which can only be a good thing.
*Calcification – build up of calcium deposits mainly caused by the corrosion of the replacement valve and the patch on the join/hole…I think.