As a recently retired 62-year-old, I was fully engaged in my life. I was active in multiple sports, undertook big home construction projects, and was enjoying being a kid again with my three wonderful grandkids. However, I began to notice that I couldn’t “go” like I used to. I had to play shorter hockey shifts, was a bit out of breath on the uphill golf walks, and had been finding that I was “it” too many times in the games of tag that my grandkids love to play!
When I commented on it a couple of times, my self-talk or family feedback was, “it’s part of getting older” or, “you are really doing great being active at your age”. So, I would forget about it and carry-on enjoying retirement. Thankfully, at my next doctor’s appointment I made a sidebar comment about how I’d been feeling. That comment led to my family doctor scheduling some tests, which confirmed a diagnosis of severe Aortic Stenosis. I was told that I would require open-heart surgical valve replacement.
If I hadn’t listened to my body, if that sidebar comment hadn’t been made, if I didn’t have an incredibly caring family doctor, if I didn’t have access to world class care in Ontario – I likely would have been another heart attack fatality statistic.
Then, in midst of all these “if’s” that worked out in my favour, there was the overarching shadow of COVID-19. There were delayed procedures, increased risks, and restricted family contact. The list of concerns because of the virus was immense and could have easily been used as an excuse for me to wait or delay making a decision. But truthfully, I didn’t even think of COVID complications – those risks were minor compared to the risk of not seeing or being there for my family well into the future! I held out hope that I would get a replacement valve as soon as possible and, thankfully, that opportunity came on September 4, 2020 when I was gifted with a bovine valve replacement.
Today, I am happily able to say I completed four 7km outings every week on cross country skis this past winter, I am now walking the dogs daily, and building up my routines for golf again. My grandkids also can’t outrun me now (when I’m allowed to see them)!
If you’re navigating a heart valve disease diagnosis or waiting for your own procedure, know this: you are in one of the best care environments in the world. I know because I have worked and lived all over this globe throughout my 40-year career. Sure, there is some discomfort, but it goes quickly. You will not believe how much better you will feel after a short recuperation. I know I am grateful I spoke up, got the care I needed, and am back to fully living my life.
I wish you the best for a long life!