THE HEART IS A DIFFICULT AND EXTREMELY ENDURED ORGAN, designed to work smoothly for many years. But it happens that from birth or as a result of an illness, its structure is disturbed. If there are problems with the valves that are between the chambers of the heart, surgery can be done. Sometimes the valves are reconstructed, sometimes they are replaced with prostheses. In Germany in the year perform about five thousand operations for replacing heart valves in the US, according to various sources – from fifty to 182 thousand; We could not find statistics for Russia . Anya M. tells how she lives with a mechanical heart valve.
I was born with a ventricular septal defect. Prematurity affected my general well-being, so I spent the first months of my life within the walls of the hospital.
I don’t remember the first operation at all – it was performed when I was three years old. The septal defect was removed, but later, for some unknown reason, aortic valve insufficiency developed. They tried to fix it when I was six by doing a second operation – but in the end they just postponed replacing the valve with an artificial one. The heart was given a few more years to grow to the size of an adult’s organ. As far as I understand, if the valve is severely insufficient, there is no option “not to operate”, otherwise you greatly risk your health and well-being. It can be postponed, but this entails a whole list of restrictions – depending on the situation, sports can be prohibited, in addition , you need to undergo regular examinations. At the same time, I can not say that I felt somehow particularly bad, but perhaps I have already forgotten. I remember that I was forbidden to do physical education at school, so instead of it I read comics or talked with classmates.
The second operation was more difficult than the first: I was already at a conscious age. It was impossible to get sick or catch cold in front of her , so I was transferred to home schooling for six months . My classmates – I do n’t know whether they themselves or on the instructions of the class teacher – made a whole bunch of postcards with pictures and words of support. Now, after many years, it seems very nice to me.
Memories of how everything went are vague – I remember being taken to a cold operating room, where there were bright spotlights. How they did a puncture to remove fluid from the lungs, how several doctors held me while one pierced my lung through my back. How they took me to take X-rays to the intensive care unit, at the entrance to which, instead of a tile, there was thick glass, under which were various toys from kinder surprises. Like grandmother and aunt, they brought the newest and most stylish Barbie dolls every time they visited. I also remember that my mother lived with me in the same room and often left to smoke for a long time. And yet she was very thin, and on the background of constant stress due to my health in she developed severe anxiety and appeared agoraphobia. I was a kind of staunch soldier who, at the age of six, instead of being afraid of mom’s breakdowns, just calmly walked to the nurse and asked to call a doctor and give her a sedative.
The third planned operation was performed when I was twelve. I again went to home schooling for six months – I do n’t know if it was a condition on the part of the doctors or my mother decided that it was better this way. I was not upset – my friends came to my house, the first normal mobile phone, Internet friends and game consoles appeared, so I didn’t have to get bored . Now I realize that my parents were most likely worried about the outcome of the operation and spoiled me with gifts while I had the opportunity. I then buzzed all their ears that I wanted a dog, and we went to choose a puppy. They took him away a month after the operation. I don’t want to think that maybe this is how my parents tried to prepare for the worst.
The experience formed in me an absolute indifference to my body. For some, even an injection is a scary thing, but for me it’s just manipulation of the bag that contains my brain and personality.
The most difficult thing that had to be endured during the third operation was the emotionality of the relatives. Mom’s condition more or less stabilized, she was on antidepressants and sedatives and still lived with me in the same room. There I made friends with a girl animator – she also had a valve replaced. In her family, however, did not have any money on gifts to doctors and nurses, so it sewed up yesterday’s students. As a result, the seam had to be redone. Despite this, she constantly entertained the children in the department.
I spent a little less than a month in the hospital, but I went through a lot. There was resuscitation, and requests to give a drink, directed to doctors passing by, and a withdrawal in the intensive care unit, and taking out drains, and injections every few hours, dressings, droppers, wild pain in the chest and back, balls that doctors forced to inflate to restore lung volume. It was a real school of life, packed in a month. I definitely got stronger, but not only.
It seems to me that the pain I experienced and the procedures formed in me an absolute indifference to my body. For some, even an injection is a terrible thing, but for me it’s just manipulation of the bag that contains my brain and personality. With a bag to keep track of to function well. This is an unusual point of view, but it seems to me that it makes it much easier to cope with illness. Need to donate blood, go for an ultrasound or gastroscopy? I don’t care, just do what you need to do and forget about it.
Ten years have passed since the last operation . I every year go through everything in the survey is the same medical center. I know that this is individual – there are those who do it every two or three years. During the observation period, I changed two doctors, and the recommendations were different: one dissuaded from any physical activity in general, the other claims that everything that is not professional sports is possible. I try to stay in the middle and do cardio and yoga. There are no difficulties with travel – I pass metal detectors and scanners calmly.
In general, there are two types of valves: mechanical and biological. On the basis of what the choice between them is made, I do not know for sure. The biological one is made of biomaterials, wears out and requires replacement – but with such a prosthesis you do not need to take drugs that reduce blood clotting. A mechanical valve, like me, is a lot longer, but and anticoagulants should be taken for life. It is necessary to constantly monitor the clotting parameters in order to adjust the dose.
I have a coagulometer at home with which I can do it myself. You need to apply a drop of blood from your finger to the test strip, insert it into the device and wait for the result. Here are just the prices for sets of strips bite: for twenty-four pieces you have to pay about seven thousand rubles. If you just left the hospital, you need to check your blood several times a day, and I honestly do not know what to do in this situation if there are no funds.
Obviously, if you you drink anticoagulants, then have you more liquid than the other blood. Bruises appear very easily. This also imposes restrictions on certain procedures: in order to pull out wisdom teeth, I had to consult for a long time and tediously with either a dentist or a cardiologist, connect them with each other and work out a scheme for switching from tablets to subcutaneous preparations and vice versa. It is impossible not to drink anticoagulants at all , because because of the valve, there is a high risk of blood clots. Women with mechanical valves also “win” in the biological lottery: periods on anticoagulants turn from four days to seven days, and there is also a ban on oral contraceptives – almost all hormonal drugs affect blood clotting. I was especially “lucky”, and my periods are not only long, but also abundant, so for one or two days a month I drop out of life – I take a day off or work from home, without explaining the reasons.
It also becomes much easier to get unidentified bleeding, it is much more difficult to treat it , because now you cannot simply inject a drug that clotts blood. We have to look for workarounds with huge droppers and a week-long hospital stay . The main advice that I can give: do not be nervous and always keep the cardiologist’s phone in contact. And also do not trust the gynecologists from the city polyclinic – they can pretend that they understand what a mechanical valve is, and then advise the pepper tincture, which dramatically reduces coagulation.
Another consequence of the operation is a long, straight scar in the center of the chest. But the scar does not bother me at all , it has long become the same color as the skin and stands out slightly. He is a part of me, I see him every day in the mirror, and everyone sees him when I put on sweaters or dresses with a cutout. The most interesting point is mechanical ticking. This is the sound of the opening and closing of the valve petals, which corresponds to the pulse. In a noisy room, you ca n’t hear it, but if you are at the exam and in the audience there is deathly silence , then the sound can be heard. Usually people think that this is a loud wrist watch – I do n’t know where the thought goes when they realize that I am not wearing the watch .
This is a kind of secret that
I, by coincidence – read: when I am in a quiet room next to someone – I can tell close people
Once I was visiting a friend, we drank whiskey in the kitchen. There was a large clock on the wall, and the conversation somehow did not go well . He drank, thought and complained aloud: “What are these loud Casio!” I laughed to myself, but didn’t correct him . Now I understand that this is wrong: I want to convey to people that this also happens.
The only time I was embarrassed for the discomfort it caused was at the university. I was sitting right behind the language pair teacher . At some point, she confusedly asked the audience what kind of annoying sound it was from, where did it come from ? Someone from the group replied that these were probably fans on the power supplies of computers. Such an answer, it seems, did not suit her, but she did not develop the topic . I felt ashamed, but I didn’t say anything . Up to now I think about this and do not understand how it was necessary to do.
Acquaintances, friends and young people react to this sound in different ways, but never negatively. True, the number of racist jokes I’ve heard about the ticking of a bomb is countless. When I am with a partner, this sound gives out my heartbeat, and it easily determines whether I am worried or calm. This is such a cheat in fact – I do n’t know how I’m going to play poker.
Most of the time I am in noisy places and nothing betrays my peculiarity. This is a kind of secret that I, by coincidence – read: when I am in a quiet room next to someone – I can tell close people. I do n’t often wear revealing clothes; a couple of times straightforward acquaintances asked what it was – but more often people either do not notice, or tactfully pretend not to see. I myself always try to learn about the health features of other people and talk about my own. The more different people you meet, the better you understand how hard life can be.