Soon after I was born I was diagnosed with a complex
congenital heart defect. My parents were told that if I made it to the age of three and survived I would be lucky. Today I am 34 years old, a point in many woman’s lives where they might start to fluff the truth about their age, not me: as a congenitalheart baby each year I am alive I feel as if it’s an other obstacle I have been able to overcome. As I entered school I wanted to be like every kid my age, so I played every sport that came my way. I never came in first and often had to sit to catch my breath but I didn’t care I was doing things that the doctors never thought would be possible for me.I loved watching the looks on my doctors faces every time I came in for my 6 month check ups and told them about all my different activities. It wasn’t until the age of twelve that I started to slow down...It was decided that it was time to undergo open heart surgery.
At the time my family lived in a very small town in New
Hampshire. While I was undergoing my surgery ironically my mother met a woman from the same small town. The woman’s 3 month old daughter had spent most of her life at the hospital much like I had at her age. It was very close to Christmas and the mother was loosing hope that she would be able to take her daughter home to celebrate Christmas. The night after my open heart surgery I walked out to the nursery to meet the baby and her mother. I will never forget the look on not only that mother’s face but other parent’s around as I walked out to greet them. They all knew that I too had been where their children were and there I was up and walking the night after my surgery. It was at that moment that I realized that I wanted to help others with heart conditions like mine. As the years past, I continued to strive for my dream. In 2001 I graduated from the Cardiovascular Program at SMCC, and started work in the cardiac cath lab at Maine Medical Center. Working in the cath lab is hard work and the hours are long. But the best part of my job was being able to connect with patients faced with the diagnosis of heart disease. I helped guide them through a tough time...I soon realized that I wanted and needed to further my career and went back to school to get my nursing degree. Two months before my nursing school graduation I had my first cardiac MRI. After coming out of the MRI machine my cardiologist (Dr. Adrian Moran) told me that I had an Aortic dissection and I would need to under going my second open heart surgery within the next few days. Thanks to Dr. Moran, Dr. Quinn and the amazing team at Maine Medical Center. My surgery went wonderfully and I was able to graduate with honors with my class two months later. Today I am truly living my dream. In May 2012 I delivered a healthy beautiful baby boy. Pregnancy was an obstacle that many were not sure that I could live through. I was told by many doctors that “there was just not enough data to tell you what would happen”. There were many scenarios of what could happen, some that did not end well. With this information my husband and I decided that we would explore other options for having a baby. We started with adoption classes, but the fear of not being able to keep a child we became attached to lead us away from this approach. Then my sister came to me with an amazing offer. She offered to be a surrogate so that I could become a mother. After four years of trying with my sister as a surrogate and two very painful miscarriages we had to give up that path too. I finally looked at my husband and told him that yes I know the outcomes that could happen during pregnancy but unless the doctors told me that these outcomes would happen I believed that we needed to take the chance. I had spent my whole life proving the doctors wrong. I was bound and determine that this would be another time that I would show the doctors just what a strong fighter I was. I would be lying if I said that my pregnancy was a piece of cake, but really for what it could have been, it was. I was on bed rest for the last 8wks, and had to go to the high risk OB twice a week for ultra sounds and check ins. During my pregnancy is when I was introduced to swimming as a way to get the cardiac exercise I needed but with a decreased workload on my body. At the very beginning of pregnancy my cardiologist explained to me that he felt the only exercise that I should consider during pregnancy was swimming. Just the thought of going swimming made me laugh, “There was no way that I was going to do that.” I know now I was afraid, I didn’t know the world of swimming and I honestly thought of it as a “different world”. When I was approached to help with Swim for Your Heart, I thought, “Well this is ironic.” I guess this is where I say that I firmly believe, that everything happens for a reason. Sitting in some of the planning meetings for the Swim for Your Heart event last year, I realized that I was the exact type of person that we were trying to target. Someone who could not only could benefit from swimming as an exercise but wasn’t sure where to go, what to do, and how to get started swimming. It wasn’t until the day of the event that year that I built up the confidence to sign up for a prenatal aqua aerobics class. Yup me, a girl who had under went open heart surgery, twice and was not scared to get pregnant although advised by many not to, was afraid of participating in an aqua class... Needless to say that thanks to Pat Gallant-Charette, and the Swim for Your Heart event I started taking the prenatal aqua aerobics and it was great!!!! I could not believe the difference in my stamina in the pool. As I stated earlier I ultimately did end up on bed rest, but I know that my time exercising in the pool helped me get further in my pregnancy than my OB thought I would.
Submitted my Melinda Beyer.