Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Affairs of the Heart pt 1

In February of 2005, just a few weeks before my 40th birthday, I went and had a physical per my wife's concerned request. Now, I hadn't had a physical in a number of years prior to that - I've always been the type of person who was for the most part very healthy. A cold here or some allergies there but that was about it. So, I went to the family practice and had the usual done (height, weight, blood pressure, oil change, tire rotation...oh, wait, that's not right). While listening to my heart, the nurse practitioner heard a slight murmur. He asked if I was ever told I had a murmur. I said no. When the doctor came in, he heard it too and suggested that perhaps I should go see the local cardiologist for an echosonagram, just to be safe. It could be nothing.

I had my echo done on Valentines Day (which I found rather ironic - having your heart examined on February 14th). The cardiologist wasn't going to be able to review my results that day so I was asked to come back late the following week. Turns out that was on my 40th birthday, and it turned out that the murmur was not just nothing.

The murmur was actually caused by a condition called mitral valve regurgitation. That's a fancy way of saying one of my heart chambers did not seal properly after blood came into it before being pumped out to the body again - and that caused some blood to leak back. It also meant my heart was possibly working harder than it needed to get the job done. They had no idea how long the condtion existed. I could have been born with it, or it could have developed in recent years. My father joked that maybe that's why I was never good at running track (okay, I wasn't good at track - he was right - but then again he's the one I inherited my heart issues from, the man who had triple bypass surgery about four or five years prior).

Surgery would be needed to correct it, but because the condition was not so severe we had the option of scheduling when it would be convenient. In the meantime, they'd prescribe something so that my heart wouldn't have to work so hard. Since surgery meant a couple months recovery, I wanted to schedule it to fit in with schedules at my work and my wife's (since she'd want to take time off while I recovered). We also had a Disney Cruise with my in-laws, my brother-in-law and his wife and their boys scheduled for May, so I didn't want to be incompacitated for that. We decided summer would work best for all involved, and I went ahead and alerted my manager in early March of what was going on.

Well, we did the trip in May and all was going fine. Then the other shoe dropped: my big international employer whom I had been with for 17 1/2 years was doing layoffs to help cut on expenses. Over 200 people in the various business operating out of the campus in NC were slated on the list (a 5% cut across the whole company worldwide). I was unfortunately one of the people they had decided to let go. I found this out late in May, and the end of June would be my last day. As if my heart (and head) needed any more, eh?

(to be continued tomorrow)

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