Fit, Fifty & W.T.F.

8 04 2015

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There’s that saying that goes when one door closes another one opens. Usually that door opens to bigger and brighter things. After 18 years of an ugly marriage followed by 6 years of an ugly divorce, complete with astronomical divorce lawyer bills I am finally able to come up for air. I am in my early fifties, fit and finally free of some very heavy baggage. But why am I still out of breath?

To me there is nothing more important in life than family, and certainly nothing more valuable than good health. As a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and workout devotee, I preach about health and fitness on a daily basis. I am passionate about it and, because I am that annoying fitness friend who works out all the time, posts fitness quotes on Facebook, likes to tell you what to and what not to eat and as you can see, also blogs about it. I don’t have a problem telling people they’re overweight, their diet sucks and that they are a heart attack waiting to happen. I take care of myself so you should too. Listen to me……I’m Ms. Know It All. My motto is: “take care of your heart and your heart will take care of you.” And my personal mission is to not end up with a bad heart like my dad and his dad.

Recently I said to a friend that I would love to see how healthy my heart is for a 51 year- old woman. I bet it’s like that of a 30 year old. I do a ton of cardio and eat well, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, I take fish oil supplements and I eat only dark chocolate. In fact, I think I am looking pretty pretty good for 51. I think 50 is the new 40. Did I mention that I have been feeling a little fatigued for the last few years. I’ve been told it’s from stress, my divorce and most recently menopause. I just had another physical. I know my body something isn’t right. I am told I should schedule a routine colonoscopy because I’m 51. Huh? I don’t think the problem is up my ass. Why isn’t anyone listening to me? I know my body and know something isn’t right. I think I need a new doctor. Yippee I found a new doctor and bonus she’s close to my house. Double bonus she had a cancellation. I have an appointment with my new doctor. Ah, I think my new doctor needs her hearing checked………
What? A heart murmur.  I now have a new doctor and a cardiologist, both whom do not have hearing problems. Although the lips are moving and I am being told that I was born with a genetic heart valve defect, I hear nothing but the words “Open Heart Surgery.” I am pretty pretty sure they both must have made a mistake because I have worked way too hard to avoid any problems with my heart, and look at me damn-it I look pretty pretty good for 51. Plus I just opened a new door in my life, I just came up for air. Let me catch my breath please.

The fall of 1980 I saw my father at the age of 43 lay in a hospital bed post-op from a triple bypass surgery after suffering his first of many future heart attacks, followed by subsequent heart surgeries and heart procedures. Wearing his scar like a badge of honor, he would parade shirtless around our house in Northeast Philly to the sheer horror of my teenage friends and I. To this day a phone call in the middle of the night always means hearing my mom say “Daddy’s in the hospital.” Now at the age of 82 my father Morty has had way too many heart procedures to list. But it’s this medical technology that keeps him alive and on the golf course in sunny Florida. That and someone, upstairs must like him a lot and knew that I would need him around so we can compare our badges of honor, our open heart surgery scars.

I’ll admit I have never even heard of a Bicuspid Valve, BAVD or let alone a Thoracic Aneurysm but when I’m asked if I know who John Ritter was I say yes and that I never thought he was funny. I couldn’t begin to comprehend what the cardiologist was saying. I have two daughters who need me. I can’t have open heart surgery…that would be insane. I’m too young. That’s for old people, people who are out of shape, people who eat bad, drink, and smoke. It’s not for me—the high and mighty personal trainer, amazing Spin instructor and fitness nut. Come on—I have to do the Broad Street Run. I need to teach my Spin class. I have people to train and preaching to do about the importance of doing cardiovascular exercise to strengthen the heart. And I have a list of personal “to do’s” like hiking the Grand Canyon, doing the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and running the Disney Princess half marathon with my daughter, in of course Micky Mouse ears. In other words I have LIFE to do and don’t have time for this crap. More importantly I need to work, make money. I am a single mom. I don’t have workman’s comp or a job with benefits. How will this happen? And why did this happen? And another thought…OMG I’m going to have a gross scar down my chest like my father! Breath Hope. Just breath.

As I sat waiting for Penn Medicine’s top Aorta Specialist Dr. Joseph Bavaria to see me I was convinced that he would say we’ll monitor you and check you again in 12 months. But when he entered the room with this god like presence I knew immediately that “see you in a year” wasn’t coming out of his mouth. Instead he said “ John Ritter died from what you have.” “Yes I’ve heard” I said. And as I sat there wearing a shirt with a giant pink heart that I wore on purpose, listening to Dr. Bavaria and his Assistant Kristen tell me that my heart was way too big for my body size and all about artificial valves, cow valves, pig valves, two days in intensive care, and a week in the hospital I suddenly felt more like a confused child and not the strong confident mom of steel I am. Sadly, as I put my coat on over the cute pink heart shirt the heart surgeon never even noticed nor chuckled at, I gather my things and drove back into the suburbs in silence. Rush hour traffic on the Schuykill Expressway for once in my life didn’t seem to bother me. I thought about my kids and that I now had to call my dad and tell him the secret I have kept from him for two months. “Daddy, I have a heart condition and I am having open heart surgery in April.” And in true form my father said “BULLSHIT, that doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You were not born with a valve problem. It’s from too much god damn exercising”

Bicuspid aortic valve disease, or BAVD, is a congenital heart defect. Most people are born with a normal functioning tricuspid aortic valve. Some, like myself, are born with a bicuspid valve. A bicuspid aortic valve can be a serious heart valve disorder in which the valve only has two leaflets, or flaps, that control blood flow through the heart causing blood to regurgitate back into the heart rather than exit. It is a genetic mutation that occurs during pregnancy that causes the leaflets to fuse together. All of that causes the aorta to stretch and bulge and possibly cause an aneurysm. Oh yeah, I have one of those too that has to be repaired during my surgery. Some people are diagnosed at birth and therefore monitored as they age. Some like myself find out later in life that they were born with this valve disorder. To say I wasn’t prepared for the news that I had a life threatening heart condition would be an understatement. So I am beyond grateful and very fortunate that my new doctor, Dr. Hannah Chung heard the murmur and even more grateful that I didn’t cancel my appointment with Dr. Andrea Becker the cardiologist. Believe me I thought about cancelling.

On April 8th I will be sawed open through my sternum and have my bicuspid valve and aneurysm repaired or replaced. My surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bavaria will attempt to repair my valve rather. However if it cannot be repaired a replacement valve will be inserted.  At the old age of 51 I have no clogged arteries and one big strong heart so I am really hoping for a repair that hopefully would last for the rest of my life.  Tissue valves (cow or pig) only last roughly ten years when a person is active and therefore I could be facing open heart surgery again in ten years. I am praying for repair. I am not a candidate for a mechanical valve for other reasons. So, besides constantly thinking about my upcoming surgery and touching my left side of my chest all the time like Fred Sanford, I am cleaning my house like a nut, organizing my things and stocking up on diet ginger ale and soup. Plunging neckline shirts I once wore out whoring with my single girlfriends after my divorce have been dropped off at the good will box because something tells me that a 6” scar down my chest will not be so sexy. While I await my surgery I am restricted from doing anything that causes me to make a grunting sound like lifting heavy weights especially above my head. I am still training my clients, teaching spin and working out. I am training for the biggest race of my life – MY LIFE. I plan on walking into the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on the morning of April 8th being one Fit Fifty-One year old Female and walking out a week later ready for my road to recovery and the opportunity to begin each day with a grateful heart.

Occasionally we hear a sad story about a kid playing football and dropping dead on the field, a basketball player collapsing on the court, a child who has a heart attack at recess. We find out they had an unknown heart condition and that had it been detected their lives could have been spared. Today there are national campaigns designed to stress the importance of early detection of heart conditions in youth which can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death.

Simon’s Fund is just one of the many organizations dedicated to raising awareness about the conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes and children. Sudden cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of student athletes and cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of adults in the U.S.  As such, we should be checking the hearts of our children. Simon’s Funds latest success is the passage of The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act (HB1610) in Harrisburg, PA. Hundreds of childrens lives have been saved thanks to the screenings that have taken place in schools all around the country. Go to Simonsfund.org for more information.

I am fortunate that as active as I am I did not drop dead from my unknown heart condition. My bicuspid valve wouldn’t have been detected therefore not allowing my children to be tested for this genetic disorder. While most adults discover their unknown BAVD in their thirties when they begin to get out of breath more easily, my body learned to compensate for my hearts inadequacy. I always thought my racing heart during the first mile of a run was due to the stress of hating to run. I will be curious to see how I feel when I recover. Will I breathe better? Will my heart rate be the same when I workout? Will I not sweat as much? I know I have a tough road ahead of me but I am going into this mentally tough. Because guess what? I know my body and I am sure I will do pretty pretty well. T minus zero it’s race time.  Deep breath Hope.

 

Please follow along my journey as I recover the days, weeks and months to come.

Check out my post op blog Fit, Fifty & WTF – Feeling Wonderful, Thankful & freakin’Relieved

at: https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/fit-fifty-feeling-wtf-wonderful-thankful-freakin-relieved/

Subscribe to my blog.

hopenagy.wordpress.com

Hope Nagy Certified Personal Trainer

Pre-op testing day Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Feeling thankful in Philly.

Pre-op testing day Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Feeling thankful in Philly.

MotivateHopeStrength.com

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MotivateHopeStrength.com

For more information contact hope@motivatehopestrength.com

or phone 610-608-6087

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28 responses

8 04 2015
Lance Converse

We are with you all the way!

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks Lance

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8 04 2015
cathywilson2014

Wonderful blog! Good luck and God bless!

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8 04 2015
WeFit.ca

What an inspirational as well as fact filled blog! Our thoughts are with you.

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thank you

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8 04 2015
Jayne Clancy

Will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and remember you are not alone

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8 04 2015
Patty Lee

Hi,
I don’t know you personally, but followed your blog on another post that you posted a long time ago. How ironic it was that I opened this one because what attracted me was your title since I will be turning fifty in 5 months. I am one of your overweight friends that you would be giving a kick in the ass to! I was diagnosed with an ASD ATRIAL SEPTAL DEFECT and had a patch put on my holes in my heart. You body is so healthy and so fit that you will be coming out of this surgery with flying colors. Your healing time will be reduced greatly because you took such good care of your heart and body! I will pray for you tomorrow and will also ask my two sisters who are nuns to pray for you. God has not let you down yet, and he won’t now! You will be back dancing with your dad and spinning in no time. You are a ROCK! You got this! HUGS!!!

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12 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks for the kind words. 😊

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8 04 2015
Donna

Thank goodness you listened to your body. I will be praying for you as you go into the next phase of your journey. I will pray for the Surgeons to see clearly. I will pray for your recovery. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. By doing so, you’re opening the eyes of many who are now listening closely to their bodies and paying close attention.

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks Donna

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8 04 2015
Tiffany

My sons has BAV, my daughter got lucky and made out with an innocent murmur. Husband and I were both tested and only have innocent murmurs as well. I know how your parents must be feeling as the thought of either of my children undergoing open heart surgery is terrifying. We ignored my oldest son’s murmur for FOUR YEARS because it “couldn’t be anything serious, WE only have murmurs…” By the time he was diagnosed his heart was enlarged with mild regurgitation and slight stenosis, thank God no aortic aneurysm. He’s been on blood thinners now going on four years. His body has caught up in size to his heart and we’re still still on a “see you in six months,” cycle with the cardiologist. I lost a good friend in high school thanks to this horrible disease. Told his mom after his basketball game that he wasn’t feeling well, and went to lay down. He was gone by the time she came to check on him. I keep thinking, THAT could be MY baby.

I will be checking in on the Facebook group and on here. Good luck today, and prayers going up for a speedy recovery so you can get back to LIFE!

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks Tiffany hopefully your son won’t need surgery.

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8 04 2015
Linda Elizalde Frazier

Your name is HOPE for a reason. Stay STRONG! Think of this only as a test of Faith. Prayers for you and your family today and a quick/healthy recovery. God Bless

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks Linda

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8 04 2015
daryle hanlon

You are an incredibly strong and courageous woman! Sending STRONG HEARTBEATS your way!!!

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thsnks Daryle

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8 04 2015
staci Levick

Wishing you all the best and sending you prayers. I know it sounds hoaky but thank g-d you found it before it found you. All the work at keeping yourself healthy will benefit you in your recovery. Let me know if I can help in any way. .

Staci Levick

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8 04 2015
Elizabeth C

You are such a strong person…mental strength will get you through to a full physical recovery!! Thinking about you!

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8 04 2015
Jen Olsen

So inspiring Hope as always. Thinking of you and praying for a speedy recovery.

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8 04 2015
Jane Balter

Love and light to you Hope. You have been such an inspiration to me. Wishing you a speedy recovery.
Peace,
Jane B.

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks Jane

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10 04 2015
Christine

Thanks so much for sharing Hope! So glad surgery went well and hoping you have a smooth recovery. You’re in my thoughts.

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10 04 2015
Stacy

The information that you are sharing is very important . Heart disease is do prevalent around the country. My dad who is 90 years young always exercised and twenty years ago after coming home after a cruise sat down to dinner to tell my mother something was wrong. He had a mild heart attack. He was taken down to Hannomen (spell) Hospital . They scheduled him to have a cathadorization and while there had to have a stint. My dad eats healthy and he was working out after. My family has a history of heart issues. My point is we look at you as a strong person and this is just a bump in the road. You will get back to a normal routine. Have a speedy recovery.

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22 04 2015
Fit, Fifty & Feeling WTF ( Wonderful, Thankful & Freakin’ Relieved) | Hope Nagy's Blog

[…] *The pre-op blog posted the day before my surgery FIT,FIFTY & WTF can be found at hopenagy.wordpress.com and scroll to prior post or at: https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/fit-fifty-w-t-f/ […]

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23 04 2015
Connie

Only know of your ordeal through Caryn,a concerned friend.. I found your blog inspirational, exactly the attitude that is needed to get through these or any physical challenges that are thrown our way. Keep writing- it heals the soul & finds its way into others lives.

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27 04 2015
Hope Nagy

Thanks Connie

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30 05 2015
READY, SET & GOOD TO GO. 6 weeks post op of my open heart surgery. | Hope Nagy's Blog

[…]         MotivateHopeStrength.com                                      https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/fit-fifty-w-t-f/ […]

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4 07 2018
ICELAND on the EDGE | Hope Nagy's MotivateHopeStrength Blog

[…] had a medical mishap. This out of the blue heart defect thingy sidelined me for a little while. *See Fit,Fifty & WTF.  But if theres one thing a life threatening  illness or in my case open heart surgery does is […]

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