The one in which I am diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.


I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I tend to think more about health and fitness. I’ve always exercised and, like many people, tried to maintain a decent weight, but now that I’m approaching 40 I think more about not only my personal health, but that of my children and husband, too.


Given that I’m the main unpaid chef and food-shopping slave (I’m not bitter, Mr Lush), I am also therefore the one who decides what will go into the stomachs of my family. Given half a chance, all 3 of my sidekicks would subsist on nothing but processed packets. Around a year ago, I decided that enough was enough as regards snacks in the house, and the sidekicks have been reduced solely to fruit, or yoghurts that have as little refined sugar in as I can scour down on the shelves.


They get treats, but the concept of not having treats in the building with us, 24/7, works better than my continually saying “NO”. The initial crescendo of moaning has been replaced instead by a general consensus that Mum is a miserable killjoy, and that’s just fine by me.


My husband is the kind of swine who eats whatever he likes, whenever he likes, and gains no weight whatsoever. However, as I like to remind him, he may be lithe and smug on the outside, but inside he’d be morbidly obese if it weren’t for me. Luckily, I’m the one with the metaphorical padlock on our fridge, and he is thwarted at every turn if he accompanies me on the food shop.


I recently had a cardiology appointment to check on a benign ectopic heartbeat that I’ve had for years. When I visited QA, I had an echocardiogram and suspected that something was awry when the nurse asked me, for a second time, whether this was the first time I’d ever had a heart scan. I affirmed that it was and, in a very British manner, kept schtum, whilst dwelling on what this might mean, and ignoring the indignity of having my boobs manhandled in the dark by a complete stranger with a probe in his hand. (Given that the hospital was deserted and there was no chaperone in the room, I also suspected at one point that I’d been duped entirely into disrobing by a random member of the perverted public, but that proved to be the product of an over-active imagination and one two many late night episodes of Crimewatch.)


When I was called through to see the consultant, I was told that my dodgy beats are indeed fine with no underlying cause, but that the scan had picked up an entirely unrelated issue. It transpires that I have a ‘bicuspid aortic valve’. He asked if I had heard of this before (I resisted mentioning Holby City), and went on to explain that this means my aortic valve is divided not into 3 tiny sections, but 2.

Fortunately for me, my valve is functioning just fine and in two-thirds of people will never cause a problem. It would often be diagnosed via a heart murmur, but I have never even had that. If the valve does ever cause an issue, which would essentially be a stiffening and a narrowing with age, then it’s unlikely to be for many years, by which time, keyhole surgery will be the norm. I did find it extraordinary though to discover that a part of my body, since birth, has not been as I assumed. Not that I’ve ever given a passing thought to valves and the like. Perhaps I should have done.


So, to be further on the safe side, I have started running again. I used to run 30 miles a week but, following a hip injury, had to stop. I have missed it ever since – there is nothing like the runner’s high – so I figure that a couple of short runs a week are better than none. My girls and my husband come along with me, whenever possible, which makes it far more fun and models good habits for when they’re older. We look like a bunch of track-suited muppets en masse, but I’ve always thought that if you’re willing to run in public, then you’re willing to look a mess anyway. The fact that they all sprint past me, chatting whilst they do so, as I snatch any gasp of oxygen going, is something I’m working on.


Also, as a note of interest, my appointment at QA was at 7pm. This flies in the face of the flack that doctors get, and the impression that the media can portray of our health service. The appointment was quick and efficient and the staff, Probegate aside, extremely courteous.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 5th April 2016

Image courtesy of twelve


2 thoughts on “The one in which I am diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.

  1. I always knew you had a big heart V , now it’s confirmed. May it continue to beat soundly and strongly for ever!

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