February Is American Heart Month

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HeartI am an open-heart surgery survivor. My heart was not diseased, it was defected. They call this congenital heart defect an anomaly of the right coronary artery, which can also mean that I was routed wrong.

During my childhood, I never really ran—sometimes I would get dizzy, so of course I would slow down. I did extensive training, and was made fun of, though I pushed myself and succeeded. Also, when having my daughter, who is my second child, I had a team of doctors waiting for me to go into cardiac arrest and later said my daughter was an anomaly.

Last year, I became weak and wasn’t feeling right. After extensive tests by a curious doctor (who just retired) and congenital specialist from Great Neck, I became a candidate for elective open-heart surgery for correction. In April 2015, I went for open-heart surgery, and was home with my family, who cared for me, within four days.

This story isn’t about me though. This story is about a Great Neck student who has been bringing awareness to her peers. This is about humanity at its finest—this student has not only raised money for other causes, but also donated everything out of our closets, prepared food for the homeless and makes ribbons at night. Her name is Alexandra, and this is my way of saying “thank you” to her (and her brother, James) for highlighting all the awareness she is bringing to other children.

This is so parents can take action with a simple test of their children’s hearts so that death can be avoided and preteen and teen athletes won’t pass on our fields. Usually, there is early detection in infants and small children but, I, like many, am proof that you can live a long time, like a ticking time bomb, and go through life…maybe.

An electrocardiogram never showed my defect, but a sonogram of the heart can. So there it is, healthy heart month of February. Bringing a voice to congenital hearts of all ages helps them feel a little less silent. Also, it helps knowing that there is a little girl out there who is subtly bringing awareness for healthy hearts everywhere.

Jeanmarie Kessler

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