Have a Heart: Being a Young Survivor of Heart Disease

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My name is Aaron and I grew up during the eighties. Wild hair, wild clothes, and Flock of Seagulls. Okay, you get my point. I like every other preacher’s child loved being the bad boy. I hung out with the wrong crowd, I rebelled, and I was one that had to stick their hand in the fire to get burned.

Fast forward twenty years being thirty-six years old and all of a sudden I started feeling these funny heart rhythms. I was planning on going to New York with some friends and they said, “You had better get that checked before we go.” Well, turns out I was having PVC’s or Premature Ventricular Contractions. It means that the bottom chamber of your heart wants to beat before the top part is ready and can feel like your heart skips a beat or someone has punched you in the chest or as I call it flip-flopping.

I went to the doctor and they asked me if I was a smoker. Heck yeah, since I was sixteen and I thought to myself this is not really something to be proud of, but all I could think of was teaching the older kids how to smoke and how cool I thought I was for doing so. I was overweight and diabetic. Let’s just say I was not a poster child for healthy living. They lay me down on a table and shoot me up with valium and the next thing I know is the technician is yelling at me for being a smoker and hearing the news that my right Coronary Artery was 100 percent blocked. I know longer wanted to be that rebellious teen that never grew up. See, I never learned as a teenager and kept up this behavior well into my thirties with drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy living. I thought I was partying like a rock star; all the while I was killing myself.

Fast forward six months after having Angioplasty (placing a stent into your artery to keep it open) and my heart starts going nuts again. I went back thinking maybe another Angioplasty was in order and then I heard the news. “You have to have quintuple bypass surgery.” Quintuple bypass surgery? I am only thirty-seven. I remember the fear and thinking dear God help me. The look on my family’s face was one of disbelief and fear and many tears were exchanged. I regret ever putting my family through this, but I have to remember all of this is not my fault. Heart disease is hereditary but this could have been the last time we saw each other. So many things go through your mind. Should I apologize to this person or that person for the wrong I have done? Will God forgive me for the things I have done? “God, I don’t want to leave my loved ones.” Talk about being afraid. Finally, I was the poster child of how not to live.

I had the surgery and awoke pale and weak, but alive. Thank you God (I thought). “Lord, please grant me thirty-six more years.” A wish and a prayer I will always remember. Well, it is six years later and the one thing I was left with was the funny heart rhythms. Every time my heart flip-flops or does a run of funny beats I think … this is it! It drives me to utter madness at times. My cardiologist says that PVC’s generally do not cause death, but I can tell you the doctor has probably never had one and does not know what they feel like. They can send me into panic attacks. The best way I can describe these lovely terrors is, Do you remember in school when the bully said they were going to beat you up after school and you spend the entire day worrying and had that awful burning sensation in the pit of your stomach? Well, that happens to me a when my heart starts acting up and I am left facing my mortality.

I guess the reason I am telling my story is to give hope to someone. I want young survivors of traumatic events to stand with me and encourage one another. The oddest thing is there are no support groups for folks our age that survive what most would typically think of as an older person’s disease.

I panic when this happens, but I love life. I want to live it, I want to drink in every breath, wonder at the amazing things my nieces and nephews do, and hopefully, one day fall in love. I want the persons reading this to hang in there and know that every day can be a battle, but to see another day is worth it. I only hope that God grants my prayer and lets me see those thirty-six years. I hope someone reads this and is blessed. We are blessed you know. Each day we are given whether it be a day of pain or of joy is glorious, don’t throw it away.

If you are a young survivor of a chronic illness, please let me know I am not alone. Know that out there somewhere is a person that loves you. That with faith and love you can make it through anything. You go through life not knowing that someone out there is thinking of you all the time, that someone out there loves you even though they may not say it, that you are beautiful to someone only they may be too shy to say it, that even with a scar down your chest, arm, and leg someone can still desire you. You have worth, you have purpose, and our lives have meaning. As you go through your day think of me, say a prayer, send a good thought, and I promise to do the same for you. I wish every blessing and God’s love to you.


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