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A Personal Post on Being a Heart Baby & my Surgery Tomorrow

Thank goodness for yoga teacher training and for having a husband with the motto "Calm Blue Ocean". Thank goodness for my psychologist mother, aka the Dalai Mama, and for my amazing network of family and friends. Thank goodness for my incredibly supportive clients.

On Friday afternoon I got the update that it's time for my next heart surgery. I can't say this was totally unexpected. They gave me a range of 2 to 17 months {or more} at my last visit, so you know, plan around that as a small business owner. Could be tomorrow. Could be in 2 years. Turns out it's Wednesday and was scheduled with a quick call to an admin on Friday; "Does he have time for a pacemaker changeout next week? ... Wednesday? ... Great."

Holding my last pacemaker over the area where my current pacemaker sits nuzzled into the muscle, pacing my heart. Photo by Emily Leahy, one year ago.

Holding my last pacemaker over the area where my current pacemaker sits nuzzled into the muscle, pacing my heart. Photo by Emily Leahy, one year ago.

That's right - I'm 29 and have a pacemaker. I suppose it doesn't sound that young anymore but imagine saying that about a 3 year old. It started with a routine pediatric checkup where they noticed an incredibly slow heart rate. Rushed to the ICU, for 4 weeks I was poked and prodded, tested for everything imaginable. As was my mother - healthy as can be. They found out that I had complete heart block; the heart beat from one atrium was not being transmitted to the other. Amazingly, my heart knew to do it on it's own; just at a very low pace. {I generate about 30 beats a minute to this day on my own without my pacemaker's help.} The doctors couldn't find a source for this arrhythmia. I wasn't born with it. They decided a pacemaker could solve for it so just about a month later, I had my first surgery. My pacemaker was put in by my abdomen because little me couldn't fit one in my shoulder/chest area. Cut open, starting at my belly button all the way to my mid ribs, and sewn up. Besides my torso length scar and inability to go through metal detectors or attend magic shows {sorry to give it away, it's all done with magnets}, everything pretty much went back to usual. My poor parents were finally able to get some sleep.

Looking back all I can remember is the operating room. Gray metal. The operating table. Empty. I've been told that you don't form lasting memories at that age, not yet 3, unless of course you undergo a trauma. But the real survivors were my parents. My sisters, 5 and 9, were shipped off to FL to stay with our grandparents for a few weeks. My mom slept in a chair by my bedside - for a month. She went home for one night about 3 weeks in to shower and attempt to sleep. My grandmother stayed the night in the hospital. My heart rate dropped to 13 beats a minute that night without her by my side. If you ever need proof of a mother's love, of a mother's ability to carry her child through trauma, let me tell you there it was. Still to this day my mom comes with me to my cardiology appointments. The doctors never question it. I imagine they've met many Dr. Moms in their careers.

Holding my last pacemaker over the area where my current pacemaker sits underneath, about 1/2 the size of the older one. Photo by Emily Leahy, one year ago.

Holding my last pacemaker over the area where my current pacemaker sits underneath, about 1/2 the size of the older one. Photo by Emily Leahy, one year ago.

The reason I'm sharing this story is because I met a Dr. Mom of another heart baby a couple of years ago. I was at Chakra Power Yoga {then Jai Yoga} and saw Michaela across the room. My good friend, now owner of the studio, Nicole Burrill had told me Michaela's story. So after class I introduced myself and told her that I was a heart baby, all grown up, completely healthy and happy, a survivor; she started to cry. I realized that when you're in the moment, when your baby is 2, not yet 3, it's hard to see him at 30, all grown up, completely healthy and happy. I wanted to show her that it happens, that they'd get through the hard time and that things would return to normal. She spoke at the next Yoga Reaches Out event, New England Yogathon 2014, and while in line checking in, I happened to meet a woman whose son was a heart baby, now in his twenties. It's absolutely amazing to connect with other heart moms and babies because I used to think I was the only one. Keep in mind, there was no facebook to share and connect on. I'm writing this now for all the moms out there in the thick of it. Your child will be okay. Everything will return to normal.

My surgery on Wednesday will be a minor one; a simple battery replacement. The technology since my last surgery has improved dramatically; this will be my first outpatient surgery and my first time with conscious sedation instead of general anesthesia. I will be off shooting the rest of the month to allow my shoulder to heal. {I'll also be off yoga, my gym, and pretty much all movement so feel free to stop by if you're in the area and in the mood to, you know, sit a while.}

A huge thank you to my July yoga clients for the last minute rescheduling of sessions. I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate your flexibility and understanding. August wedding and yoga clients, get ready for a huge amount of energy from me after being cooped up for July!!

Namaste

Tracy

PS - The beautiful jewelry in these photographs {necklace, wedding band, wedding ring} is from my aunt's store, Peridot Fine Jewelry in Larchmont, NY and online.