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Share Your Story: Sara Chrzanowski

by Anne S. on Monday, August 12, 2013

Sara Chrzanowski Marengo, IL

When I was 6 months old it was discovered I had a heart murmur.  A catheterization was done to determine the issues.  The defect was not determined to be severe enough to repair it at that time.  Shortly after I moved to Illinois from Michigan with my family.  My heart was monitored over the years seeing my cardiologist regularly with minimal medication, no restrictions, and lived a normal life.

When I was 13 I began sleeping a lot more and tired easily.  I went to see my cardiologist and was told everything was fine.  My parents wanted a second opinion because of concern over my sleeping habits.  I went to my next cardiology appointment and it was found that my heart was not keeping up with an active and growing teenager.  It was time that the heart murmur be repaired.  Just after my 14th birthday I had another cardiac catheterization to repair the murmur.  After being injected with dye so my heart would glow the doctors discovered even more problems.  Two more major congenital heart defects that went undiagnosed for years.  An arterial septal defect, which in short is an opening in the wall between the right and left atrium letting oxygen-rich blood flow through to mix with the oxygen-poor blood in the right atrium.  They also found a defect with one of the pulmonary veins that was returning 50% of my blood to the wrong side of the heart and not to the rest of my body.  After discovering these new defects the repair of the murmur was then aborted. 

I awoke instinctively asking if I was cured only to be told that I now needed open heart surgery to fix bigger problems.  After the initial shock, I learned that not repairing my heart would have left me with a life expectancy of my early-twenties and risk dying at the drop of dime under strenuous physical activity.  As you can imagine, this was a lot for a 14-year-old to take in.  A year later I had my open heart surgery at in Chicago.  This time when I awoke I was told it was a success! 

Today I am a successful interior designer.  I travel often and spend my time enjoying being with my family and friends, and I have a long full life ahead of me with no restrictions.  I still have a mild heart murmur and a scar; that I have come to see as beautiful reminder of how lucky I am to be alive.

Because of the generous donations to the American Heart Association, amazing research and technology advancements continue.  Which is why, years later I’m still here.  And will be for many more to come.

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