Andrew Christensen Michigan
I was born on May 3,1990 with a rare heart condition called Truncus Arteriosus with ventricular bi septal defect, a condition that effects only 1% of children born with congenital heart conditions. It means that one large blood vessel leads out of my heart instead of two separate vessels coming out of the heart. Also, the two lower chambers of the heart are missing a portion of the wall that divides them. As a result of truncus arteriosus, oxygen poor blood that should go to the lungs and oxygen rich blood that should go to the rest of the body are mixed together. This was found minutes after my birth when I experienced what is called “blue baby syndrome” and was rushed into heart surgery at the University Of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital.
The first surgery I had to repair the truncus was successful, but I did require two more open hearts within my first two weeks of life. This lead to me never living quite a normal life. Being fed through tubes as an infant, doctor appointments, medicine to take, and never being able to play sports like a normal child. I did have to have another open heart procedure at the age of 8, causing me to miss most of my second grade year at school. This was the first surgery I remember, but within days after returning home my mother caught me outside throwing a football and running around the yard. My childhood remained pretty normal with only a few minor bumps in the road with my condition: an Amplatzer placement when I was 11 years old to fix a leaking valve in my heart and a heart cath followed, and was told I was not going to have to experience another open heart procedure until my mid to late 20s.
I wish that was the case. During baseball practice in junior high I suffered a major Tachycardia, a resting heart rate exceeding 100 bpm. Mine was 285 bpm when I arrived at the ER, but was much faster than that when it initially happened. I arrived at the Greenville emergency room nearly an hour after my tachycardia started and was rushed into a room where the medical staff franticly started an IV and hooked me up to a heart monitor; they were shocked to see that I was still alive and walking with such a fast heart rate. They administered a medicine that stopped my heart in order to restart it to a normal rhythm. I flat lined for about a minute and a half. I was clinically dead for that 90 or so seconds, experiencing an out-of-body experience in which I could not hear, feel, or see anything in the room that was in. The nursing staff could not start my heart back up right away due to the fact that it was simply too tired to work anymore. I eventually opened my eyes to see my mother five inches from me, tears running down her face and a blank expression for what she just saw happen to her son. When I awoke my heart rate was a calm 75 bpm and I felt tired, but normal.
After this event I was transported back to the University of Michigan for two more open heart surgeries, one ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) placement, a collapsed lung, and 45 pound weight loss. After about two months I was able to return home with my family. However, I did not return as my old self. I brought home not only physical scars from my ordeal, but mental scars too. I have since been diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and anxiety along with panic attacks and nightmares about having another heart attack. I am, however, getting better and working daily to regain control of my life.
That is why I want to be proactive in helping others with heart conditions, and those who have had similar experiences. I have felt alone for a long time, but I know I am not, and this website is proof of that. I am going to dedicate my life to helping others with congenital heart defects: children, adults, anyone who needs it. I am very glad to be able to share my story with all of you and the American Heart Association and I hope to be more involved in the future. I'm excited about where this journey of my life will take me and the people I will meet that will inspire me.
Thank you for reading my story,