It was that day again…my annual check-up at the cardiologist’s.

I was born with a Tetralogy of Fallot (click for tiny explicatory vid, klik hier voor een NL filmpje), a rather complicated congenital heart deflection. Nowadays surgery is a piece of cake, but at the time, children born with it hardly lived to be 5. In fact, my mother’s brother died at the age of 5 by an in that time unidentified heart problem. Fortunately, I was among the first of a generation to get through surgery safely and live to grow up. Most of my time have had one or more surgeries to repair some problems that grew after the first surgery, though. I am one of the few who has not needed another surgery so far.

Great news! But it does make me kind of a test bunny. Because the matter-of-fact truth is that being the first generation that lives the cardiologist cannot predict how I’ll be doing and what I can expect. It was expected that I needed surgery around this age because most do. But I don’t. My heart isn’t exactly normal after the patchwork they’ve done, but it’s strong and up for the job it’s supposed to do. Of 400 patients with the same congenital heart deflection and surgery, it’s just me and one other patient whose ECGs are comparatively normal in comparison with ECGs from people without this congenital deflection. My heart’s condition has remain unchanged for a decade (that’s how long it’s been carefully recorded) and lived well through two pregnancies and childbirths. I’m thanking my genes on my knees! (Weird, considering they were what got me to be a heart patient in the first place, but still.)

So, hey, I’m special! In a weird kind of way… And one exciting day a year guaranteed! The ECG, the Doppler ultrasound, an MRI scan and sometimes an endurance test have to tell me if my heart is as good as I feel. Because even though I feel okay and feel no change in the condition of my heart, looking inside might show that I finally need to have a new valve…a donor valve. That is what might be necessary in the future. “Might”, because my strong heart seems to prove the specialism in this area wrong. Thirty years after my surgery I’m still going strong. Man! Did my surgeons do a good job 3 decades ago.I don’t know who they are anymore…or if they live. But I am eternally grateful for their work.

This day always has an impact. Throughout the year my heart deflection doesn’t really exist…or doesn’t seem to, most of the time. Unless I get some strange cramps in my chest…very unrelated to my heart and more to do with muscle tension in my chest that scare the hell out of me (could it be my heart?)…but other than that I hardly ever think about it. Except for this one day a year. And okay, I admit…funny butterflies start tickling my heart a week in advance. I know I should do a journal page about this. I want to. But somehow, every year around this day I feel numb. As if I cut off touch with my journal for a bit to keep myself at bay from the issue. I like the non-existence of my heart deflection, I guess. I’m pretty much the tough girl that works hard, demand the most of myself and not whine. So that one day a year where I have to reflect on how I’m doing, and where I have to accept that yes, something’s inside me that needs extra care…it just costs.

But this year’s different. I feel secure. I dare rely on how I feel and I knew I was going to be allright. I’m just not journalling about it because I’m working on a few sketches for my illustration class. So I chose words this year. My appointment for next year’s been made. I’m going to take really good care of my heart and walk out of that office ready for a celebration again next year! That’s a promise to myself!!!