August 20, 2011
It has been six months since your two heart operations and almost daily people ask me how you are doing. Before today, all I could say is that you appeared to be doing well. In fact, I did not know your actual condition. You have no pulmonary heart valve, so the question was, how well could your body adapt to this new situation? The rest of your organs, your arteries, your liver, but particularly the right chamber of your heart needed time to absorb the new pressures created by the back flow of blood returning into your heart after each pump. So yesterday we went to Loma Linda for a check and as it turns out your body has been adapting well. It is good to be young! However, you are gradually finding out that you do, in fact, have a real liability, a life long liability. You were told to refrain from severe physical activity such as intense hiking or biking, and that even activities like tennis, swimming, running should be kept to a moderate level. In other words, there is a whole range of activities that you must avoid or keep to a moderate level. And in fact, Malati, you told your doctor that you have trouble running as much as you would like. You experience some shortness of breath, palpitations, and even a little chest pain if you over do it.
Malati, I suspect you had the idea that once these operations were behind and you were sufficiently healed you could achieve what would be considered a normal level of physical activity that any woman of your age might expect. You hoped that if you just exercised enough you could get herself up to ‘normal.’ What we learned yesterday is that this ordeal is never going to completely end, and being normal is never going to happen the way you would like it to be. So it is understandable that you may feel shaken and depressed by this meeting.
On the other hand, I was delighted in hearing the news of this meeting. A few months ago we were facing the prospect of losing a child and so to come back here, just six months later, and discover that your body is adapting well to its new situation was good news indeed. What I heard from your doctor is that you can go on and live a relatively normal life. You can marry, have children, a career and look forward to a full life. Yes, you will be a permanent cardiac patient. Yes, you will have to be moderate in your lifestyle, and yes, you will have to be vigilant with your health, but that is a small price to pay for what could have been a terrible disaster. Since this meeting, I consider your immediate crisis and subsequent healing period over, yet I know there will be challenges. You will need an artificial valve at some point in the future. But overall I am delighted with the outcome. You look well and you should plan for a full life.
In fact there is no such a thing as normal. There are just statistical averages. Each of us are individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses. So accept what is ‘normal’ for you. Yes, you may have some physical limitations that you did not expect, but Malati, you have an extremely sharp mind and intellect, beyond the average. Focus your energies in that direction. You will excel if you do. You have only lost 8 months because of your health crisis. This may seem a lot, but in fact it is just a blip on the screen of your life. You have just twenty years of life behind you. Take the next decade to finish your education and start a career. It’s an exciting time for you because you can do almost anything in the intellectual realm that you wish. Feel your purpose in life and move in that direction.