Relaunching Project Happy Hearts

I’ve started and stopped writing this post a million times. Feelings of invalidation have continuously crept into my mind, but again and again I realized that each of our stories matter and we must share them. So here is a blog post about my 5 year heart anniversary.

(3 months late...)

I remember the morning of January 17, 2014 so incredibly vividly. In fact I remember the week leading up to January 17th with precise detail. I was about to undergo my first open heart surgery as an adult. I thought I was going to die. I walked into the hospital that morning pretty sure I wouldn’t be walking out. Something in me changed that day. I lost some innocence that I will never get back. I stared at death, I was afraid, yet also at peace.

The day before the big operation my family had flown up to the Bay Area from Socal. We hung out, had a nice dinner, and I even got my nails done... because you know you need cute nails before you die. I sent all of my loved ones goodbye text messages, washed myself with that weird yellow soap you use before surgeries, and took a selfie. I think I knew I wasn’t going to come out of this surgery as the same person.

The morning came and I went through the motions. I showered, got dressed and packed a bag. We all drove to the hospital together in a rental car, playing Mumford and Sons. Nobody talked. I’ll never be able to know what my parents or sisters were feeling, but I can only imagine it wasn’t an easy morning for them.

Once we got to the hospital I don’t remember a thing. I don’t remember checking in, I don’t remember talking to doctors, I don’t remember saying goodbye to my family, I don’t remember anything. But about 10 hours later I do remember seeing my sister who is also my very best friend in the ICU smiling at me. I’ll never forget seeing her face.  I was alive. And everything hurt. And I was so thirsty. And the patient in the recovery bed next to me was screaming. And I was ALIVE. And I was happy to be alive.

I was happy to be alive. I wish I could say that I felt the same a year later. So much goodness has come from having congenital heart disease, but with all the good came some darkness. Darkness that I have fought for close to 5 years post open heart surgery. I am just coming out of it now. I still struggle, but I have been learning to cope and I have continued to find the joy throughout it all.

On my two year heartiversary I wasn’t celebrating, I was prepping for another heart procedure. I had 2 more after that and pacemaker put in a little over a year ago. It was nonstop for a few years. You know when they say it rains it pours, well California might have been experiencing a drought, but I was experiencing a downpour. Every doctor visit, hospital stay, and procedure over the past few years have taken their toll on me both physically and emotionally.

I’ve always been a glass half full human with a very sunny disposition. However, after getting hit hard with health issues my demeanor changed, but I still searched for the happy because there is always happy to be found. I still practiced gratitude daily, I still adventured and committed to doing things that made my heart happy. I was still me I just had to work harder to find the joy. This taught me one of the greatest lessons, in order to find joy on a daily basis I needed to make heart happiness a habit. Both physically and mentally. Over the past 5 years making heart happiness a habit has not only improved my heart function, but it has also allowed me to heal emotionally from the medical trauma I experienced.

So, instead of doing a big celebration (I like to celebrate every little thing!) for my 5 year heartiversary I launched Project Happy Hearts V2. It reflects my thoughts on the importance of making heart happiness a habit. The power of education, prevention and detection to help shift the medical world’s focus away from treating heart disease to instead preventing it. And finally how your story can make a bigger impact than you can ever imagine. I hope my story saves lives.

A special thank you to my wonderful parents, my strong sisters, my incredible husband, and all the beautiful friends who are like family to me that have helped me along the way. Without you all I couldn’t have survived the past 5 years. You make my heart happy.

xoxo, Heidi