Exactly 365 days ago I was on a operating room having a surgery to fix my heart.This is just a summary of this chapter to finally close it and inspire people to never give up. Before you read this I have to say that there are worse problems in peoples lives and this helped me realised no matter the problem you should always fight back.
Life is full of opportunities, if you fail one there is one waiting for you.
So let’s start with the beginning. How can a “healthy” guy get this?
Well genetics. In a short sentence there was an anomaly during the formation of your heart, in my case I was born with a Atrial septal defect. In a brief description it is basically a communication that isn’t supposed to happen in your heart making your blood flow between the cavities in your heart.
When a child is born there are some heart exams done to check if the blood is flowing normally and most of the times the detection appears when the communication exists between ventricles. In my case I had communication between my auricles which is a bit harder to detect. For a medical point of view it is one of the most easy operations to be done but always with some risk associated.
So how you detect this?
Honestly, I think it is hard to detect. Most of us don’t do exams to the heart often and the symptoms are similar to a person doing exercise ( getting tired, fatigue and so on ). Also when you make a routine exams it is possible for the doctor to listen to the beating and find it. But as a doctor you are managing a lot of patients and it slips away very easily which is understandable. It is normally detected when you have above 40s when the symptoms are more frequent and the exams are more clear in the matter, for example, the beating is no longer normal because most of the times your right side is forcing way more then it is supposed to do. There is a lot more to say and this only covers a bit.
I might have been saying some medical affirmations wrong and I am sorry in advance, it is a lot to process and that is why I praise you for doing what you do everyday.
On the beginning of last year I was feeling some pain in my lower back due to a lot of my time being spent in front of a computer since I was studying IT at the time. I went to the doc and he told me to start swimming again. Before I went to university where I pretty much stopped doing any kind of exercise in my life and I used to swim a lot.
So I was like ,
Great, I love swimming.
So, first day to swimming after a long time of absence everything was going well until on the last 50m I decided to push a bit harder. When finished I left the pool and I started to feel really dizzy and losing my sight and senses. I remember arriving at the changing room and staying there for 5 minutes on the bench trying to recover and I couldn’t. I went to the reception and asked for a glass of water with sugar sat on the floor and lost my senses for a few seconds. On the meantime my Mom was coming to wait for me at the entrance and she saw that scenario, brilliant.
That was the moment that I understood that something was not good with me. In fact so far it is all stuff that can happen when you exercise.
The next day, doc again -> scheduling heart exams.
I did a ECG and a echo-cardiogram to check if everything was ok with me. On the echo-cardiogram after 30min of exams, the technician told me:
I have bad news for you. You should had a surgery when you had 5 years. You have to go to a specialist asap to fix it.
No matter how strong you are if someone tells you this you are gonna break in pieces. And that is what happened with me. I started feeling not so good went to the car and called at that time my gf and told her.
I have a problem in my heart. I’m gonna die.
It is naive, I know but when you experience something new it is easily understandable. She tried to call me down but I cried for a long time. Next I called Mom and said the same thing. She didn’t believe me because I was used to make fun of everything. But as soon she saw me she knew that I was serious and stayed with me for a long time calming me down.
There was also my doctor. I went to tell him some days after and his smile disappeared and it was just a expression of ‘how I didn’t detect this?’ and failure.
From this day until the surgery I did a lot of stupid things to people that were super close to me and this killed any kind of status I had with it.
Fast forwarding, met a incredible surgeon, Doctor Adelino Moreira to make the surgery where he explained everything from procedure to risks, what needed to be done before and after and so we did.
Two weeks I had the surgery I went to a Erasmus+ project to talk about career opportunity and those days were just epic in a good and in a bad way. Let’s start with the bad things. Adding to crying, I drunk … a lot. Maybe every single day of that exchange. Looking bad it was probably one of the most stupid things I did in my life. I had orders to be in perfect shape for the surgery but I was so scared that I needed a way out. WRONG. Adding to that I was sleeping a few hours per day to be on the project and be a active participant. My body hold and I only had a small cold.
In a good way I met amazing people that helped me create a good environment around. One of them was Damiana, a girl that at the time was the only person that understood what I was feeling because she lived it when she was younger. Her and Anais, another girl told me and explained me what was going to appear prior the surgery, because they knew the surgery was going to be a success. I knew them before from another exchange but our friendship started to appear
In fact it was the first time I started to think what was gonna happen after the surgery. All the things I wanted to do etc.
There was also a moment that stood up for me which was on the farewell day. Usually on the last day there is a small exercise where you have to express what you learned from those days to the others. And when it was Stefi turn, a facilitators of the project. Before I advance in this I met Stefi before in another exchange where she was again the facilitator/trainer. There was a exercise on that exchange called Garden of Learning where you put on the board your fears, contributions and expectations. On that time, I put two notes on my fears: ‘not expressing myself’ and ‘not being part of the group’.
On the last day you go to the board and if you feel that you manage to pass your fears you take them out. It is a nice exercise for you to challenge yourself to pass those fears. I went to the board and took out both of my notes and Stefi asked me what I wrote and I showed her. She told me back that I was most of the group cohesion which is always nice to hear, but also that shows some insecurity. On the middle of the speech she said something similar to this:
All of you were amazing, I want to be in touch with most of you but some of you might not be here for another exchange.
And then she started to cry. It felt that that message was for me and since I was feeling more confident I stood up hug her and told her that everything was gonna be alright. That followed with a huge hug from everyone. It is still to the date the one of the best groups I had in terms of Erasmus+ projects. To the date I never spoke about that moment with Stefi but honestly I would like to know, just for curiosity.
The day of the surgery was a calm day at least for me. My surgery lasted six hours. Someone, I don’t remember told me my mom waited all those six hours in my room waiting for news. I never asked her what was going on thought her head during that time but it is probably one of the worse times that you might have in your time. The surgery was a success. Spent 48h in intensive care with a few visits ( mom and dad most of the times ) where I felt like a zombie. During the five days spent in the hospital I thought a lot on what I have done with life during 25 years and I realised the answer was simple.
Nothing. I did nothing.
But had another opportunity to start again. And it is what I am doing now.
The recovery went well where I took some needed rest. After this months I started making exercise again. I went back to swimming and I met Flávio my professor and he was one of the persons that stood the most to me. The first hour I had with him was probably the most frustrating I had. It looked like there was no strength on me, you just lose all the resistance you had before, you heart is beating differently relearning to the new environment.
But there is one thing I value in people which is the power of challenging you. I hate when people treat others just because they have a ‘condition’. It lowers then and they feel bad about it. So Flávio most of the times was making jokes about my physical status. And I took that as a challenge. From 1 time per week, I raised to 3 times a week and showed improved results.
My first class I did less then 500 meters in 40 minutes that is not a lot. In a few weeks I was doing over 1 kilometre in the same time, improving my breathing etc. Today I will rejoin the gym and increase my exercise because the recovery is now endurance.
During all this time I learned a few things that feels right to be right now.
Never give up in yourself.
It is your life, fight for your expectations. You live only once. The only part which is bad in this is if you want to do a lot and you don’t have time. So do as much as you can for yourself.
Do the things you love and you will be happy.
There is a lot of things that I always wanted to do in my life and most of the time I was just making excuses for not doing it. One example was dancing. After all of this, I saw a opportunity to learn and I did it. The things you love make you forget your problems temporarily which is a good thing for your brain.
Don’t do/buy things because others do it too.
Lately people travel just because others do. Travel to meet and talk with others, share experiences and sharing thoughts. I don’t own a fancy phone or fancy clothes. But I value a lot someone asking to have a coffee and talk. This leads to travel to meet up people that I enjoyed for any particular case during my exchanges, for example.
Selfish mentality is core on the current society and it is wrong.
I used to do it. This was destroying my past relationship and this surgery was the breakdown in that one. Even though the person was amazing I was unhappy and things needed to change. This is not an excuse and I still blame myself for a lot that happened from most of the bad things my bad without realising it. I still need to say sorry to a lot of people and thank others for being in my life.
Experiences over Money.
Money is ‘good’. You can go eat in a fancy dinner or go see a movie or travel. You name it. But in the end that just gives you a temporary happiness. Challenge yourself into talking with a person from a country that you feel it is not the one for you. My best experiences lately is having serious conversations with people from other countries as it has been incredible in terms of knowledge. When I met a refugee or a person from Palestine I saw the reality with my own eyes, completely different from what the media says for example. We are more alike then you image, just embrace and make the person next to you smile. It is also important that you don’t focus too much on work. I am currently working to get some experience but I might stop some months to do volunteering from time to time because the return is way bigger then you imagine.
You will always get judged.
This was something that become super evident in my life from having the scar. I was on the beach and some people were looking at the scar and turning their face away and if you don’t have some confidence people you just hide yourself from others. I know a few cases in my known network and I honestly don’t know how to help them. It has to come from them. This it a lesson that you should take with you.
Things happen for a reason.
I am a solo believer of the destiny, there is a lot of stuff that I didn’t wrote to don’t be super extensive but in any some cases I would never thought they were gonna happen the way they did especially family matters.
A person smiling doesn’t mean he is well in life.
This is the most sad reality that exists. We are overwhelmed with stuff that we forgot about our happiness. Most of us want to show it all and in the end we show nothing. A big friend of mine told me once:
Look around you. Everyone here as a problem. You don’t know what is it but they do.
Since then helping others became a most. More then helping inspiring them to do good stuff. There is also another phrase that I take with me which says it all:
We are capable of solving other people problems except ours.
The scar reminds me everyday of that everyday. You are alive and it is a blessing. Yesterday I after the dancing was finished I was talking with a couple in their 60s from the dance classes that were telling me all the operations that they did and that even so they were there to have fun and enjoy life to the max. And I felt like that is the reality I want to be.
Money is unlimited, Time and Health aren’t
This is the most important lesson in your life. You can have as many money as you want but a big disease comes and puff you gone, it is unpredictable. At least for now each one of our life has a expiration date that we don’t know about. Truth is if you knew when it was your day were you gonna change something? Probably not. So live it one day after another.
Last to all my friends ,family and others that helped me during this journey of life a big thank you. You inspire me to inspire others. That is our job in this world, help others in the bad moments and enjoy the good moments with them.
In twelve days here I go again to inspire people in another exchange by sharing my opinion and listening to others while improving myself as a human. And now this chapter is finally closed.
See you soon,