Name: Kelsie Age: 25
City, State: San Diego, CA
What’s your heart story?
I was diagnosed at birth with L-transposition of the greater arteries, Ebstein Valve, Ventricular Septal Defect. I also developed Heart Block in my early twenties. Growing up I always knew I had a heart condition. However, it wasn’t till I was older that I learned more about my condition and its severity. I have had 4 surgeries to date (2 open heart, 1 pacemaker, and 1 heart cath). I would really like to say living with heart disease doesn’t affect my life. I feel like I had a very normal childhood other than yearly checkups to the cardiologist. I never knew there were so many people like me, with heart conditions though I never met another kid who had a heart condition, so in that sense, I sometimes felt very alone. However, as I get older it is becoming more and more apparent I do have limitations and there are certain things in life I will never be able to do like running a marathon or having a baby. My family is very supportive though and I know they will support me through this crazy Congenital Heart Defect journey we are all on. As for the future, I don’t need any surgeries and I hope to continue living a “normal” life.
What would you say has been your lowest point or biggest fear about your condition?
I would say my biggest fear is missing out on certain experiences in life because of my heart condition.
How do you keep yourself motivated during the difficult times?
During difficult times in my life, I lean on my faith in God.
Why is sharing your heart story with other women important to you?
To me, it’s important to share my story so others do not feel alone. I also think it’s important to share your journey with others because you never know who looking or listening you might be giving someone hope without even knowing it. If I can inspire one person to keep moving forward and keep hope alive it will have been worth it.
What advice do you have for other women living with heart disease?
This is a hard question for me, I had pacemaker surgery less than two years ago and I’m still trying to figure things out, learn more my condition and how the be the healthiest happy version of myself. I think the issue of heart disease is a complicated one and it can be a very hard for some people to talk about. I would say the biggest piece of advice I could give other women is don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask questions about your family history ask questions to your doctor and ask how you can get help or get healthy.
Many people are not aware that heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in the US, why do you think that is?
To be honest, if I wasn’t born with a heart condition, heart disease wouldn’t be on my radar either. I think people associate heart disease as a disease for older people when in reality that’s not true. I also think this fuels a negative stigma around talking about heart disease.
What do you think you (or we) can do to raise awareness about women and heart disease?
I think it would be great to have a celebrity spokesperson come out and do an awareness campaign. I also think it would be great if more heart disease survivors did media interviews.
What has living with heart disease taught you?
The one thing living with heart disease has taught me is to be grateful. It sounds very cliché but every day is a gift and I want to look back on my life and make sure I lived a life full of happiness.
What are you thankful for?
I’m thankful for my family, friends, my amazing medical team, my faith in God, a good workout and a fun adventure.
As a heart disease survivor, you try to live a healthy lifestyle but you are human so what’s your guilty pleasure?
I love good Italian food and making pizza from scratch!
What do you like to do for fun?
For fun, I like to go to the beach, hang out with friends and family. I also enjoy traveling, reading and gardening.
Any final thoughts?
I think it’s so great you do these interviews/ blog features.