It is not something I talk about often or openly as day to day it doesn’t affect my daily life, but I have a congenital heart condition. That means I was born with it so to me it is just part of me. I got off lucky and in the grand scheme of heart conditions mine is mild. I had a couple of surgeries as a baby which mended the problem as best as possible, which meant that I have never taken medication or need minimal observation.
That being said, 10 years ago today I had a heart valve replacement. It was a long time coming, my check ups had been moved closer together because the doctors could see my heart slowly enlarging, and when I was about 20 they told me I needed the replacement. The operation I had as a baby to fix the valve wasn’t a life long fix so this was always on the cards and when I was growing up. My mum made sure I understood my condition and that one day this would happen. I even saw my old valve off in style and threw a “My Heart is Broke, may I have some glue” party.
After a few months of tests and appointments my operation was scheduled so it would be at the beginning of the summer break before I went into the final year of my degree so that I wouldn’t have to take time off, which I am very grateful for. My degree was in Photojournalism and for years I had used photography as a way of exploring life around me. Initially I had wanted to photograph someone else my age going through a similar experience. I had a lot of interest in the project but frustratingly yet understandably no one volunteered, so I decided to volunteer myself. My best friend Jodie, who was on the same course as me, offered to photograph my journey. Some of the photos have been lost but I wanted to share the ones that were found. In all honesty I hadn’t ever really looked at these photos. Although I think I dealt with the whole experience quite well and had an amazing support system, I didn’t want to look back and relive in. But with this being the 10 year anniversary, I decided to find and take a look at them. Not many people have seen these; Jodie showed them as a project to my degree class but outside of that they haven’t been shown and I haven’t look at them since then.
I’m glad I dug them out. I might not have gotten too personal with this post but I think these images speak louder than my words could.
This is also the reason why I’m a massive champion of the NHS - I would not be here without them. I’m eternally thankful for all of the staff at the Royal Brompton Hospital and the Adult Congenital Heart team.
A couple of these are a bit graphic and if you’re not a fan of the sight of blood I’d maybe click away.
I’d also like to note that the ones captioned post surgery are not directly after. I was in the Intensive Care Unit and then a High Dependancy Unit before I moved to a unit that Jodie could visit as she isn’t “family” so those photos are probably 36 or 48 hours after surgery.
With this being my second open heart surgery you can see my original scar underneath the scabs. My surgeons used my original scar as a guide to minimise scarring which is yet another thing I’m grateful for.