Never Take Life for Granted: A Guest Post by Lisa Davis

Never take life for granted.

I have been a fitness enthusiast my entire life. I actually started teaching fitness out of high school and eventually got certified as an aerobics instructor and spinning instructor, teaching a variety of fitness classes over the next twenty years. Fitness is very much a part of who I am!

A year ago was a particularly stressful time in my career as CIO for the United States Marshals Service. I remember like it was yesterday coming into the office one morning and not feeling well. My heart was racing. Having used a heart rate monitor in my fitness training, I was very in tune with my heart. I knew something was not right. I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor. The internist validated that in fact my blood pressure was elevated and my heart was racing as well as skipping beats. I was referred to a cardiologist.

Join us at the Greater Washington Heart Walk this Saturday, November 9 at 10 AM on the National Mall. Click to Register or donate today!

Join us at the Greater Washington Heart Walk this Saturday, November 9 at 10 AM on the National Mall. Click to Register or donate today!

The cardiologist ran a variety of tests. On a Friday night at about 7:30 pm, I received a phone call from the cardiologist. I knew this was probably not a good sign. He said I got good news and bad news. The bad news is you are stressed and you must make some lifestyle changes. The good news is to do you you have a coronary heart defect. I was flabbergasted and said “no!” I was a runner, a cyclist and fitness nut and had never experienced any heart issues. He then stated that because I was born with a bicuspid value, my aorta had to work much harder and was enlarged. He said we were very luckily to have found it because I could of been one of those folks out for a run one day who dropped dead from an aortic aneurysm. I then asked if the symptoms I was currently experiencing were because of this condition. He said no and stated those were from stress which was just exasperating my condition. This was a pivotal moment in my life!

I then began seeing the cardiologist every six months to monitor the size of my aorta. I was told that by the time I was in my late sixties or seventies, this issue would require surgery. I was determined to be a good patient and figured I would deal with the issue when the time came.

Lisa and her family at the 2013 Heart Walk at Nationals Stadium

Lisa and her family at the 2012 Heart Walk at Nationals Stadium

Fast forward a year in my new position at Georgetown University. I had many lifestyle changes and was actually feeling pretty terrific. I was no longer experiencing any symptoms and went into see my cardiologist the beginning of September after having a fantastic summer. I felt great! After running through routine tests, my cardiologist came into the office and stated it was time for my to see a cardio thoracic surgeon. I asked why. He said I needed surgery. My aorta had grown to a size that required surgery to avoid rupture. I was shocked and devastated.

I was referred to Johns Hopkins within the next few weeks. My husband accompanied me and the the first thing the surgeon said to me was what is a healthy young person like you doing in my office. I replied, ” I’ve been asking myself that question for weeks now. He replied, ” you just picked the wrong parents.” At that point he explained my condition and explained that I needed to take care of this when it was convenient but it needed to get done in the next 2 months! I was like, “get what done.” He stated have open heart surgery to repair the aorta and fix my valve and make a decision as to what kind of valve I wanted. I was speechless and could not wrap my mind around two months. My surgery was then planned for Nov 27th.

The next few months was obviously extremely stressful. I have three children, Katie, 24, Christopher, 11 and Alexandra, age 10. All I could think of was them. What if I didn’t make it? Being faced with your own mortality is quite an eye opener. All the small issues become irrelevant because you pray every night to just survive and continue being a mom and a wife. I knew I wasn’t ready to leave this world and I was going to fight to the end. It certainly puts things back in perspective! I also had to stop exercising during this period. I was currently doing cross fit.

My surgery wound up getting postponed to Jan 7, 2013. I am sure you can imagine how stressful my holidays were last year. I was out of the hospital in 5 days and by week 2 I was walking 3 miles a day. By week 3, I was up to 5 miles a day. As a heart patient, they want you to walk so you do not get pneumonia or an infection in your lungs. So I walked and walked, at times I felt like Forrest Gump! But it kept me sane as I recovered. My friends and doctors were constantly saying that I was walking more than healthy people do. I was able to recover quickly because I was in good health, other than my heart. I was actually back in the office within 4 weeks. It took about 6 months before I really felt like my old self!

Today I am back to my regular exercise regime, except cross fit! I feel terrific and I have learned many valuable life lessons. I am so grateful and blessed for my health and my family and the support network at Georgetown. This is why I am honored to be a co sponsor of the American Heart Walk and I hope you can join Charles and I next week on the National Mall!

Register here for the 2013 Greater Washington Heart Walk this Saturday, November 9 at 10 AM

This guest post was written by Lisa Davis, Chief Information Officer at Georgetown University and the Georgetown Heart Walk Team Co-Leader.  Follow her on Twitter @LisaDavisCIO

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s