I'm new to this forum, I found it through facebook and I thought I'd come on here and share my story of how I found my ASD and what it's been like through the process of fixing it to now, after closure.
When I was born, I had a heart murmur like many new births out there. The doctors told my parents that the hole would close on it's own eventually. Needless to say, it didn't. For my entire childhood and teen life I didn't experience any symptoms whatsoever. I went to university to get a higher education but didn't know exactly what I wanted to do in life. However one dream that I always had was to be a professional firefighter. Towards the end of my university schooling, it became more and more clear that being a firefighter and helping people was what I wanted to spend my life doing.
After I was done university, I was accepted into a college pre-service firefighter program to train towards my goal. When I first started the program, I knew that I would have to complete the firefighter physical test (called the CPAT) in order to proceed past the first semester of the program, but I would also have to do that test in order to get hired on to a department. Firefighting is obviously a very physically demanding profession, so my body would really be put to the test. When I did the test the first time, to my pleasure I passed. However a week or two later I started feeling a heaviness in my chest when I woke up in the morning. That was literally the only symptom I had so I didn't think much of it for a while and tried to ignore it. Over time, it was ever present and I decided that I should probably go check it out to see what it was.
I got a chest x-ray and it came up clear (originally). However a week later, the doctors office called me and said "There was a tiny abnormality I'd like to discuss." I then found out about my ASD. My hole was small, but present, and over the next year I went for a number of tests from MRI's to transesophogeal echocardiograms. Eventually they discovered my right side of the heart was becoming enlarged and they needed to plug the hole. From the time I discovered my ASD to catheterization closure with a amplatzer spetal occluder was a period of about 1 and a half years.
I remember sitting in that hospital bed, frustrated with the world, thinking why me, and waiting for my chance to get out of there and start building my strength back up. It was a very low point. As soon as I was cleared, I started going back to the gym and working towards my dream. The symptoms I felt after closure were mainly many palpitations from extra heartbeats, after the operation it was many a day, sometimes several in succession. The first month or 2 out of ops, I had several occular migraines which scared me at first, but stopped after the first couple months. For those who haven't had them or know about them, essentially your vision starts to sort of crystalize in your peripherals and it seems like your vision that isn't straight ahead of you is watery and occluded. The first time it happened to me I thought I was losing my vision and was very nauseas. The next times it happened I wasn't sick at all because I had looked up what it was and knew it was temporary. I was lucky because I only got 1 or 2 migraines, I hear many people get a lot of those after surgery. Those were my only symptoms. My chest heaviness all but disappeared. The symptoms I have now, 3 years later, are pretty much only heart palpitations. I probably get on average about 3 a day randomly, but none in succession anymore. It's something I always notice, but have gotten used to and live with. But I digress...
After a lot of hard work, dedication and perseverance, at 28 years old, I've achieved my goal and was hired by the City of Toronto and am now a professional firefighter. It was a long trying road with many bumps along the way, but now I'm doing what I love to do and I'm living proof that an ASD is just a hurdle that we can all jump in getting what we've always wanted to achieve. I think that being an ASD survivor doesn't mean we have weak hearts. Rather it means we have the hearts of lions because we fight in the face of that adversity to overcome and dream. Never believe you are any less that what you can be, keep fighting and remember that there is no "I just can't." Instead, think of it as "So how am I going to do this" and keep going.