Two Year Anniversary

I would like to share my recent milestone and the emotions that went along with it.

March 15th 2016 marks my two year anniversary of my last open heart surgery (aortic valve replacement emergency re-do due to endocarditis). I had my yearly echocardiogram scheduled yesterday, one day before my anniversary.

Two years ago, I had a traumatic experience during an echocardiogram where the echo tech spilled the beans about the emergency that was occurring inside my chest (which was extremely unprofessional of him, and against code). He told me that my recently implanted prosthetic valve was literally falling off. This led me to a panic until my cardiologist came into the room 20 minutes later.

So you can understand why echo appointments freak me out. I’m feeling great now, in fact I think I’ve never felt better athletically speaking. Despite this, I was still very afraid that I would go in and hear bad news. I almost expect to hear bad news. I know that’s not the most positive thought, but it is the truth. It is fear that guides me to think that way.

And it was that same fear that caused me to keep this echo appointment and my anxiety about it a secret from my friends, girlfriend, and family. I spent most of the weekend with my buddy, and I didn’t bring it up once. But there I was, bottling it up inside, stewing on it, just being afraid; alone in my brain. One of the main reasons I started this blog was so I wouldn’t contain my anxieties, yet I failed to utilize this outlet, which would have been useful during the past 2 weeks.

Yesterday, I went to the echo appointment. The echo tech did my yearly echo last year as well, and we remembered each other enough to pick up where we left off in small talk from last year. The doctor checked the echo results remotely, and told the tech that everything was A-Okay, and that I can be sent on my way for another year.

The relief was astronomical. I didn’t realize how much of a weight this was on me. In the car, on the way home, I completely broke down for a solid 2 minutes. After I finally got a grip, I felt cleansed. Blue sky. Now, I feel energized and ready to make the best out of every day, at least for the next 50 weeks (until my next yearly echo approaches).

Cheers ❤


17 thoughts on “Two Year Anniversary

  1. Robert

    Beautiful news, Anthony.
    Continuing good health to you and warmest from across the sea.
    *And thank you for this brilliant website.

  2. Kim B

    Congratulations on both the milestone and the good news. I am so happy for you!

    I had a similar experience today, actually. Last week I experienced some chest pain — a kind of pressure on my chest and my rib area, and pain in my back between my shoulder blades — and I got really freaked out because it reminded me so much of how I felt before surgery. I felt sure something was wrong. I went to my cardiologist that Thursday and explained my symptoms, and even though he said it might be just stress, and even though my EKG, pulse and blood pressure all looked good, we scheduled an echocardiogram to make absolutely sure my valve and aorta are still functioning well.

    I tried not to think about it between then and now, but even though the pain went away after a few days (and was only mild to begin with) I couldn’t shake the fear that something serious was wrong. I even had surgery nightmares again for the first time in many months. I went in for the echo this morning, and something about seeing that room again after so long got to me, even though the tech was nice and it’s by far one of the easiest heart-related tests to undergo.

    However, all’s well as ends well, right? I just got the call a while ago — everything looks perfectly healthy. Obviously, I burst into a flood of tears.

    So, from one relieved heart patient to another — cheers. And happy early St. Patrick’s Day. 🙂

    1. Anthony DiLemme Post author

      Yes Kim, I’ve had a few false alarms too. They were much more common within the first year post op. Every little pain felt life threatening, or at least I thought so. That anxiety got better.

  3. Rasha

    This is awesome news!! So glad you are feeling great and now you can enjoy life to the fullest! Its been a little over 2.5 years since I had surgery and I have good days and bad days. The anxiety I feel can be overwhelming at times. Thank you for sharing your experience and journey… it makes me feel better knowing I’m not alone. Cheers!

  4. Bernie Oakes

    We met in Dallas at the Heart Associations “class” for Heart Valve Ambassadors. All I could think about after hearing about you and your prowess at rock climbing was: You have to be kidding me! This Ambassador has had open heart surgery, a valve replacement, and continues to climb rocks?
    It was then that I accepted the challenge that you unknowingly offered. If Anthony can climb rocks after going through what we both have experienced with our hearts, then I sure as the world don’t have any excuse for reining in any of my activities. Thank you, Anthony! I’m well and enjoying going down the path – and wish the best for you !

  5. Bernie Oakes

    Anthony: I think it’s time for us to get together, again. The Ambassadors have been in the field for close to a year, and while we may be “seasoned”, I know that “face to face” offers discussions and stories that are valuable learning opportunities. No, I don’t want any rock climbing lessons, but your activities in the Heart Valve Ambassador world would be good to hear. What do you think?

  6. Ivy

    Hi Anthony
    I don’t know why listening to your story warms my heart, but it does. I guess it just makes me appreciative of everything that I have and it makes me realize that despite my personal struggles, every breath that I get to breathe is precious! Thank you for sharing and God bless,

  7. debwa

    Congrats on 2 years!

    I’m 3 weeks post op from a pulmilnary valve… Ah… Replacement? Not sure of the technical name as I was born without one and now at 35 just got one. 🙂 Anyway – I’m really just stopping by to say thanks for the blog. Found it via WSJ article. So I’m headed back to read about your first few weeks and months post op.


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