Sonya Adams was born with a congenital heart defect. The aortic valve in her heart was a bicuspid rather than a tricuspid, a condition that wasn’t diagnosed until after the birth of her son. It was her obstetrician who first noticed a heart murmur and asked Sonya if she had been told about the murmur before. Sonya revealed this was news and she was referred to a cardiologist.
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. It is estimated that over 1.3 million Americans alive today have some form of congenital heart defect. And in Sonya’s case, it wasn’t discovered until that office visit in adulthood.
At the cardiologist’s office, her physician performed an Echocardiogram and confirmed her valve was deformed, an Aortic Stenosis diagnosis. The initial plan was to keep an eye out for any symptoms and return for annual visits. Sonya returned to her ‘normal’ life but was diligent about living a healthy lifestyle. She worked out, watched what she ate and took steps to ensure she could protect her heart.
In the winter of 2018, Sonya began to feel “not her best.” She was exhausted and having some issues breathing while exercising. Sonya chalked the symptoms up to the fact that she was a wife and mother who was working full time and enrolled in school full time to pursue a master’s degree. But something wasn’t right, so Sonya decided to make an appointment with her cardiologist six months ahead of schedule.
When Sonya met with the cardiologist, was shocked to learn an aneurism had begun to develop. The treatment required was surgery to replace her aortic valve. Previously Sonya had thought surgery was years, even decades away, so this felt overwhelming to the young mother.
Sonya began to prepare herself and her family for the upcoming surgery and recovery. She graduated with her master’s degree on May 22 and was on the operating table shortly thereafter on June 19. After the surgery was complete, Sonya felt like she had been run over by a truck. She spent seven days in the hospital and several months recovering.
Today Sonya feels great. She has started her new career and is back walking two to three miles a day. During the pandemic, Sonya has utilized an elliptical machine at home and weekly yoga to stay fit. She continues to have extra heart beats and rhythm issues, but manages with medication, a healthy lifestyle and acceptance.
Sonya encourages others to learn their family health history. Sonya’s grandmother had a stroke, her mother had a stroke and has atrial fibrillation, and her grandfather passed away from a heart attack. Knowing your family history and the age when issues were first detected in each of your close relatives is key information for your medical provider. Sonya also believes that self-care is an important way to support overall health and wellbeing. Whatever self-care looks like for you, it is critical to make time to take care of yourself.