While COVID-19 Took Over The World, I Was Having My Own Health Crisis

by Jeremy

I’m not the only 30-something who went home for quarantine. Last fall, I sat with my parents on the patio of my childhood home in Arlington, Virginia, enjoying the cooler temperature at dusk while we sipped gin and tonics. I was drinking with my parents at home on a Tuesday night, just like I did ten years ago when I was 23, and struggling to figure out my next move after college. But I didn’t go because I wanted to ― I went because I had to. 

Before COVID-19 took off, I struggled with my health crisis in Los Angeles. I was in advanced heart failure. I couldn’t walk short distances without taking deep breaths, which led to tightness in my chest so constricting that it felt like being strangled by an invisible corset. I would return home from one or two errands beyond fatigued, curling up in the fetal position until the tightness subsided, sometimes for more than 30 minutes. COVID

I had been through something similar three years prior. I had a hole between my aorta and right ventricle leaking blood that caused similar symptoms. But this was different. I had new signs, and they were worse: tightness in my chest, loss of appetite ― I went from being excited about my next meal to eating because I knew I should pay for energy ― and extreme fatigue that eventually reached the point where I no longer had the strength to drive or leave my apartment.

I had another hole in my aorta, but the same quick patch job in 2017 did not work in 2020. I felt so much better initially that I accepted a last-minute invitation to the Magic Castle (a members-only magic club) just two days after the minimally invasive cardiac procedure to close the hole. But a week after a night of magic and medium-ra e-filet, I could not enjoy a steak dinner at a nice restaurant in my Koreatown neighborhood to celebrate my sixth anniversary of living in LA with my roommate. 

My aorta was tearing again, and the only way to fix it now was open-heart surgery. 

I don’t have the kind of heart disease known as the No. 1 killer of men and women. I have congenital heart disease, the type prese t at birth that can’t be “fixed,” It continually threatens to upend my life with an arrhythmia or leaky valve when I least expect it.

My heart problems, like a volcano, would occasionally go dormant, but they never stopped being active. A life with complex congenital heart disease is ― how do I put this? ― a pain in the ass.  As the coronavirus was ramping up, I was consumed d with my respiratory struggles in my hospital room, ignorant of the growing pandemic outside. On the day of my surgery, March 18, UCLA Medica  Center, my hospital, stopped allowing visitors.

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