Today was my annual cardiology appointment. The one where I go and have them check to make sure my half a heart is still half and still ticking. Except this year they didn't check my heart. This year no one poked or prodded me or told my oxygen stats were "kind of low" so I could then tell them low is in fact, "normal for me". No one did an EKG, or an Echo or asked me to hold my breathe and let it out slowly. None of that happened today because today for the first time in 33 years of living with a congenital heart defect I had a virtual appointment. I sat on my bed and video chatted with my doctors. Very weird.
I've said this before, but my cardiology appointment gets me a little worried every year. And this year wasn't any different. It's not that I thought they would find something wrong; because how can you find something that you can't even check for? This year, I just didn't know what to expect! And with the circumstances our world is in right now, I had a lot of questions. And I had really high hopes for the answers to those questions.
So, I didn't get much sleep last night and woke up feeling "BLAH!" I contemplated staying in bed until my appointment time. But the little voice that said, "Get a grip Emily!", won out and I got up, worked out, and got ready for the day. I logged into my virtual appointment and checked myself in virtually. They still found a way for me to fill out all those same forms I fill out every single year. (#eyeroll) I should have figured that wasn't going to be any different. Then I sat in the virtual waiting room and then in the virtual exam room because, it is still a doctors appointment and it just wouldn't be one unless you had to wait for the doctor.
Finally the doctors "came in" and although I couldn't see them at all, they could see me and we began our appointment. We talked about how I've been holding up in quarantine and what I've been doing to keep myself occupied, and what precautions I'm taking if I do have to go out. We talked about my medication and adding an aspirin to my daily medication regiment. We talked about my past Echos and EKGs and the exercise test I did last year. They told me that I'm doing great and to keep exercising and eating right because it is really does help keep my heart and body as healthy as possible.
Then we got down to what I really wanted to know. When can I be freeeeeeeeeeee? Can I go visit my family in NY this summer? Can I go get my own groceries? Can I participate if my school hosts a drive in graduation for my 8th graders? Can I go out to eat with friends when restaurants open up? Can I go to the beach when it opens back up? Can I go to church again soon? Their answers to my questions were so disappointing.
"No." That's what they told me. They told me it's not a good idea. That they would not recommend it. They told me that because of my anatomy if I got this disease I likely wouldn't survive and therefore I need to take every precaution and continue to isolate myself as much as possible. They told me that if I had to be around people that I should not embrace them or sit too close and that I should wear a mask as well as the people I was with.
It took everything with in me not to cry right then and there on the video chat. And I think they could see it in my face and hear it in my voice. When I'm trying not to cry I twist my lip and bite it. And my voice gets choked up and I say "um" a lot. They tried their best to reassure me that this is temporary and that maybe in a month or two things would be different and we can talk about and, "make a game time decision". I did my best to shrug it off and thanked them for their honest medical advice. I know it probably wasn't easy to give me either. And then I had to wrap it up quickly because I knew I couldn't hold the tears back much longer.
Once we finished up I called my mom and cried. No, I sobbed. For the past two months I had been holding on to hope that this summer I could break free and take a break from all this isolation. I had been holing out hope that this summer would be a one where I could spend time with family and friends again. I had been holding on to hope that by this summer I could finally be where the people are. But it doesn't look like that will be happening; at least not at all like I imagined it would. And if and when I am around people, I don't want them to have to go out of their way to take precautions just for me.
God gave me the best parents. Really. He did. The exact ones I needed to help me get through all that life throws at me. My mom told me, "Em, you come visit and we willl all wear masks and no one will hug you. We will order in from restaurants instead of going out and we can spend time visiting with people outside where we can sit 6 feet apart." And my dad told me, 'Baby, we have been taking precautions for you since the day you were born. It's not new and it's what we do because we love you and we want you healthy and we just want you we want you with us."
33 years this June I will have been living life with half of a heart. And just when I think I'm top of it, a global pandemic comes along to remind me that I my normal is even less normal then the rest of this crazy world. But God has blessed me beyond measure with the health that I do have. He has provided me with the best and the brightest doctors that are invested in my health and in my life. He has given me the family and friends that love and support and encourage me through the good seasons and the ones that are difficult. He has assured me that He will never leave me nor forsake me, that He is with me when I am brokenhearted, and that He has plans for me to prosper and give me a hope and a future. And despite this very disappointing first virtual cardiologist appointment, I am so very grateful.
Every year after my cardiology visit, I get myself a treat to celebrate another year of surviving with half a heart. So I ordered some cookies online and they showed up at my door in 20 minutes. And now I'm going to go enjoy one. Or two. Maybe all four...