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A person living with heart failure wearing an LVAD. medical device

My Dilated Cardiomyopathy Story

When I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, I was completely shocked. How was it possible that I had cardiomyopathy? I’d been eating healthy and had been a lifelong athlete as well as competing at the NCAA level in track and field.

I didn’t even know that young people could even have a heart condition. Like many other people, I was living a life of the myth that if you eat healthily and exercise, you won’t get these diseases.

I was training for a fitness competition

Being a former athlete, living healthy has always been a top priority for me, because I like to compete with people. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you the story of how I found out about my diagnosis of cardiomyopathy.

I was getting ready to go on stage for a fitness competition when I started to feel weak and faint. Many people don’t understand how strenuous it is to prepare for a show. You must be very disciplined to be successful at it. You have to be able to work out twice in one day and resist the temptation to eat food that's not on your diet plan. My diet consisted of protein such as chicken and fish, carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes, and veggies. I had been training for months to get to this point.

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I couldn't talk or move my right side

It was my group's turn to get on the stage and do our quarter turns. Suddenly, I started falling forward, and people grabbed me and laid me on the floor. The paramedics responded and tried to give me water.

That’s when I realized that I couldn’t talk or move my right side. They told me that I had had a mini stroke and would like me to go to the hospital.

I was given tPa medication for stroke

When we got to the hospital, everyone was frantically running around, and the doctor came to ask me my name. When I spoke, it would sound like gibberish. The doctor wanted to give me something called tPa, or tissue plasminogen activator, which is a medication used to break up the clot in stroke patients.1

With tPa medication, there was a risk of me bleeding out, so they had to call my parents to get their consent before giving it to me. He left the area to make a phone call, and I started speaking and getting the feeling on my left side back. I was saying, "Wow, that worked fast." He immediately got off the phone and came back and told me that wasn’t the medication, because the medication doesn’t work that fast.

A diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy

I live in what's known as the DMV or the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. The show was out of state in Pittsburgh, so my parents weren’t there. They both arrived early the next morning, both perplexed with the doctors as to why I had a stroke at such a healthy young age.

After running some tests, about 4 doctors came into the room and drew the curtains closed. At that moment, I felt sick in the pit of my stomach because I knew the news wasn’t good.

"You have dilated cardiomyopathy."

"I have huh?" I said.

They explained that dilated cardiomyopathy was when the heart wasn’t functioning to its fullest potential and my ejection fraction was 10 to 15 percent. I didn’t hear anything else they had to say because I was engulfed in tears.

Cardiomyopathy was only the beginning

So, that was it — I now had heart disease. What lifestyle changes would I have to make, and would I be able to live a normal life? I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but that day was the start of my heart journey.

It wouldn’t stop with dilated cardiomyopathy. It would lead to a second stroke, advanced heart failure, surgery for an LVAD, and a heart transplant. I never knew in a million years that I would have gone through all of that and still survive.

My life will be forever changed

Now, I’m just so grateful to be alive and to have persevered until this point. There were more downs than ups, and my mental health even struggled.

Call me crazy, but I am a firm believer in God, and I feel that He has put me on this earth to spread positive light and encourage those around me. So, every chance I get, I love telling my story — because I’ve gone through the trenches, and I know firsthand what it’s like to be diagnosed with heart disease. My life will be forever changed.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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