Brittany M's Story

Updated: May 7, 2020

My health scare came Sophmore year of college. Despite the hills at Lehigh University, I felt out of shape and constantly winded. I struggled with my weight for most of my childhood/ teens and never thought of myself as an athlete. It is unclear why I asked my mom to take me to see a cardiologist because I wasn't exactly feeling any symptoms. I felt that something was off and wrong with my body, which created a bit of anxiety and for me that was enough.

A few weeks later I went to see a cardiologist in NYC and within seconds of listening to my heart he said "hmm." The cardiologist wanted to run more tests, which immediately made my mom worry. I learned that I had an atrial septal defect, which would possibly require surgical repair. Fortunately I met the incredible Dr. William Hellenbrand and he successfully performed heart surgery on me using the cardiac catheterization procedure. Dr. Hellenbrand described the holes in my heart as swiss cheese, they found several more holes once they went in. It is not exactly known what would have happened had I not discovered and repaired my holes. One possibility was a stroke sometime in my 30s and 40s.

I feel so grateful to have had access to good medical coverage and access to a brilliant physician at one of the best hospitals in the country, something I never taken for granted. This experience led me to reevaluate my priorities. I developed a passion for health and wellness, graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Nutrition and Education and successfully completed a dietetic internship with a clinical focus at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Ironically, I spent several weeks rotating on the very same unit I had my surgery. I am now a Registered Dietitian, counseling patients on how to implement healthy behaviors. Although I did not have control over the holes in my heart I was born with, I have control over how I nourish my body, how I move my body and how I incorporate self care. I feel fortunate to know the power of good health at such a young age and my goal is to help others take hold of their health as well!

#AtrialSeptalDefect #Survivor #CardiacCatheterization #YoungAdult #Nutrition

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