I’ve lived with a weak heart muscle possibly since birth but at least since 2007. That’s when I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that describes the enlarging of the left heart ventricle, affecting its ability to pump blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Since about August 2016, I have been in heart failure, awaiting a heart transplant or the fitting of an artificial apparatus to effectively replace my heart.
Doctors don’t know exactly what caused the damage to my heart – they even have a special term for not knowing, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy – but it was probably a viral infection. A genetic factor would have been detected much earlier in my life; I’ve never used recreational drugs and steroids, neither have I abused alcohol; and, in the clear light of day, I can say I’ve never had pregnancy complications, all possible causes of a weakening of the heart.
The diagnosis in 2007 was prompted by the discovery during emergency surgery that a blood clot had caused gangrene in my small intestine. Doctors resected (cut out) 95 percent of my bowel that was infected.
Good medication management allowed me to return to what I considered a relatively normal lifestyle. This included medicine to thin the blood and avoid the formation of clots and tablets to help the heart pump.
At that stage, my heart ejection fraction – the rate at which the heart muscle pumps blood through the body – was 30 percent (the accepted rate for an adult male of my age was between 50 and 60 percent).
Over the years, other complications emerged around diabetes, liver and kidney diseases.
In 2015, I had two bouts of serious flu including one which persisted while traveling through North America. In August I was hospitalized with severe pulmonary edema (fluid on the lungs) which has the effect of seriously hampering your breathing. Despite clearing the lungs then, I continued to suffer from shortness of breath, severe fatigue and an inability to do basic physical exercise. I was again admitted to hospital in May 2016 with pulmonary edema.
By mid-August, my ejection fraction had deteriorated to between 10 and 12 percent. Scans and tests showed I had two clots in my .lower body, excess fluid around my right lung and abdomen and a heart ejection rate of 10 to 12 percent.
Since then, I have been undergoing tests to determine if I am a suitable candidate for a heart transplant and awaiting final approvals.