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When I was two years old I was taken to the hospital as a result of a bout with pneumonia. While I was in the hospital the doctors discovered that I had a heart murmur. After further investigation, the doctors made two conclusions. First, the heart murmur was harmless or as the doctors referred to it functional. I had actually inherited it from my mother who has the same murmur. Second, I was a member of a unique group of people who suffer from coarctation of the aorta. This second condition had several implications.

Coarctation of the aorta means that a part or parts of the aorta are too small to allow blood to flow properly through ones body. This is a very serious problem. This condition can cause a lack of growth and eventually death. If the condition is not corrected the patient is guaranteed to die at a very early age most likely from a rupture of the aorta. Thus, corrective surgery must be performed.

If one were to have this surgery today there is a minuscule chance that anything would go wrong. However, in 1982 medical technology was not as advanced as it is now. Even in ’82 most people came out this particular surgery unscathed. I was not so lucky.

The normal procedure for this surgery is to cut out the offending part of the aorta and sew the aorta back together minus an inch or two. In my case, a dacron patch had to be fitted on to my aorta because the section that was to be removed was going to make too large of a gap to be able to sew the aorta back together. Therefore, my aorta was clamped shut while the patch was put in place which obviously meant that there was no blood flowing through my body for a period of time. Apparently ( I don’t know that much about biology), different people have different oxygen capacity in their blood. Mine wasn’t enough. Although the doctors did an excellent job my body couldn’t take it and some of my nerves were damaged from lack of oxygen.

As a result, I was partially paralyzed from the waist down. Luckily this all happened when I was very young. My age helped me adjust and to this day I don’t know what it’s like to walk so it really doesn’t bother me. The partial paralyzation means that I still have feeling in my extremeties. I also retained bladder function and sexual organ function (thank god). Although it sounds as if being in a wheelchair is hard (which it is), it sure beats dying before I turn thirty.

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