Louise was born with a congenital heart problem known as a ventricular septal defect, or a hole in the heart. But it wasn’t until she was 12 years old that she went through open-heart surgery to “fix” the hole.
Louise suffered from excruciating stabbing chest pains for years after her operation. While in high school, she was constantly in agony and had to go to the emergency room numerous times.
Severe Chest Pains
After the surgery, Louise experienced stabbing chest pains for years. During her junior year in high school, she was in constant pain, went to emergency several times, and it just kept getting worse. Her pediatrician had recommended seeing a cardiothoracic surgeon as this could be related to the sternal wire sutures from the open-heart surgery. So two days after Christmas, Louise had an outpatient procedure to remove the wires from her sternum.
Then, as she began to recuperate, she kept feeling this unusual skin soreness, which at times made her miss school. Her mother took her to see a neurologist, who used one of those long q-tips to brush her scar, causing her to scream in pain. The doctor discovered she had neuralgia, or a pain in the nerve pathway, which explains why she is hypersensitive to even the slightest touch. Neurontin and anti-inflammatory medications were given to her as a treatment for her pain.
The Third Surgery
For years, Louise suffered from excruciating pain, and finally, when she could no longer bear it, she returned to the same cardiothoracic surgeon who recommended surgery to alleviate her symptoms. Louise was 21 at the time and had her third surgery during her junior year of college. To prevent further scar formation, they performed sternal debridement and muscle flap reconstruction, a technique that involved removing all of the patient’s previous scar tissue and then cutting and reattaching her pectorals. The doctors warned her how painful this surgery might be, yet she still decided to go through it. As it turned out, the pain was far beyond her expectations, adding to the stress of having to undergo multiple surgeries, which had already been difficult.
The Start of a Fitness Journey
In 2018, Louise started her weight loss journey, having gained a hundred pounds between college and grad school; she started taking dance classes again and had at-home workouts, but those weren’t enough to help her lose weight. In the process of getting the weight off, she found Bent On Better on Facebook and stalked every photo because she was terrified to go to a gym. She was conscious of how she might look, sweaty and all, and most especially, she feared that she might hurt her chest which had surgery.
Louise came into the Bent On Better gym and felt comfortable. She has been with the gym for three years now, and it is fascinating to know that she was one of the strong ones, given the fact that she had never been to a gym before, she didn’t play sports, hated any physical activity, had heart problems, and had surgeries. She recalled during her first few weeks at the gym, when she was asked to lift from 10lbs to 15lbs, she felt as though her 12-year-old self was right alongside her, begging her not to go for it because she may hurt herself. But she did it nonetheless. She didn’t hurt herself and it was at that moment she realized that she got the power. She is no longer that 12-year kid who had open-heart surgery and feared that she might get hurt, but rather, she is Louise, the one who is strong and can lift heavy weights.
Now, Louise has learned that she can conquer obstacles, especially when it comes to her health. Despite going through some personal struggles of body image issues, eating disorders, and a lot of stress from the surgeries, Louise chose to move forward and take humble steps to improve herself. This time, she’s free to do what she has to in order to get better, fitter, and stronger, rather than being held back by her dread of being hurt again.
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