To my family and friends -- Almost every one of us knows someone who has been affected by stroke and heart disease, which claim far too many lives. Now is our chance to make a difference!
I am riding with my Team at CycleNation in honor of my aunt, Elizabeth McCaughey. Auntie Liz began having shortness of breath with chest pain radiating into her left arm in 2017 - She went to the emergency room at that time and underwent an echocardiogram, an ultrasound that views the heart, which was normal. Her symptoms persisted throughout the year and worsened to the point where she would have severe shortness of breath walking up a flight of stairs or walking down the driveway to get the mail. She went in for an exercise stress test, where you are observed exercising for 15 minutes while attached to monitors checking your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. She was then diagnosed with Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy (HOCM).
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs if heart muscle cells enlarge and cause the walls of the ventricles to thicken. The ventricle size often remains normal, but the thickening may block blood flow out of the ventricle. If this happens, the condition is called obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a hereditary disease, as my grandfather John Nigrelli had it as well. It is caused by a change in the genes in heart muscle proteins. High blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid disease have also been contributed to HOCM.
Throughout the past year, Auntie Lizs symptoms became debilitating and were unmanaged with medications and conservative treatment. She underwent open heart surgery just one month ago, December 2019. She had a septal myectomy, in which a surgeon removes excess muscle from the thickened septum. This allows the blood to empty from the ventricle more easily in hopes of improving quality of life and symptom management in patients. Post-operatively she went into a complete heart block, requiring a second surgery to have a pacemaker and defibrillator placed.
Nick and I were able to visit with Auntie Liz this month and while she does report some symptom improvement since surgery, she still has a long road to recovery in getting back into her daily routine. Luckily, with the support of her family, incredible neighbors and friends, (and Annie of course ) -- she has had tremendous help ESPECIALLY with that snow removal up north!
HOCM is a serious disease and often goes undiagnosed. It is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest, including young athletes. It is so incredibly important to know your body, not ignore the symptoms, and have regularly scheduled primary care appointments as well as cardiologists as we grow older.
Please join my team by supporting the life-saving mission of the American Stroke Association | American Heart Association and become a champion of groundbreaking research, helping people live healthier, and saving lives! Thank you in advance for supporting me with a donation today. Together we have the ability to stop the cycle of heart disease and stroke!