Our guest this week has been on quite the journey. A college student, a writer extraordinaire that owns a shoe business. More amazingly, she is going to share with us a recent hurdle along her journey. Please welcome Anna Bassham!

Before I launch into what I’ve gone through and how I’ve overcome obstacles in the past few months, let me give you a glimpse of who I am. I am a college student, and I blog about shoes at Shoe Smitten.  This past summer I was a healthy 21-year-old who spent her time working out religiously, watching what she ate, and enjoying a clean bill of health.

A month before my 22nd birthday, I started having what I thought were panic attacks: I would wake up right as I was falling asleep with a panicked feeling, and then my heart would start racing and I could feel the pumping of the blood in my veins.  I thought I was going to die.  But then it would subside after a few minutes, and I would lay there a while until I could drift back to sleep.  This is how it started.

One day in early July, I had just started driving home from a typical day at work, when I felt a sudden sharp pain in my left chest, followed by the rapid heart beat I had become familiar with, and then a sensation I wasn’t familiar with – my legs started twitching (as I’m trying to drive), and I felt like I was going to faint.  This feeling gradually subsided and I continued home, but this episode pushed me to go see my general practitioner.

I went through numerous tests, and when my GP couldn’t figure out why my heart was beating so hard (130/95 bp, when my normal bp is 100/60) and so irregularly, he sent me to a cardiologist.

The cardiologist did an echocardiogram and a TEE (trans-esophageal echocardiogram) and found that I had a large hole in my heart.  To be specific, I had a Atrial Septal Defect, and I’d had it since birth.  The hole was allowing oxygenated blood to mix freely with deoxygenated blood, causing me to feel tired and out of breath.  The right side of my heart had already started enlarging due to the increased pressure.  He told me that I needed to have it closed as soon as possible to prevent further damage.  Then he referred me to a cardiac surgeon, who gave me an 80-90% chance that he could perform a non-surgical procedure to close the hole with a patch, placed through a catheter in my groin.

I had the procedure done Oct. 2nd of this year, and it was successful.  I returned home the next day for recovery.  I was amazed at how much easier it was for me to breathe.  I felt like a new person with a new lease on life.

I could be angry that none of my doctors found the hole sooner, but it really was a blessing that they found it when they did; if they’d found it when I was a baby, the only option would have been to perform open heart surgery.  And if they hadn’t found it until 10 years from now, I would have irreversible complications.

This was a life-changing experience for me because now I don’t take anything for granted, and I know that my health is truly a gift.  I am not able to workout as hard as I could before, but that’s a small price to pay for life.  My cardiologist predicts that within 6 months, the heart will have fully closed the hole around the patch, and I will be able to do anything I want.

Wow! Anna is even considering training for a marathon.! Thanks for sharing such an amazing story Anna! Visit Anna at Shoe Smitten or follow her on Twitter at @ShoeSMitten.