Heart Survivor

**Sacred Heart Catholic School is raising heart health awareness and raising money for the American Heart Association by participating in the Jump Rope for Heart Event. Our P.E. teacher, Ms. Marlo Lopez shares her personal story below.**

Every morning when I get ready for work I am reminded that I had open heart surgery, when I see the ten inch scar going down my chest. Every day I am reminded how lucky I am for having my family, my friends, my students, and my co-workers to help me and to look out for me.

The first time I heard Atrial Septal Defect was four years ago. When my doctor found a hole on the back side of my heart. The hole was the size of a peanut and it was affecting the blood flow within the heart chambers. Because the blood flow was affected, I was feeling tired. When I would walk or run I would have trouble catching my breath. When I would teach a class I would have trouble keeping up with my students. Even a simple thing like going up the stairs at school was getting hard.

During open heart surgery, surgeons opened my chest by making a 10 inch cut. Surgeons use a special saw to cut through the breastbone. The breastbone or the sternum is slowly spread apart with a retractor. This allows the entire chest and heart to be open. The surgeon uses and electrocautery, which cauterizes as it cuts and seals the small blood vessels, to cut through the pericardium, a sac that protects and contains the heart. The surgeon then removes the whole heart except for the back of the left atrium. When my heart was removed from my body, I was put on a heart-lung machine called a cardiopulmonary bypass machine. This machine oxygenates and circulates blood throughout the body, replacing the function of both the heart and the lungs, while on the machine the surgeon stitched up the hole in my heart. My heart was put back into my chest cavity and the heart was connected ton the left atrium again. The sternum was put back together with wire. The wire remains in my chest cavity for the rest of my life. The cut is stitched up and now I have a vertical scar on my chest that is 10 inches long.

My life up to to this point was being a teacher to my students. I wake up every morning eager to go to work. When it was decided that I needed surgery, I asked the doctor if I could wait another year. I was hoping that he would say yes and that my heart would somehow fix itself and I wouldn't need open heart surgery. The thought of it scared me to death. I remember the words the doctor used to answer my question, "Let's put it this way, one day you will be teaching a P.E. class any you can collapse in front of your student's. Are you prepared to put your students through that kind of situation?" I didn't take a second to agree to have surgery. I decided that my students, friends and family deserved to have me in their lives as long as possible. I deserved to live the life that was meant for me and to live it to the fullest.

Today I have a full schedule of physical education classes. I am reminded every day in every single class how special each student is in their own way. I am reminded how rewarding it is to watch my students grow and develop into the human beings that they are today. To this day I haven't regretted the decision to have surgery, because when I really think about it, I would have hurt a lot of people around me.