Everything happens by chance.
In June 2018 I was deep into training for a Brazilian Jujitsu competition that was being held on July 28th 2018. I was in the best shape of my life physically and mentally. I thought I was untouchable. It was by chance that my 18 month check up with my cardiologist was being held on July 5th, just a few weeks before the competition.
In the months leading up to my appointment I had not experienced any type of symptom that led me to believe I had serious pulmonary stenosis. I thought it was going to be a general check-up and the news that I would receive would be nothing but good. The day before my appointment I felt sick in my stomach and extremely nervous. I thought it was nothing but now, when I reflect, it seems as if my body was telling me there was something wrong.
The morning of July 5th I woke up had an amazing breakfast and coffee then I hopped into an Uber to get to my 11am appointment. I have been seeing the same cardiac team since I was a baby. These doctors know me well and have always been supportive in everything I do.
When I went into the appointment my doctor complimented me and said I was looking great. He started to examine me via an echocardiogram, and it didn’t take long for him to realise something was wrong. After a couple of minutes of looking at my heart he broke the news,
“Nick it’s not looking good…. you are going to need an intervention within the next few months”.
My heart sunk. I immediately felt sick and went into panic mode. The questions started pouring out…what sort of intervention would I need? Would it be open heart? Catheter? He couldn’t tell me yet so my nerves would have to wait. First he would need to see how my heart performed during a stress test and I would need an MRI scan.
The competition on the 28th of July came in to my mind. I asked if I would still be able to compete. He replied,
“Nick you know that I have been very supportive in everything you have chosen to do and I am a very big believer in living an active lifestyle…. however, if you compete it’s just not safe...it could kill you” He apologised for his bluntness and stressed that he had a duty of care…he and I both knew that had he not been so blunt I probably would have taken the risk and competed anyway.
He did not waste any time. I was booked in for an MRI scan for the next day and a stress test was organised for the following week back in Adelaide.
The evening of July 5th was spent in denial. I kept saying to myself now it’s time to wake up from the bad dream. I think it was the first time I cried myself to sleep. It definitely wasn’t the last time I cried in the months leading up to surgery.