April 1st was Atticus’ 1 month birthday and we celebrated by visiting a cardiology clinic in Burlington to have our echocardiograms completed. It was an unseasonably warm day and as we entered the office I felt optimistic that we would leave with the answers we needed.
Gibby reminded me that it was unlikely we would receive any type of immediate feedback, but my optimism was in overdrive that day.
Ever since we learned the hereditary nature of the bicuspid aortic valve I had worked myself into a frenzy believing that I too shared the condition. I thought back to my weekends in Toronto where I endured many slow and painful hours running from our condo in Bloordale, down to the waterfront trail. Also those pre-baby mornings at the gym where I lifted weights diligently, yet seemed to remain weaker than every other person in the room. Could these things be attributed to having a “different heart?”
Gibby was equally convinced that the gene belonged to him. He too had stories of pushing himself hard in hockey, yet being unable to get past a certain point. Despite years of conditioning and and an unmatched desire to win, he would always hit a wall and didn’t know why.
I listened to his stories, but secretly believed it couldn’t possibly be him.
He went first.
The appointment was short and he was back in the room within fifteen minutes. “It’s not me” he said dejectedly.
I went next.
The technician was friendly and overly chatty. At one point she paused the screen and pointed to a grainy image. “Do you see that? It’s your aortic valve. Yours is normal too. I’m not supposed to tell you that, but you’re new parents and I didn’t want you worrying unnecessarily.”
My response was likely not what she was looking for. “I don’t have it? SHIT!!!”
Gibby and I regrouped at home. We worked hard to convince ourselves that it was OK neither of us shared the condition, and that our son would be fine anyways. I spoke to my parents who both rallied and agreed to get checked ASAP (as previously mentioned, we could carry the gene without having the condition ourselves, however it was likely to have presented itself in another family member somewhere along the line.) We all reflected on the bits of information gathered so far from our doctor, the paediatric cardiologist, and the other women in my “March birth club” and made a conscious decision to stay positive for all of our sakes.
Fast forward to May 15th – 6 whole weeks later. I was out walking with Sunny, pushing Atticus in his stroller, when I checked my phone and realized I had several missed calls. I also had a very serious text message from Gibby asking me to call him back immediately.
He answered on the first ring and spoke the three most bittersweet words I had heard in a long time – I HAVE IT.
Our family doctor had received the reports from the Cardiologist, which upon further inspection revealed that Gibby had also been born with a bicuspid aortic valve. Finally, the context we so badly needed fell into our laps. My healthy, happy, hockey playing, golf loving, scotch drinking, goof of a husband had lived 32 years of his life completely undisturbed by his heart. So now we knew, Atticus could too.
My son got a lot of things from Gibby, with two of the most mentionable being a great head of hair, and his little bum chin. Yet the most important thing of all is something that can’t be seen by the naked eye…
His dad’s special heart.