Living with cardiomyopathy
Normally, when people look up cardiomyopathy, they’re terrified by talk of a five-year life expectancy. That’s nonsense. As long as you’re diagnosed early, it’s definitely not a death sentence.
It’s when cardiomyopathy goes undiagnosed that it can be a problem. My grandad died of a suspected heart attack when he was just 36, then my uncle when he was 41. It made the doctors take notice, and so our whole family were tested.
I was 13 then, and it turned out my heart was slightly larger than normal. I had inherited dilated cardiomypathy, although my sister hadn’t.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but one day, when I was 18, I turned up at my dad’s flat and found him dead. They think it was caused by an irregular heart rhythm, which brought home to me how serious the condition could be.
A few months later, I had a defibrillator fitted to make sure my heartbeat stayed regular. It was enormous and went into my stomach, but nowadays they’re much smaller and are fitted into your chest.
I also take tablets every day to keep my heart pumping well, but apart from that I just get on with life. The doctors can’t tell me what the future holds, but then that’s the same for everyone.
I still have the odd glass of wine, but I eat well and exercise gently. However, I’m careful not to do competitive sports or to try to keep up with anyone else.
If I do have children, there’ll be a 50% chance they’ll inherit the gene, but I’ll cross that hurdle when I come to it.
I’d advise anyone who’s worried about breathlessness, dizziness or a racing heart to seek medical advice.
Louise Campbell, 31, Aberdeen
For more information and advice about cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions, visit www.c-r-y.org.uk