by doctoropenheart

My name is Natalia and I’m a newly-minted 26 year old physician. I’m starting my intern year in Family Medicine at a teaching hospital in New York City.

I’m also having open-heart surgery in less than a month. That’s because I have four holes in my heart; three atrial septal defects and one patent foramen ovale. Recovery is stated to be approximately 6-8 weeks. However, I plan to start my orientation and intern year on time, and this process begins 5.5 weeks post-op.

I’d like to share my journey because I’m about to enter the world of residency- I’m not sure what to expect but I believe that it will be a transformative process in and of itself.  Thus far, I’ve managed to keep my idealism and empathy intact, throughout the oftentimes exhausting medical training process. I hope that doesn’t change, and perhaps writing about this experience will help keep me in check. Writing, it seems, is a sort of catharsis.

I’m a strong proponent of integrative therapies- osteopathic manipulative medicine, nutrition, meditation, yoga, hypnosis and acupuncture- to help with any recovery process. I plan to do a little case-study on myself using the first three mentioned.

I also want to share my experiences in order to help those who may be going through similar situations. The moment you find out that you’re going to have open-heart surgery is a breathtaking one, especially if you’re young. It brings up anxiety, perhaps depression, and a new sense of perspective. The latter is nothing less than a gift. Only through hardship can you truly contemplate your life. You’re given the push to re-evaluate your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual state and make the necessary adjustments. It’s a potent reminder that life is short and health is precious. As young physicians, we understand this fact intellecutally, but oftentimes it is difficult to contemplate it on a deeply personal level.  Until it happens to you, that is.

I try to live life with an open heart and with courage. Perhaps courage is just simply the ability to move forward with a smile, even when faced with difficult circumstances.