In 2001, ( 30 yrs old) as a fit Lifesaver, Big wave surfer, Traveler and business owner I became infected!
I had been in the tropics twice that year, and at the time this was not really associated with it by doctors, even though I believed there was a connection. I had pain in my neck for almost 8 months, which no one could assist me with or diagnose. I then went from being super fit, to not being able to walk up stairs, all within a matter of days. Tests revealed that my Heart was swollen 30% bigger than normal, and my Aortic Valve was destroyed and almost non existent. Endocarditis, is caused from a bacteria that attacks the heart valves. I was rushed in for emergency Open Heart Surgery and the Ross Procedure.
After a long year of recovery, I returned to my love of the ocean, big waves, competition and other extreme sports and travel. All seemed good and well.
5 years later it Came Back! Lying dormant in my body, the bacteria (still unnamed, undiagnosed and unculturable) came back in 2006. Again it was mis diagnosed, as it had morphed and was showing different symptoms. I spent 8 months on different anti biotics and having tests and trials to find the cause and a cure. After many short stints in hospital and after more doctors misdiagnosis, I started getting more sickly again. Finally a 3rd Cardiologist, found that the infection had returned and reinfected my heart Valves. Not just one this time, but two.
Another operation- another double valve replacement, and another slow 4 months of recovery. Now with a New Sorin carbon/ Steel Aortic Valve , and me on Warfarin, the blood thinner, for life . Ratex 🙂 I bleed easy!
And then just when I was getting back into normal life, it Came back again! The infection was live in my body. No name, no cure!
With the help of a specialist Physician, Nic Slapobersky, whom i had started working with earlier and the amazing Cardiologist AD Horak , they concocted a cocktail of IV antibiotics to attack the bacteria (Many types of bacteria). I spent more than 50 days in hospital on IV drips 24/7, and another 2 weeks like this at home. It worked! And until now ( Oct 2014) it has not reoccurred. Is it Dead or is it dormant? We do not know. What was it? How did I get it? Still no one can say for sure. Can it re occur or come back? Yes, for sure…..but not if I have anything to say about it! Bacteria is everywhere and it can be nasty. For me now, any infection will attack my weakness… my Heart valves. BUT, I can and do manage this and I know the symptoms. We have a cure…….God willing, I hope I never have to use it again. (Best scenario, is another 8 weeks on IV drip and in Hospital) What is round the corner? Do any of us really know…..? Just go out there and live it and love it !