“I Had Open-Heart Surgery At 39”
Women's Health South Africa|September 2020
“I Had Open-Heart Surgery At 39”
Neesa Moodley shares her story

“You need open-heart surgery immediately. Without it, you will not survive another six months.” These were the first words my cardiologist said to me after my examination, and all I could do in that moment was stare back at him in silence and shock. Noticing the disbelief on my face, he turned to my partner, David, and continued bluntly, “It could happen at any time. You are going to come home and find her dead on the floor or she is going to collapse in front of you and die within minutes. I strongly advise we schedule the surgery as soon as possible.”

How I Got Here

Just a week before this, I was confronted by David’s ex-girlfriend in our home. She had barged in and ignored our requests for her to leave. She attempted to threaten me with intimidation tactics before she eventually left. As soon as she left, I felt a sharp pain in my chest, almost as though someone was physically squeezing my heart. I told David about the feeling and how traumatic the experience was for me and we went to bed for the night.

The following day, I was at the airport on a phone call with a friend when I collapsed and lost consciousness. I was taken to a doctor in Johannesburg who did a brief examination and told me that I was “severely stressed”. She prescribed antidepressants and medication for indigestion. The doctor also confirmed a heart murmur, saying the emotional stress of the incident with David’s ex-girlfriend was almost certainly related to my collapse. “Sudden emotional stress can cause stress cardiomyopathy,” she said. In such cases, a shock such as a divorce or even a verbal altercation can result in a surge of stress hormones that can cause damage to the heart.

Some days later, I went to see my family physician, Dr.Dewald Barnard, who told me that I needed to see a cardiologist urgently and got me an appointment the next day.

The Surgery

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September 2020