TroutMom Says: Be aware of your heart and protect it

It’s Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to love.

I can physically feel love in my heart when look at my children, or when my husband kisses me; I have also felt pain in my heart after losing a loved one or surrounding a heartbreak.

The symbol for love is a heart, and that makes sense. But the real foundation of love is the brain. Dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin are chemicals in the brain that create the feeling we know as love.

I was watching a medical show the other day and a young boy was getting a heart transplant. He initially turned it down because he was in love and he felt it was his heart that fell in love, and what if the new heart didn’t feel the same way.

We all know the shape of a heart, the curved top that comes to a point. It’s beautiful, but I have seen something more beautiful and meaningful – and a hundred times more terrifying. My 2-and-a-halfyear- old is strong, loud, sassy, and she is healthy.

The latter is something I will never take for granted for the rest of my life.

When she was born, she was so tiny, just 6 pounds and 11 ounces, and that was more than a week overdue. She never seemed to gain weight, and she stayed in newborn and 0-3 month clothes nearly a year. I used to joke that since she was my last, she was staying small for me longer so I could soak it all up.

But then, she started to get sick with an ongoing congestion, to which the doctors contributed to the fall and winter weather. She slept amazingly. I often boasted about her sleeping through the night since the day she was born. It wasn’t until about 4 months old I finally said to the doctor that something was really wrong.

At 6 months old, they finally heard the heart murmur. I think the constant congestion made it difficult to pick up on sooner, but I don’t know, as I’m not a doctor.

She saw the pediatric cardiologist for the first time at 8 months. It was then that we finally got a diagnosis and some hope.

She had Congenital Heart Defect (CHD), specifically a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). CHD isn’t always dangerous. In fact, we heard often that more people have a small hole than you would think, and they often don’t even know about it.

But our Livy had two holes, and the VSD was dangerous. Her heart was working so hard that it used all the calories and energy, hence the low weight and sleeping all the time. It also caused fluid to surround her heart and lungs, which caused the constant congestion.

While it felt great to have an explanation, it was not a diagnosis I would wish on anyone.

As many of you know, she had open heart surgery at 10 months old. She will see a cardiologist for the rest of her life, though less frequently now that she’s recovered.

We were told it is very rare to have another issue come up as she grows due to the CHD and VSD, and for that, we are thankful.

There are a few moments I will never forget from the surgery. The first was the day before it, when her surgeon said, “I am going to stop your daughter’s heart.” I think my heart actually stopped beating for a second.

The second was during her surgery when the nurse sent us a video of our daughter’s open chest, and we saw her heart beating — her real, bloody heart, beating.

The amount of privilege we had in that moment is unmeasurable. I made that heart, I listened to that heart, that heart and my own beat together for 10 months, but I would never have imagined I’d get the chance to see it.

And finally, once she was out of surgery and hooked up to every line and sensor they could fit on her body, she was still asleep from the anesthesia, and she was making this whimper sound with every breath she took.

I felt those moments in my own heart. I felt the fear deep in my chest, and the love and relief felt like butterflies.

Feb. 7-14 is National CHD Awareness month. In my experience, or rather that of my daughter’s, I have learned so much. And I have become aware of my heart, of the feelings and the pain that are felt in that organ.

I remember when my heart raced when my husband first kissed me, and how it fluttered on our wedding day. I remember the glow that seemed to encase my heart when I found out I was pregnant with both of my girls.

I remember my heart feeling like it stopped when I was scared or sad.

Maybe the brain controls the feeling of love, and I don’t think that changes with a surgery or a transplant. But, I do think our hearts remember our stories and our love in its own way.

TroutMom says, “Be aware of your heart; protect it, both physically and emotionally. Your mom made that heart for you, and from personal experience, she would give anything to keep it safe.”

Jordan Troutman is the Owner and General Manager of the Cassville Democrat, a wife, a mother of two daughters, a graduate of Capella University with a Bachelor’s in General Psychology and is pursuing a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. She may be reached at jtroutman@cassville-