International Women's Day 2021
Monday 8th March 2021
As part of International Women's Day 2021, we wanted to look at the unique challenges heart valve disease treatment presents women and how treated patients have dealt with those challenges.
After being born with a hole in her heart, Angie Martin first had open heart surgery when she was a small girl. Fast forward 40 years and Angie's leaky valve began to deteriorate and needed urgent intervention. After being told she needed an operation, a pandemic stopped the world in its tracks. However, despite the pressures on the health service, and thanks to the team's brilliant work at Harefield, Angie received her life-saving treatment.
Reflecting on what her open heart surgeries mean to her now and on the pressures on women and girls to look a certain way, Angie said, "I had my first open-heart surgery when I was 11, and when I was a child, I used to wear high tops and pretty much anything to cover up the scar. There are an awful lot of pressures on women to be slim, beautiful, wear hair and make up a certain way, no blemishes or imperfections, etc. I can see that the scar could affect some women in how they look, but it definitely doesn't for me. I love my scar(s)! They tell a story of two big adventures in my life, both as a child and my valve disease surgery last summer. I'm very proud of them and have never seen them as anything but a part of me."
In 2005, at the age of 45, Alison Banayotti was diagnosed with heart valve disease after experiencing what she referred to as a "funny turn." At the time, she was a busy mum chasing after a toddler. She became worried when she began to experience what can only be described as a rubbery weakness down one side of her body in her leg and arm. Fast forward 13 years and Alison's symptoms were beginning to deteriorate, and she required intervention. She was received her new valve at St Thomas's Hospital and has since joined heart valve voice as a patient representative on our Board of Trustees.
For Alison, the challenge heart surgery presented her as a woman was practical as well as physical. She said, "What bra to wear is a unique challenge women face post-heart surgery. Before my operation, I was constantly looking for advice on what bras were most comfortable but also supportive. A word of warning - underwired bras and sternotomies do not mix. After my surgery, I was thinking, when can I put on my pretty underwired bras without being tortured?? I'll bet men don't have to worry about that!! Now it's been two years since my operation, and I love my little scar. In many ways, I need my scar. Every day, it is a reminder of what my body has been through, how clever it has been in healing, how fabulous surgeons and their teams are, and the wonders of science and technology. You would be amazed at how easy it would be, 2 years post-surgery, to forget it had ever happened. For me, the scar is a constant reminder of all that, and I wouldn't want it to disappear."
Do you have a story of the unique challenges heart valve disease treatment presented to you as a woman? If you do, email firstname.lastname@example.org and share it today. Or tag @HeartValveVoice in a post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.