Her cough never seemed to let go, a near constant presence in her life.
She had no stamina.
She just didn't feel right.
But she'd felt that way for so long, she didn’t know how to feel like anything else. And so that became her normal.
This was life.
It was that way when Bao Lee went in to urgent care feeling shortness of breath. She’d had a cold that had lasted a couple of weeks by that point, longer than it should have, really. A visit to the doctor's office would take care of it. She figured they'd listen to her, order up some antibiotics and she'd eventually shake it, at least for a little while.
It was all very routine.
It turned out to be anything but.
"Listening to my heart, the doctor said, 'You have a heart murmur,'" Bao said.
Concerned, her doctor ordered more tests. An echocardiogram known as a bubble test visually showed what had been heard in her stethoscope. Bao had an atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole in the "wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart," as the American Heart Association (AHA) defines it.
Left untreated, it can lead to heart failure and stroke. Bao knew she had to get it fixed.
"I thought of my daughter: Oh my gosh, what if I don't live long enough to see her grow up?' You start thinking all this stuff," Bao said.
She'd had it since birth. She wasn't sure why it wasn't discovered before she was in her 20s and a mother to baby Emma. Luckily for Bao, finding a fix did not take as long as her diagnosis.
An Abbott AMPLATZER™ Septal Occluder, which, when open, looks a bit like a butterfly wing, would be inserted into Bao's heart via a catheter through a vein in her leg. Once it was at the hole in Bao’s heart, it would open up on both sides of the septal wall to close the defect.
As these things go, it was a relatively routine, minimally invasive procedure.
Routine. There's that word again. Sure, any procedure that's not your own can be described that way. But the planning for this particular procedure turned out to be anything but.