Like many adults with congenital heart disease, Lisa Shubagaran only found out about her heart defect when she was in her 30s.
For Lisa, a miscarriage was what led to a diagnosis of a congenital heart disease. In 2015, Lisa felt unwell and became so bloated she couldn’t even walk two steps, lie flat or even breathe properly. While she initially thought it was a kidney problem, after investigations at a private hospital, she found out it was heart failure caused by an atrial septal defect – a hole in the heart she never knew she had. She was also diagnosed with a leaking valve and pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs, a long-term complication of CHD). While she was there, the doctors told her she had only 1 year left to live. At the time, Lisa was only 30 years old.
She then went for a second opinion at Hospital Sultan Idris Shah (Serdang), where she had open heart surgery two years later to patch the hole in the heart. A few months later, Lisa was back at work. Despite living a normal life, she was constantly reminded to not get pregnant. When her symptoms came back later during the COVID quarantine era, she had to be transferred to another private hospital as Hospital Sultan Idris Shah (Serdang)was designated as a COVID hospital. There, it was decided it was too risky for her to go through surgery again and she was put on medication to optimise her condition. Now that costs are getting higher, Lisa has again been referred to Serdang and hopes to be able to get surgery soon.
Growing up, Lisa wasn’t an active person. She had a difficult time participating in activities and then getting bullied for her size – which she now realises was all just water retention from her undiagnosed heart condition. She recalls that sometimes it’s tiring to even wake up or make drinks for herself. Lisa likes to be independent and it’s difficult when she has to end up depending on people for help. The financial part is of course, a challenge as well.
Even though she didn’t know of her CHD until she was 30, her experiences made her a strong person. It made her fight this chronic illness with her life. She began to value the things around her, her relationships, time, health and God. For Lisa, her husband, best friends and family are her greatest support system who always encourage her to keep fighting.
Lisa’s message to the public: Pay attention to your body and don’t assume things. Always get a professional opinion. And if you know someone who has CHD, give them emotional support. Don’t judge them for being tired or selfish sometimes. #WiraJantung