Heart To Heart
Discovering strength when you feel your weakest
My day started like any other at Great Lakes Naval Station. I went to work and decided to use my lunch break to work out.
After about a month, I was sitting in the cardiologist office at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) in north Chicago. At this point I had laughed off what I thought was your typical "fainting because I was exhausted" episode and figured the cardiologist visit was just a precaution and they weren't going to find anything-- after all-- I had no family history of heart disease and this had been happening for 10 years in the Navy. I would occasionally pass out and then wake up and be fine about 20 minutes later. Nonetheless, the echocardiogram (ECHO) technician ran some tests and took some pictures of my heart. I remember thinking to myself, "I have no idea what this guy is looking at, but why does he keep zooming in on the same part of my heart?" When the Tech finished taking pictures they sent me back to the doctor's office to wait for the results.
I recall telling my Mom, this feels like that moment in the movies where everything gets quiet and they start playing a really sad song then the doctor comes in to give the bad news." - Kelsey Gumm
No sooner did I say that, the doctor came in. "Petty Officer Gumm," he said, "I don't know how to tell you this but, your career in the Navy is over." He then explained that my ECHO showed a very rare heart disease that only .5 percent of the worldwide population has - Left Ventricular Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy. He explained that my fainting episode was most likely a sudden cardiac arrest and that the force from hitting the floor likely and thankfully jolted my heart out of a fatal rhythm.
My questions seemed endless. How do I react to life changing news like this? How do I "LIVE" with heart disease that has already tried to kill me? I went through different stages of grief and anger. Angry that my career in the military was over so soon. I had served 10 years honorably and was going to be eligible for chief petty officer soon. Besides angry, I was scared. I was afraid that I was going to die despite the doctor telling me that my heart function was still good and that they wanted to continue to monitor me. I was confused and wanted to know what the next steps were. All I knew about heart disease was what I saw in movies and on TV and what I could find on Google, the WRONG place to be looking!