Mar. 15, 2017

Like You: Nancy Magana

Growing up I was always a super active young woman; I played sports like basketball, soccer, tennis, and I was even a cheerleader at one point. So, when I found out that I had lupus at the age of 15 it was like a kick to the stomach; I felt like it was the beginning of a limited life but I refused to allow lupus to stop me from living my life.  Then, when I had to have heart surgery all I thought was ‘I am not going to let this stop me either.’ I have come a long way and I will continue to fight. I have learned to live with the things I cannot change, and to focus on the the things I can do better by managing my diet and fitness routine. Yet out of nowhere in February, 2014, my heart crashed and I had to have two major surgeries. I was only 22 years old at the time.

“I was literally sitting on a chair waiting for my job interview to finish, when I felt unable to breathe. It was as if I was going to fall over and pass out right there and then. At that moment, all I could think of was -- What is going on? I am a fitness instructor; I stay healthy other than living with lupus, and I had no idea what could be wrong. As soon as I was able, I got into my car and drove straight to the hospital. They ran a few tests, and as soon as they saw the MRI they told me I could no longer leave because I had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot). I started freaking out because I knew what that meant and that I could not leave for a while. I called my mom and asked her to come to the hospital, once she did I tried my best to explain to her what was going on without freaking her out completely.

After being admitted, doctors continued to run more tests and soon found a blockage in one of my valves which was causing poor blood flow into my heart. It was some sort of lupus vegetation located in my right tricuspid valve. The doctor’s plan was to do both surgeries at once but when they got into the Operating Room they realized there was too much fluid in my lung, complicated of course by the pulmonary embolism. Therefore, they did the lung surgery first and then the open-heart surgery the week after. The whole process was extremely painful but I am glad I had some great doctors and nurses taking care of me. I also have a great support system of family and friends.

One of the nurses even sat down with me and explained in detail what was happening with my health and my heart. She was kind enough to print out information for my mother and I, both in English and Spanish because my mom has trouble with the language. I believe it comforted and helped to de-stress my mom. The surgery did repair the damaged artery without having to replace it, but I have to always remain vigilant about my health choices. I have switched to a no carb diet and added some yoga and weight lifting to my  exercise routine.

Now my goal is to inspire and educate anyone with or affected by lupus or heart disease, including their loved ones. I want to help them understand that even though it is not always easy to deal with, they can have a better life by understanding, educating themselves, and getting routine checkups, in order to make smarter health choices.

Read other stories in our 'Like You' series