October 20, 2021
As a child I have always felt that something was different or abnormal about the way that my chest sank in. I always thought the inability of taking a deep breath was strange.
I was born and raised in a small town in Southeastern Arkansas. According to my parents, my regular doctor visits subsided around age six, so my condition remained a mystery. Growing up, I was not really athletic, otherwise this journey may have been different.
My story began over three and a half years ago upon receiving a call from my mother advising of the results from a recent echocardiogram of her heart. She explained that the doctors found a heart murmur, and her heart was not beating properly. My initial reaction given our family’s history was to contact my primary care physician to discuss my concern that this could be related to the breathing problems I had all my life. I scheduled an echocardiogram of my heart and awaited the results, hoping to get an answer. Why do I have this huge indention in my chest? Why can I not take a full deep breath? Is this all related to me having heart disease?
The day finally arose for the test which was the easy part; the hard part was waiting, something that I am definitely not good at. The results revealed compression of my heart, but the cause was not clear. In order to get a better understanding of my heart and the compression, a cardiac MRI was ordered. Again the day of the test arose and more anxiety, but I was hopeful of getting one step closer to an answer. The day finally arrived when I received a call from my primary care doctor explaining that I had severe pectus excavatum—something I definitely had never heard of before. She explained to me how my chest was sunken in, and that my heart was being compressed due to this condition which was affecting my breathing.