GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) — For the past fourteen years Rachel Bishop has been living, working, and playing in the lakeshore community of Holland Michigan with her incredible husband and their two cats. She is a runner, vegetarian, librarian at Hope College, and heart defect survivor. Rachel’s story began at age 45 when she blacked out behind the wheel.
I was living a completely normal life with no health problems. I had been a runner all of my life and a vegetarian for the last 25 years. I lived a very normal life.
In that horribly dark moment she didn’t let the fear consume her, instead she willed herself to pull over and wake up. She stopped the car, threw the keys on the floor and tried to calm her heart rate. The doctors looked her over and reported everything was just fine leaving her feeling guilty for wasting their time. She later found out she had a heart murmur. The news was devastating for Rachel because she had been healthy her whole life.
The minute I found out, I felt like I was a different person. I had to re evaluate certain things about who I was.
She couldn’t believe how much her life changed and was uncertain about how her journey would end with the upcoming heart surgery. She wondered, “Will I ever be able to run again?” Rachel told her husband if things with the surgery goes well, then take pictures of her running and hang them up around her hospital room so she would have a goal to work toward. If surgery didn’t go well, she didn’t want to see the pictures. The thought of not being able to run again was too devastating to comprehend. The surgery was very serious and included stopping her heart for three and a half hours.
To be cut open, have a scar for the rest of my life, it was a scary proposition. I didn’t know who I was…Now I wear my scar as a badge of courage.
When Rachel woke and opened her eyes for the first time, she was herself surrounded with pictures of her running and knew there was hope. The hope didn’t come without pain. The recovery wasn’t easy and after surgery she found herself aplogizing to her nurses. As a strong and capable women she wasn’t used to be taken care of.
It makes me take a step back and think about how I went through this whole ordeal…if I didn’t have the surgery I would’ve died. It’s just something that you go through because you have to..I’m very lucky to have survived and I’m very lucky for other people to have caught me.
Rachel’s message to women is simple. Take care of yourself and know the signs of a heart condition and heart disease, because it doesn’t discriminate. February is a time to take a look at your lifestyle and activity levels. Heart disease is the number one killer and it’s important to be self-aware. That is what “going red” is all about.