My journey with Marfan syndrome has been a long and complicated one. I was first tested when I was 19. At that time, the tests were inconclusive. I have some of the features of Marfan syndrome, such as pectus carinatum (pigeon chest), and was very tall and thin, but my measurements were borderline. I had no known family history, and I hadn't developed any serious heart problems. They told me this is not uncommon because I was still young and many people don't begin to have problems until they are older. The doctors couldn’t confirm that I had Marfan syndrome, but they also couldn’t confirm that I didn’t have it. So here I was in limbo, and limbo was where I stayed for a long time.
The end of this year will mark 10 years since my world changed, 10 years since my parents scoured the internet trying to find anything about this new syndrome, 10 years since I was diagnosed with Loeys-Dietz syndrome. My parents found some of the information they were looking for on The Marfan Foundation’s website. Then, the following summer, they took my brother and me to a conference the Foundation was having in Philadelphia.
Ten years ago, we lost a dear member of our community, Julie Kurnitz. Julie served on our Board of Directors, appeared in our videos, was a founder of the Marfan Artists Project (which is now our Heartworks gala), led conference workshops, spoke to doctors and nurses about Marfan syndrome, and, was featured in print and broadcast media to raise awareness of Marfan syndrome. More than that, she was an inspiration to so many in our community as she gave so much of herself, with a smile on her face, even as she faced multiple medical challenges of Marfan syndrome.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about the rapid heart beat, but you should look at this.” Those words began our adventures with Marfan syndrome. Our son Micah was five when an insightful pediatric cardiologist at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage identified an already enlarged aorta and suggested he might have Marfan. We had taken him to see the doctor because his heart would sometimes race for no apparent reason. One fortunate trip to this doctor and soon we were neck-deep in research, more medical appointments, and, luckily, our association with The Marfan Foundation.
I first got involved with The Marfan Foundation the summer before my freshman year of high school. I had been bullied all through middle school and was apprehensive at the idea of 'movin' on up', only to end up being at the bottom of the school hierarchy pyramid all over again.
Topics: Marfan Conference