Friday, 14 December 2012

CAUTION!!! DEEP HOLE!!!

When I first started to blog, I mentioned that I was a bit of a freak and that I shouldn't be able to exercise and push my body as much as I do.  I thought it would time to explain to you why that is.

When I was a baby, I looked like any normal baby.  I had ten toes.  I had four fingers and a thumb on each hand.  I had two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth.  I looked pretty normal as you can see:-



I don't quiet know when it started to happen, but my body started to change.  Being a child, you don't know that your body isn't normal.  My first memory of things not being quiet right was when I was in Kindergarten and a nurse came to visit and examine us with our mums present.  It was probably one of those Council Maternal and Child Health Services things, but I can't remember and things would have been a little different in the 80s.  All I remember is that I got told to see my doctor as I needed a referral for a specialist.

See, I never thought that there was anything wrong with me.  I think that was because I didn't have any siblings or cousins who I had baths with.  If I did, I probably would have noticed that the dint in my chest wasn't normal.  I thought it was.  Bath time was always fun for me and my toys.  I could have a little play and swim in the bath, whilst they could play and swim in the bath that I had in my chest.


I remember going to see a specialist at the Royal Children's Hospital called Mr Kent.  I remember having x-rays of my chest and I thought nothing of it.  I also remember walking with my parents around a ward in the hospital where there were teenagers who had the same condition as me but they had an operation to get it fixed.  I also remember my dad at home saying that he didn't want me to have a huge scar on my chest.


Every four years we would go and see Mr Kent at the hospital.  I would get more x-rays but nothing much would happen.  I continued to live a normal life.  Nobody knew that I had a dent in my chest.  My clothes would cover it up and there was no reason to show it.  And I was still an active child.  I was into sport.  I loved running around.  Nothing ever held me back.

As I got older, I stopped going to Mr Kent.  Maybe it was because I was developing into a young woman that I felt a little embarrassed to show him my chest.  Maybe it was also because I was never going to have the procedure to fix it as I didn't want a huge scar on my chest.  Maybe it was because it didn't bother me.

The darker area is the dint in my chest
When I was in my mid-twenties I started Googling the condition that I have.  I use to always say that I had a concave chest, but really it is called Pectus Excavatum.  I started to read about the condition.  It is the sunken appearance of the sternum, where the heart can be displaced and lung capacity is decreased. I joined the Facebook group and I started to see how unlucky most of these teenagers and young adults with this condition are.

Pectus Excavatum diagram

Most of them had all had an operation where there insert a rod under your chest which then makes the dent smooth out.  It normally has to stay in for 3 or so years.  In most people the operation is successful, but for others their body rejected the bar and caused them a lot of pain.  For some of the dint comes back and they have to work out if they should undergo the operation again.  The other operation is to have all of the bones in your ribs broken and re-set.  Very painful.

A lot of them cannot exercise due to their decreased lung capacity.  There were always the kid at school who couldn't take part in sport and a lot of them were bitter about it.  Most of them also appear to be male.  Some got picked on in the change room at school when other people saw it.  Others had great fun with it, especially at Halloween.

I think of myself as being very lucky.  Now, I know that I have a decreased lung capacity.  I notice that I run out of air a little quicker than everyone else.  That is evident when I swim as I can only do one or two strokes before I am gasping for air.  But I have been able to play sport all of my life.  I have been able to run a half marathon.  I have been able to do 2 hour cycle classes at the gym.  I can push myself hard.  The only thing it stops me doing fitness wise is chest press at the gym.  For some reason my sternum aches when I push the bar up.  It feels like my sternum is separating.

Me at Run 4 the Kids 2010 -14.38km

All of my complaints about Pectus Excavatum are physical.  My ribs are flared at the bottom, so they stick out and make me look like I have a huge ribcage.  When I eventually get a perfectly flat, fat free stomach with a 6 pack (I aim high) it will be even more noticeable.  Also, if I start to lose too much weight in my chest and I become a little boney, you can start to see the sunken appearance.  I also have great cleavage!  But that can either be a good or a bad thing!

Trying to show you my flared, sticky our ribs...

Also, when I am laying down in a strange position I can hear a ticking noise, which is due to a valve or something in my heart.  Its nothing to really worry about according to my doctor (I read anything that the internet has to say about this as it can be a little gloomy), so I don't stress about it.  I do sometimes get sharp pains in my chest, but I know that I'm alright.

So at the end of the day, I am very thankful that I can exercise and be active.  I know that I am so lucky as so many people with this condition cannot do all of the things that I have done.  It also makes me more determined to stay fit and active because it is important in ensuring that nothing bad happens to me.

Do you have Pectus Excavatum?  If so let me know as I have never met anyone with the same condition as me!

Do you have any medical conditions where generally you are not supposed to be fit and active, yet you are?  I'd love to hear from you!

2 comments:

  1. thanks for writing this, i'm 33 and have a fairly severe case of this though i've never been to a doc about it - i dont think my family knew / thought anything of it. always had trouble exercising and also have the ticking sound when lying down, on my right side. never knew until now that it was related to my chest shape and certainly never heard anyone mention it before!
    thanks again, deborah x

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  2. I'm 39 and grew up with a fairly severe case of this. Although it was brutal in grade/high school as kids teased me mercilessly about it, I didn't let it hold me back. Although my lung capacity was diminished and my heart resides a little too close to my ribs for my doctors comfort, I played a year of football (senior) and ran 4 years of track winning multiple state championship in individual running events. I also went to college on a track scholarship, becoming an all-american there as well. Long story short, even though we weren't dealt a fair hand, don't let it hold you back and use it as motivation. Be proud of your individuality... and your cereal bowl in your chest!

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