The Beauty of Transformation
Patti Palacios is truly a story of strength. Both feet on the ground, refusing to look behind. She is most definitely a representation of what I had in mind when I thought of creating Sincerely Jane XOXO. I wanted each story to be like a message of encouragement to whomever may need it. Like a letter written specifically for YOU . . . yes you, in the process of your journey. You are not alone. I got emotional reading Patti’s story. I’m sure she has and still does touch many hearts. As a matter of fact, the theme of her story is the heart.
Who is Patti Palacios?
I’m a 28 year old Latina from Southern California. I’m the first in my family of Salvadoran descent to attend a four-year university. I’m working on double majors in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting and English. Before finishing my last quarter, I was diagnosed with heart failure and had to take a leave. Since then, I completely changed my lifestyle to help decrease the strain on my heart. I went from weighing 278 pounds (2015) to 172 pounds (2018) through diet alone. On October 19th 2018, I was the recipient of a heart transplant that has since saved my life.
I discovered you online sharing about your heart transplant. Can you rewind back a little to tell us how this journey of yours began?
I was born with a congenital heart condition that makes my heart beat faster than it should, arrhythmias. However, I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 25 years old. In September 2015, I had a cardiac arrest while working out on the elliptical at my university gym. My heart rate skyrocketed, went into a funky rhythm and stopped. I collapsed in between the machines. I woke up in the hospital three days later confused and without memory of what had occurred. The doctors explained my heart failure which put me at high risk for having more cardiac arrests in the future. The best course of action was to have a pacemaker/defibrillator placed that would shock me out of those episodes if it ever happened again. Over the past three years, my heart condition worsened to the point that part of my heart muscle was completely dead. This caused me to have many episodes where my heart rate would spontaneously rise to 220 bpm. Each shock caused more strain not only on my heart, but also on my mental state.
When you were told that you had to have a heart transplant, walk us through your thoughts and emotions at that moment.
When it comes to heart failure, getting a heart transplant is the last course of action. My doctors had exhausted all other options including procedures and the harshest of medications. Nothing was working. When they said, “You’re going to have to stay in the hospital until we find you a heart,” I choked back my tears. I knew I was dying, but it became so much more real in that moment. There is never a guarantee that a match will be found in time and I knew time wasn’t on my side. I felt so hopeless. Even though I was scared, I was willing to fight and have some faith if it meant the possibility of a second chance to live.
Do you have any advice for those that are in a dark space and may possibly feel hopeless?
If you’re going through a dark time in your life, I want you to know that it’s okay to feel however it is you’re feeling. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel or act about something that is affecting YOU. Try to get rid of as much negative in your life as possible. Surround yourself with people that are only going to help build up your strengths and improve on your weaknesses in a constructive way. Let people you can trust help you and lean on them when you need them. Don’t ever feel like a burden for reaching out to talk.I’m a huge advocate for seeing a trained therapist or counselor. They have the tools to help you face your problems head on. A quick Google search of your local area can bring up many budget friendly options. Support groups are also a great way to meet people that can understand what you’re going through better than most. Most importantly, stop eating junk! If you’re in a mental funk then fried, salty, or sugary foods are ultimately going to keep you feeling like junk. Try to clean up your diet and drink plenty of water. Treat your body right so that you’re doing everything in your control to help your body be at it’s best. Incorporate whatever activity your body can handle. You don’t need to beast mode at the gym. Walking is a great way to get some fresh air and get moving.
What did you learn from that moment and what would you tell yourself now?
“What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.”
This whole experience has taught me just how strong and resilient we can be as humans. I am so proud of the woman I have become because of my struggle with heart failure. I am no longer plagued with worrying what others might think or say about me because none of it could compare to the battles I’ve fought and won. My illness limited me physically and mentally, but I never allowed it to define me.