The Tale of Justin’s Too-Big Heart

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

“You know how you hear a news story every so often about a healthy athlete who collapses on the field and dies with no warning?” I tried to explain through a tight throat. “That’s what Justin has. It’s caused by a thickening of the heart muscle called HCM.”

“It’s, like, the one time having a big heart is a bad thing!” Isi quipped. I laughed at the irony lost on me until she spoke these words.

Listen to Michelle narrate this audio on Spotify (or wherever you get your podcasts).

“You’re right,” I said, wiping away tears. “Thank you! You have no idea how that puts things in perspective.” This was my very first conversation with Isi. We’d never spoken or met in real life before. But when I told her that Justin was having open-heart surgery, she could tell that I needed a light way to relate to this scary experience. Justin, my twin flame and life partner, has one of the biggest hearts I know. He’s empathic and kind and honest. He’s a healer and a warrior. He gives everything he can to help others. The irony, then, is that his heart has grown too large — or a part of his heart muscle has. I felt Isi smile from nine time zones away.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “I believe everything will be alright!” We’d spent the better part of an hour-long conversation talking about her journey in this lifetime, where she’s from, who’s shaped her path, why she’s where she is today. It was an audition for a Portrait of a Twin Flame interview; Isi’s journey will be the subject. But the Universe artfully reserved the final five minutes for me to relate this part of my journey to her.

Sharing Justin’s situation with Isi gave me the courage to start a GoFundMe campaign and share our story with you.

Who Are Justin & Michelle, Twin Flame Warriors?

If you’re reading our blog, you probably already know that our journey has been an adult coming-of-age tale. But perhaps you’re new to us, so we’ll synopsize!

After decades of living lives we chose for all the wrong reasons, we had to learn to love ourselves and begin choosing what’s in our own best interest…not in service of others. Our path took us through many traumas, including mental illness, addiction, infidelity, and more…until we discovered self-love and healing. We tell our story in a self-published novella series. We also host a free support community for those experiencing spiritual awakening who need a little extra help & guidance along their way. Our lives are dedicated to serving the human collective on its journey to awakening.

Twin Flame Warriors at Knott’s Berry Farm.

While I focus on our lightwork, Justin holds a job in the retail sector to sustain us financially. He plugs away and devotes himself to supporting our mission until our lightwork can replace his income and support us. This is grueling. He works long hours on his feet, and the pandemic has made his daily work life hell at times. Yet his heart remains as big as it has always been.

Rumi, the 11th-century poet and mystic, understood the meaning and essence of twin flames. He was able to transcend the spiritual experience to share it in 3D words.

What’s Wrong With Justin?

The Diagnosis of Justin’s Too-Big Heart

Last summer, Justin was tentatively diagnosed with a genetic heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. That’s a mouthful, so I’ll refer to it as HCM…some call it Athlete’s Heart. It took us a year and many appointments with an army of doctors to learn of his HCM diagnosis. The scariest moment of the process for me was when one of the cardiologists first explained her suspicion.

She told us, “HCM is pretty rare. It’s the result of a genetic defect; there’s nothing you did to cause it and nothing you can do to fix it. For most people, it starts when their doctor notices a heart murmur. Often, no other symptoms are noted. Other times, the patient finds themselves running short of breath during physical activity. Sometimes chest pains tip-off patients.”

“For me, it started when we were visiting Arizona, and I had a sort of fainting spell,” Justin told her. “The ER doctor attributed it to dehydration.”

“That’s definitely one of the symptoms. If what you have is confirmed to be HCM, it’s terrific that you’re seeking care,” she continued. “Most people with HCM have no complications and live long lives. But when someone begins to experience physical symptoms, there is an 85 percent chance of sudden cardiac death in the two years following onset.” I remember the pulse rushing in my ears, and I felt dizzy as I did the math in my head. Twelve months are gone already, I realized. An ember of panic sprung to life in my breast. Damn the pandemic that drew out the timeline on all of these appointments!

“I’m ordering a series of diagnostic tests…” the doctor explained the procedures Justin would undergo. “The great news is that new drugs and medical interventions are being developed all the time. I’ll refer you to an HCM specialist, and you can start planning for your care.”

What Comes Next for Justin’s Too-Big Heart?

Open-Heart Surgery

Here we stand, six months after that initial diagnosis and only three months after HCM confirmation, preparing for Justin’s open-heart surgery next week at age 49 (he’ll be 50 in March). He’ll have a procedure called a septal myectomy on February 4. It involves entering the interior of his heart through the aorta and removing thin slices of the heart muscle to reduce the thickened area that’s interfering with one of the valves.

This YouTube link will take you to a video of a septal myectomy procedure. Please consider how you may react to graphic medical imagery before you choose to watch.

Justin will be on a heart-lung machine during the procedure, which takes two surgeons five or six hours to perform. His ribcage will be outfitted with titanium plates to close. He’ll be in the ICU for two days. If things go well in the ICU, he’ll be admitted to regular hospital care for another two to three days. Outcomes for this surgery are usually excellent, but recovery time is two to three months. 

A Complicating Factor

We face one major complicating factor with this HCM diagnosis: Justin also suffers from kidney failure. This chronic disease is caused by scarring in his kidneys. His numbers bounce between Stage 3A and 3B of failure, which means his kidneys average about 45% effectiveness. Our nephrologist (kidney doctor) believes the scarring happened when he was very young. Whatever the cause, kidney disease makes HCM treatment more precarious. It’s harder for Justin’s body to process anesthesia and medications that might help his heart. He suffers from fatigue and high blood pressure caused by his diseased kidneys. This increases the potential for complications and the likely need for extra recuperation time.

Despite these challenges, we expect the #HCM procedure to go well and result in complete recovery!

GoFundMe Campaign for Justin’s Too-Big Heart

We need help to cover our out-of-pocket medical expenses and replace Justin’s lost income during recovery. He qualifies for limited short-term disability payments, but our earnings will be affected for an extended time. A portion of Justin’s income funds our healing business operations because what we do is a labor of love. We give all we can to help those who need us, even when it costs us!

Please help us keep giving to a broader community that needs our kind of healing.

  • Medical expenses to cover our share of the surgery, hospitalization, and care for HCM will be about US$7,500.
  • The other US$7,500 of our US$15,000 fundraising goal is to help make up for lost income during the expected recuperation time.

Please help us continue our lightwork and come back better, stronger, and ready to spread our light further in the world!

Thank you for your time and consideration in reading our story. If you ever feel compelled to reach out to us, please do! We are here to support you in your journey and would love to hear your story, too.

Justin & Michelle ❤️

Twin Flame Warriors

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