Happy National Go Red Day! The first Friday in February is always Go Red day, where you can wear red to raise awareness for heart disease, but this one has a new meaning to me. As a now two-time open-heart surgery survivor, the magnitude of it hit me.

On a personal level, I realized I have genetics working against me, having been born with congenital heart defects (for me, a bicuspid aortic valve and anomalous coronary artery.)I want to be as healthy as possible so as to not risk developing any other heart problems. On a broader scale, I realized how big of a problem heart disease is. In fact, it's the number one cause of death in the United States, while the American Heart Association believes nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented.

I won't bore you with statistics, but they're shocking and scary, so I want to be a better promoter of heart health. One way I'm doing that is through the Lehigh Valley Heart Association's "12 Stories of Heart" campaign.  I'm one of 12 women being featured at their annual Go Red luncheon in May, and we'll all be spreading awareness leading up to it, including tonight, February 7, at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms game. Wear red if you're going! I will also be sharing even more of my journey on WFMZ and social media, including some heart-healthy tips and ideas.

Speaking of my journey, I'm now nearly 11 weeks past having heart surgery! I'm finally feeling pretty normal, just a little tired here and there and occasionally sore after any type of new movements.

I'm still doing cardiac rehab, and one week ago, I ran for the first time since surgery!  It was a huge moment, as running was one of my post-surgery goals. I remember being in the hospital right after surgery, barely able to walk 30 yards down the hall.  I never dreamed of being able to run just 10 weeks later.  I only ran 1-minute intervals that day, now I'm up to 2-minute intervals, but it's progress and I'm grateful to be running at all.  

My biggest battle while exercising is my heart rate.  It tends to be high, but it's amazing to see how the heart- a muscle- can be conditioned and get back in shape.  What used to make my heart rate spike no longer does, but of course now I'm finding new things that make my heart rate rise and I have to slow down and be patient for my body to recover.

I also got cleared to lift my one-year old, Charlie! I'm easing into it, by having him placed in my lap then shifting his weight around to test out how it feels. I'm so excited to hold him, but I didn't anticipate how scared I'd be of lifting that much weight (He's a chunker!) He also now likes to dive into me on the floor, which is sweet, but it hurts if he hits my scar so I have to protect that.  My 4 year-old, Colin, has been such a trooper throughout everything.  I still can't pick him up, but he's pretty self-sufficient.  He's become my walking buddy. I walk; he rides his bike. We're up to 2.5 miles together!  

This time at home has not only allowed me to rest and recover, but it has allowed me time to make sure I get in some type of daily exercise and more time to prepare and cook healthy meals. (I couldn't cook at first but these last few weeks, I've really enjoyed trying new recipes.)

I'll be back at work on Monday, but vow to keep up these healthy habits, even when life gets busy.  I hope you'll join me in keeping (or starting) healthy habits. Thanks for going red today and keeping up with my journey!  See you on the air on Monday! 

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Melanie Falcon had heart surgery on Monday November 25th, 2019. Follow her story of recovery here.

Matters Of The Heart