READ BECKY MORGANS STORY

 

I was 20. Walking up the stairs I would get so out of breath. I went to the doctor, thinking I had a chest infection.

 

She thought maybe I'd punctured a lung so she sent me to the local hospital and I had a chest X-ray. It was the doctor there before I got discharged, listening in his stethoscope, who heard a heart murmur.

 

I thought, "what's a heart murmur?" I was so naive at 20 years old. I thought anything heart related was just a heart attack.

 

I always thought, because I've only ever lived in my body, that feeling my heart beat was normal, but it wasn't. He explained that he thought my heart was leaking.

 

They diagnosed me and told me that I would have to have open heart surgery to fix it.

 

I had surgery in January 2014 - an aortic valve replacement [her damaged valve was replaced with a tissue valve from a pig's heart].

 

It [her aorta] was twice the size and it could have ruptured. I could have died if it was left.

 

I was terrified before. I didn't know what the process was going to be. It made me feel very alone and isolated.

 

I went on Google to try and find other people my age who had gone through it or were going through it because I wanted to talk to them.

 

I thought, "I can't be the only 21-year-old who is about to have open heart surgery". I set up Beating Hearts on social media and so many people reached out.

 

I didn't want it to be a cry for help, I didn't want sympathy. I wanted it to help other people.

 

I think there needs to be more help, more understanding. Maybe a nurse who gives you their number if you are confused, or want to know more about your condition, your surgery, your recovery. Or if you're feeling like your head can't take it.

 

In February I tried to get some support, to speak to a counsellor. I had to try three different websites, whereas back when I was 20 I would have just given up and thought there was no help.

 

Advertising needs to be relatable, to not just show children and then skip to retirement age - 18 to 35-year-olds who use social media need to know "I'm not the only one who's going through that".

 

Beating Hearts really went big on 27 April 2016 because there was a "Scars are Beautiful" campaign. I did my first ever picture showing my scar because I was finally happy and confident with it.

 

I struggled having an eight-inch scar down my chest but it's only a scar, it doesn't make me who I am.

 

Rebecca Ferguson tweeted asking people why music is an inspiration to them, and I replied because music helped me. She messaged me asking if I would feature in her recent music video "Superwoman".

 

This year's been quite tough, back in February my ECG results [a test which measures the electrical activity of your heart] showed increased gradient. I know I have to have another operation in the future.

 

I will have to have a mechanical valve. My aorta will need to be changed to a plastic tube. That's always on your mind.

 

Every time you go to hospital changes could be happening, I could need the second operation already.

 

But it doesn't control my life, it's just part of my life.

 

With your donations this Christmas you can help save more lives across Wales and help fund more heart screening sessions.