Mountain climbing is my greatest passion. By the summer of 2007, I had successfully climbed the Eiger, Mönch and other icy behemoths. I had scaled the highest mountains in Europe, Africa, Oceania, South and North America and the Antarctic. However, I still had one to go: the Everest. This mountain of mountains has already taken me to my limits several times before, but it still remained the crest of my dreams.
For many years leading up to this time, I was able to deny my health problems – after all, I was fit. At the same time, I realized that being outfitted with an artificial heart valve was inevitable.
After completing my studies in chemistry when I was 23, I started my first job at the Technikum Bergdorf near Bern, Switzerland. During a routine physical exam at this time, they found a heart defect. I couldn’t believe it. But it was true: the diagnosis I received was combined aortic valvular defect. That is an alteration on the output valve of the heart, at the junction to the aorta. There are stenoses, or bottlenecks, where the blood stagnates. And then there was the insufficiency, when the valve no longer closes completely. I had both, therefore the categorization as combined vitium. There are more severe heart defects, but one thing was certain: the muscle gets progressively weaker due to strain and I would need a new heart valve at some point.
In 1997 I agreed to have the operation, before the heart muscle became permanently damaged.
I received a mechanical heart valve and had to start taking blood-thinning medications. I quickly recovered from the surgery, but I found the visits to the doctor, who needed to control my coagulation rate on a regular basis, restricting. When my doctor suggested that I could learn to independently measure these values, I was all for it. In May 1998, I was one of the first patients in Switzerland to take a course in coagulation self-testing. Now, the monitor is my constant companion on all my expeditions. Having it with me gives me the peace of mind and freedom to embark on my adventures.