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While most babies with truncus arteriosus undergo a corrective surgery, the surgery was not yet available when Melstad was born. His parents were told he would not survive long-term, but against all odds, he is alive and well at the age of 64. Melstad’s incredible story has led the American College of Cardiology to recognize him in the “I am CardioSmart” contest.
Although Melstad is no longer cyanotic – a term used to describe CHD patients with low blood oxygen levels – his oxygen saturation levels are usually around 80 mm Hg (values under 90 are on the lower end of ‘normal’ levels), which he says can frighten nurses who are unfamiliar with his cardiovascular history.
Being born with a large ventricular septal defect and truncus arteriosus led Melstad to develop Eisenmenger’s Complex, a ventricular septal defect that occurs when the direction of blood flow reverses in the heart, causing blood to circulate abnormally through the heart and lungs. Melstad was also diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a common result of Eisenmenger’s Complex.
Melstad has faced limitations all his life due to his CHD, from restrictions in his physical activity to job interviews and employment opportunities, but he has lived his life surrounded by a supportive community.
“I am thankful to my friends and family for always standing by me,” Melstad said, “Life has not been easy, but I fight every day to live ‘CardioSmart’ by eating a heart healthy diet, attending regular six-month checkups, monitoring my vaccinations and taking the time to do some light exercising.”
After graduating from Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting, Melstad worked as an accountant for his family’s small accounting and tax preparation business. He now fully owns and operates the business, while making time to be active in his church and hold memberships in both the Adult Congenital Heart Association and State Tax Association.
By being self-employed, Melstad has been able to take the reins on managing his heart disease. He can set his own office hours and control his workload while making sure to put his health first. His daily activity levels combined with medication have increased his stamina, and even reduced nose bleeds and eliminated bleeding from his lungs.
Melstad attends six-month checkups at Oregon Health and Science University’s Adult Congenital Heart Clinic, and has been a patient at one of OHSU’s Cardiology Clinics since he was an infant, where they have carefully monitored his situation. Melstad credits his current cardiologist, Craig S. Broberg, MD, FACC, for helping him understand his heart disease better and find new ways to manage his heart health.
“I do some traveling, and I love music, but the hobby I enjoy the most is reading, where my physical difficulties do not exist,” Melstad said. “When I climb into a good book I can enjoy adventures, travel the world and explore history without any limitations at all.”
Melstad said the most important rule he follows is to get plenty of sleep and maintain a manageable schedule. He conserves his energy and puts his efforts into work, church and his local community.
“Although I can’t do everything that others do, there are many things I can do, and I am blessed to be a contributing member of society.”
CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the ACC. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with heart disease conditions. Five individuals are being recognized this year.
Melstad’s story of living CardioSmart will be featured on CardioSmart.org as a positive example to people living with heart disease. To read more about his story, visithttps://www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Michael-Melstad
The four other “I am CardioSmart” contest finalists are Jared Blitz of Denver; Melissa Cappuccilli of Carlsbad, California; Collette Sroka of Enfield, Connecticut, and Kathleen Thompson of Orange County, California. Learn more here.