Meagan and Billy Houpt are two love birds living their life together as husband and wife. However, their relationship is special and has had struggles that many couples will never have to endure. They are living CHD married life. Meagan has HLHS, a congenital heart disease that left her with half a functioning heart. She has had three open heart surgeries and multiple visits to the emergency room.
Meagan and Billy have been together for seven years, two of those as a husband and wife in their CHD married life. On their first date, Meagan explained her heart condition. “To be honest, I was so nervous I would lose him right then and there,” she remembers. However, her vulnerability was rewarded. “He was amazing, he asked me questions and wanted to know about it.” It is hard enough to navigate life with CHD and throwing a relationship in the mix can sound scary enough to want to avoid it altogether. Regardless, Meagan and Billy prove that a disease that affects the heart cannot get in the way of love.
Because of her CHD, Billy is always wanting to make sure Meagan is okay. He is there every step of the way through ER and cardiology visits. Early in their relationship when Meagan was taken to the ER, she thought “this is it, he will think that this is too much.” Doctors were swarming her but still Billy stood in the corner. Out of the way, but still there. After, he came over and held Meagan’s hand and asked, “Are you okay?” Laughing she replied, “Are you?” She was thrilled to know that he wanted to be with her and that he was okay with her CHD and wanting to do CHD married life.
Like every relationship, they have their challenges. CHD married life, or married life in general , is never easy. Many women with CHD are unable to have children due to already high health risks and blood flow abnormalities. Meagan and Billy want kids but CHD is proving to be a hindrance. They have the all clear from the cardiologists but know they will have a high risk pregnancy. “Honestly this topic brings me to tears,” Meagan said. “We have been trying for two years now and it gets harder and harder each time …. the test says no.” The Houpts are planning on talking with an adoption agency in the future and hope to have a family soon.
Billy’s thoughts on dealing with CHD married life challenges are to just show up for your partner. “Just open your ears, be willing to learn, be patient, be understanding and take life as it goes. There will be days that are amazing … and days that you have to learn together.”
Meagan’s insider advice to the partners of her fellow heart warriors out there is this: “This CHD life is not easy. It can be really hard on your marriage and it can bring things you never thought were important into your relationship. Be patient, ask questions, get to know [your partner] and their medical history. Remember, we love you and want you in our lives even when it’s hard.”
“[Find] the person that will stand in the corner waiting for the medical staff to leave to make sure you are okay.” Ensure that they will be there with you in the pain, check up on you, and are able to call and tell someone about your medical history. “But most importantly, make sure they are the person [you] want to do this crazy life with. Do not settle,” Meagan said to her fellow heart warriors.
They work as a team in their CHD married life, supporting each other in all they do. Billy comes to cardiology appointments, heart conferences and is there for Meagan every step of the way. When PTSD is encroaching into her mind, he is there. When he worries if she’s doing okay, she comforts him. Their love shines through their commitment to each other and it is truly inspiring.
There are currently more adults in the US living with CHD than children for the first time in history. Surgeries and temporary fixes developed about 40 years ago are allowing babies who would normally die hours or days after birth live to see their 40s. As CHD is no longer an exclusively pediatric disease, it is important to talk about parts of life that go beyond childhood. If you have CHD and are wanting to get married one day, I hope Meagan and Billy’s story gives you hope and encouragement for the future.