Well, I now have three cardiologists and am seeing one of the world's specialists for PFOs this Friday. I've read a lot of literature, talked to folks who've had PFOs and ASAs, including a heart surgeon who had the catheterization. One of my cardiologists said I now probably know more than the average cardiologist. I have a science background with tertiary degrees and taught pre-med, so I don't totally disagree, but I'd still like to learn as much as possible, so please keep writing folks!
With respect to the message from "holeintheheart", I completely understand. Coping with the emotional part of this problem is very difficult, and I felt really alienated when I first learned of my condition. In fact, I've stopped talking to one of my best friends from childhood who trivialized the experience. She told me - at least I don't have to have open heart surgery, her dad had had open heart surgery - and I'm just being a baby. Having this condition has changed my outlook on some of my relationships. It's made certain relationships stronger and helped me to let go of those I feel are not in alignment with my perspective or life. And many people are ignorant - they do a quick google search on the internet and make generalized statements without understanding the specifics of an individual case. Furthermore, many people don't know how to handle information like this because they feel helpless and can't deal with the uncertainty. And another thing that really frustrated me is when people make light of the fact that there is a potential for stroke. When they say things like, oh- there's also a probability that you could get hit by a car. Just ignore anyone who brings you down and find a good network of people who can understand you and support you - even if it's a place like this. It helps me to know there are other people going through a similar struggle. Who are scared. There are days I feel I have it totally under control and days when I feel completely torn apart.
I just found out that my insurance denied half my claims and the doctor bills are piling up. I'm scared that I won't be able to get insurance again and will be discriminated for future jobs. If someone gave you a death sentence, it would in some ways be easier, because there would be only one path. The difficulty of anticipating a stroke and not knowing if it will ever occur is troubling because it always lies in the back of your mind. I have to fly on a couple of long international flights over the next couple of months and that worries me - imagine a transatlantic event. There would be no chance of survival.
Also frustrating for me is that two cardiologists think that I may have had TIAs based on my description of things that have happened. I feel quite sure something has occurred and it's almost a relief to know that all those times I thought I had something going on weren't hypochondriac moments. They were real. But I have another cardiologist who says, so long as they don't have it on record - in an MRI or houlter recording, it essentially hasn't happened because they can't prove it. But trying to record one of those events if they are rare and happened over long stretches is like trying to photograph a rare bird in the jungle. Just because you didn't get the shot doesn't mean it doesn't exist!
As for getting married and having children - I would highly recommend having the heart closure through catheterization. I don't know the specifics of your hole, your symptoms or case, but I do know that PFOs increase the risk of stroke during pregnancy significantly. Remember that you gain 1/3 your blood volume when pregnant and also the vasalva reflex adds the potential for stroke. Talk to your doctor about it. And if your doctor doesn't provide you with adequate information or satisfies your worries, see another doctor. For PFOs and ASAs in adults, doctors are very well divided about what to do, so one may tell you one thing and the other the complete opposite. After 20 years of research, the data is still totally inconclusive. So neither is right or wrong and the outcome is case specific based on your symptoms and life preferences.
One thing many people claim is once they've closed their hole, they usually feel invigorated and happier. Apparently having a PFO promotes depression - maybe due to circulation or oxygenation. Most say they feel greater vitality once it's closed. And it is understandable that you should feel sad when diagnosed with a condition. It would be weird if you didn't. Hang in there and all will be fine.