February is American Heart Month, and this is a story about my heart – both figuratively and literally. It’s the reason I am where I am today.
I was born with a significant heart defect called Dextrocardia, as well as a ventricular septal defect. Basically, my heart was on the wrong side of my chest cavity and inverted – and, it had a hole in it.
When I was three months old, my doctors told my parents that I needed open heart surgery to close the hole. However, at that time, my mother was pregnant with my sister.
My parents decided to wait until my sister was born before I underwent surgery. But somehow, for some reason, my heart decided that it had to be whole, and the hole I was born with began to close. My heart could stay as it was – imperfect and misplaced, but untouched.
Growing up, I found that I was doing a lot of things half-heartedly. Schoolwork wasn’t heartening, and few things excited me.
I dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but I couldn’t muster up the resolve to pursue that dream – LSATs, law school, internships. Thousands in loans, six more semesters of school, and years of building a professional profile.
Deterred by these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I remained listless through my early 20s. For a few years after college, I worked in sales. I was good at it, but my heart was definitely in a different place.
That is, until it wasn’t.
In my early 20s, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. A-Fib, also known as an irregular heartbeat, is fairly common amongst senior citizens, but as a twenty-something in college, I was now a member of a not-so-enviable, exclusive club.
During the next several years, I battled my irregular heartbeats, underwent more than a dozen cardioversions and tried various cocktails of medications, all to no avail. Eventually, I met a cardiologist who specialized in adults with congenital heart defects – adults like me.
He informed my family and me that the hole in my heart had re-opened and that it was substantially larger than it was when I was a child.
This was causing my irregular heartbeat, and it would at last need to be closed. At 25 years old, because of the placement of my heart, I was about to undergo a potentially first-of-its-kind open heart surgery.
On March 15, 2007, after five hours of surgery, I awoke to a heart that was beating normally for the first time in almost five years.
Making it through that operation sparked something in my soul. Instead of whining about what I had to do to get to where I wanted, I decided to ball my fists up, dig in, and do it.
After all, I had just made it through open heart surgery. Was there anything I couldn’t make it through? I finally sat for the LSAT and got myself into law school.
That’s the attitude that’s gotten me to where I am today. When I was burning the candle at both ends cramming for law school exams, and eventually bar exams, I would remind myself that I had been getting stronger.
When I was struggling to build up my own practice while juggling my responsibilities as a husband and father, I would remind myself of all that my heart could handle.
Naturally, when I saw an opportunity to run for office, an opportunity to represent and fight for all the communities our local government has left behind, I knew that I could take the heartburn of an arduous campaign and that I could win over hearts and minds.
It is the same mentality that I bring to my law practice and to my work with my fellow legislators.
The arc of my life’s journey is proof that we are all stronger than we know – that we are all more capable than we can comprehend.
Seth I. Koslow, of Merrick, was elected in 2023 to represent the Fifth District of the Nassau County Legislature.