Facing heart valve surgery can be a daunting task. You have every reason to be hopeful and positive about your recovery. You’re in good company: hear from other patients sharing their experience with heart valve surgery.
AHA's Heart Valve Ambassadors
This group of volunteer ambassadors includes six heart valve disease survivors and one caregiver from across the country who represent the face of heart valve disease in America. These volunteers show that heart valve disease can affect people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. These ambassadors serve as leaders in the community and work with us to raise awareness about heart valve disease, while sharing valuable resources for patients and families. Learn more about them here and be sure to connect with them on our Support Network.
Mark's journey with heart valve disease began in high school, when a heart murmur was detected in a routine physical exam. Later in life he was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis, which ultimately turned severe enough to require valve replacement surgery. He's thankful for the care and treatment he received during and after his surgery, completing a 12-week cardiac rehab program and building back up to jogging 4 miles regularly. Mark maintains a passionate interest in researching the use of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Understanding the power of a community that can truly empathize, he decided to mentor others as an AHA Heart Valve Ambassador.
At a routine physical, Christine's physician detected a heart murmur. Upon being referred to a specialist, she was told she had mitral valve prolapse. Upon close monitoring and a watchful eye of her cardiologist through routine testing, she developed a leaking mitral valve. The condition had worsened, causing her heart to become enlarged as it worked harder to pump blood between the chambers. She had her mitral valve repaired through traditional open heart surgery and later developed post surgical complications. Christine has made it her mission to "pay it forward" and provide comfort, encouragement and inspiration to others facing heart surgery. She shares her tips and tricks in how she is "kicking" out heart disease on beat a time in the hopes of making someone else's journey a little easier.
A hiker and healthy eater, Susan Strong was surprised to hear she needed heart surgery in her late 40s. But radiation therapy she had received more than three decades earlier to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma had taken its toll: Strong had developed severe aortic stenosis and regurgitation. As an ambassador, Strong is sharing her story online and in person to support fellow patients — and even to inspire her students to dream up inventions like the one she credits with saving her life. "I want to take what I’ve been through and encourage people and give them hope that they can live a full life.”
Kimberly has experienced heart valve disease firsthand. Kimberly was born with an abnormal valve, but didn’t begin to develop symptoms until her 40s. She learned she needed an aortic valve replacement in 2009 and underwent open heart surgery, receiving a mechanical valve to replace her damaged aortic valve. Four days after her surgery, she developed a blockage and during a second surgery, she received a pacemaker.
Dennis was diagnosed with a heart murmur in 2012. Over time, Dennis’s symptoms progressed, and his cardiologist decided he needed an aortic valve replacement. Dennis had open heart surgery in January 2015 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange County, where his wife Ann worked as a nurse.
Ann was her husband Dennis’s primary caregiver and support system during his heart valve replacement experience. Ann’s healthcare background helped him through surgery, cardiac rehab and recovery.
Meet Tom Broussard, AHA Heart Valve Ambassador
Tom underwent quadruple bypass surgery at 59. Relieved to have avoided a heart attack, he didn’t expect to have a heart valve replaced and then soon after, a debilitating stroke caused by a blood clot and then learning a few years later that he would need another heart valve replacement.
Meet some of our past Heart Valve Ambassadors.
Allison shares her journey of recovering from heart valve repair surgery. “I was ready to invest in recovery”. Almost immediately after surgery, her symptoms diminished. Support from friends and family was key to her recovery. She urges everyone to know the symptoms of heart disease and take action.
Not only did Diane Graf have double heart valve replacement surgery, further testing determined that she had suffered a stroke in the process.
Facing aortic valve replacement at the age of 85, Karen was naturally anxious about the surgery. Her positive attitude and sense of humor helped speed her recovery, and she continues to travel and enjoy life.