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Helen Walker, Tennessee

by Sarah U. on Friday, September 14, 2012

Helen Walker, Tennessee

At age 5, doctors diagnosed Helen Walker with a heart murmur and told her she would outgrow it.  Nothing more was ever said. 

It wasn’t until she was trying to walk upstairs in her twenties that she realized something was wrong.  Out of breath and unsure she would ever make it to the top, she decided to go to the emergency room.  At age 25, she was diagnosed with posterior mitral leaflet defect and treated with several medications.

In 1994, at the age of 43, she sought the attention of a cardiologist after experiencing symptoms similar to those she had in her twenties. 

The cardiologist sent her home and instructed her to stay quiet because her aortic valve was severly leaking. 

She rested over the weekend and had a cardiac catheterization performed.  Her aortic valve was replaced with a St. Jude mechanical valve; hers had nearly completely disintegrated.  Eleven years later, her replacement valve was clogged and barely functional.  She needed a new valve—a porcine valve.  This valve has a life span of about 15 years.

Helen received her third aortic valve replacement on July 17, 2012.  For her doctors, this is an uncommon case.  Her first valve malfunctioned, and the second one has already lasted its life expectancy. Helen faced the challenge of going back into surgery for her third and final aortic valve replacement.  She made it through the surgery and recovered nicely.  She was told that this aortic valve is the last one they can give her, unless further advances in medicine occur.

Helen took this as a third chance at making a massive lifestyle change, to make this new valve last as long as it can.  Helen began routine cardio training and strength training to stay in shape, and also began eating a much healthier diet.  Helen now takes medications to help reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, carefully monitored by her doctor.  She has lost almost 100 pounds.

Helen is the picture of courage and strength.  She has dealt with many serious health obstacles and is now taking them into her own hands and changing her life.