Join us to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Walk, September 29, 2012, Charleston SC. This is the 2nd year that we have walked as a family in honor of my sister, Debbie. Our team goal this year is 1,000. Please follow this link if you can make a donation to help fight heart disease and to help us reach our goal. Thank you so much!!
Our family has built our own team to walk in the Heart Walk in her honor so that we can raise money for more research so that perhaps other families may not feel the pain of this loss. Great strides have already been made and allowed her to live 20 years after her first heart surgery and for that we are very grateful. That time was priceless. Read on to hear the whole story:
Debbie first noticed that she had a health problem after her daughter was born when she was 25. She had trouble getting back into shape and was breathless a lot of the time. She chalked it up to just being really out of shape from not exercising during the pregnancy. Eventually the symptoms subsided only to reappear when she was about 34. She was breathless again and this time her abdomen was swollen. She went to many different doctors over the next 2 years and was diagnosed with gyn conditions and also asthma. None of the treatments helped. Finally when her abdomen grew to look like she was 6 months pregnant a doctor sent her to a cardiologist. He told her that she would need surgery ASAP to replace 2 valves, the mitral and the tricuspid and that they appeared to have the type of damage that having rheumatic fever would cause. My mother said she never had rheumatic fever as a child but now we knew what was wrong with her. At 36 years old she had open heart surgery in Portland ME, in November 1989. The tricuspid valve was repaired with an “O” ring and the mitral valve was replaced with a plastic valve that you could hear ticking inside her chest when it was quiet for the rest of her life. She was a new person after that surgery, she worked out and got into the best shape of her life. Her career took off and she worked her way up from programmer to CMO of an internet company managing 3 of their offices, one of them in London. She built her dream house in Cape Coral FL and bought herself a convertible sports car. She wore the best clothes and rarely wore things more than once. She told me how happy she was with her life and what she had accomplished. A far cry from her days as a single mother. She travelled the world for business, she went to London, India and many more places. She was always flying off to somewhere and brining home little gifts for all of us. She called them little “doodads”. In 2004, I started to notice that her abdomen was swelling again. She kept telling me she just forgot to take her Lasix or that she would call the cardiologist as soon as she finished a certain project at work or after the next business trip. In 2008, I went to FL to visit and she had lost a lot of weight and I noticed that her fingernails and lips were blue and she didn’t even have the energy to shop which was not like her. In February 2009 she went to Cleveland Clinic finally to have a second heart surgery. That time they replaced the tricuspid valve with a “human tissue” valve and gave her a pacemaker. She was 56 years old and had had 2 heart surgeries. She never fully recovered from that surgery. She slowly declined over that year but she never complained. On March 1, 2010 she said she couldn’t breathe and she felt like she was drowning. She was taken to the hospital and later put on life support. She lost her battle on March 3, 2010.