Heart Valve Disease Personal Stories

Updated:Sep 30,2015

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.

Susan StrongMeet Susan Strong, AHA Heart Valve Ambassador
A hiker and healthy eater, Susan Strong was surprised to hear she needed heart surgery last year at age 49. 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.”

Anthony DiLemmeMeet Anthony DiLemme, AHA Heart Valve Ambassador
The list describing Anthony DiLemme is long but life-changing. He’s a 32-year-old New Jersey-to-Southern California transplant, a rock climber, a cyclist, a blogger, an avid volunteer and an enthusiastic high school science teacher. He also is a two-time veteran of open heart valve replacement surgery. He says his life — his active lifestyle, growing up with a congenital heart defect, and even his summers working as a camp counselor — has been leading up to his newfound mission.

“I feel as if I have been mentally preparing my whole life for this.”

Adam PickAdam Pick: Patient advocate and author
Meet Adam Pick, who became passionate about helping patients and caregivers after his double heart valve replacement surgery.
Diane GrafDiane Graf: Heart disease and stroke survivor
Not only did Diane Graf have double heart valve replacement surgery, further testing determined that she had suffered a stroke in the process.
 Karen GriffithKaren Griffith: Aortic valve replacement
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. 
Robert Epps

Robert Epps: Inspired volunteer educator 
After many years of active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard, Robert noticed a concerning drop off in his energy and stamina. Hear about Robert's wake-up call, his valve replacement, and the gratitude that fuels his life and his mission today.

Cristina CivettaCristina Civetta: Energized to help others
At only 18 hours old, Cristina underwent surgery so that doctors could place a shunt into her heart to improve blood flow. More surgeries followed, including double heart valve replacement surgery. “Let’s face it — living is cool.”
Kimberly GoodloeKimberly Goodloe: She’s taken her story to Capitol Hill
Kimberly’s surgeon discovered an irreversible heart blockage just days after she received her new mechanical valve, and required a pacemaker. She is now committed to sharing her story of “triumph and healing” with other heart and stroke patients.
Nina LinderNina Linder: Research fixed her heart and filled it with joy
Nina was born with aortic valve stenosis, knowing that she would eventually need surgery to replace her faulty valve. Now a mother of two, she says “I’m living the dream that I never thought possible.”

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