I interviewed Helga, wanting to know her story and to share it with others who are just like us, heart-disease survivors. Here is her story….
What’s your heart story?
I was born with an aortic heart valve stenosis. After the first femoral catheter, they decided to do another femoral catheter intervention where they used a balloon catheter to expand my aortic valve. But the surgery failed and so I had a valve with a serious insufficiency. It became so bad that they decided to implant me a donor valve. On the 4th of June 1999, I was undergoing an Open Heart Surgery and they implanted a donated valve for my pulmonic valve and implanted my own pulmonic valve on the position of my aortic valve.
How did you learn that you have heart disease?
My parents told me. I imagine it was hard for them.
Have you had any surgeries or hospitalizations related to heart disease?
One 8 hour surgery and two small surgeries where they placed heart catheters through the femoral artery.
How has living with heart disease impacted your life?
There were times when I was afraid to die but I learned to live with this fear and I also learned that my heart is almost healthy at the moment.
Will you need future surgeries?
Maybe, depends on how long my donor valve will be functional.
Any pertinent information that you want to share about your experience with heart disease?
Live your life. The heart is a muscle, train it.
What would you say has been your lowest point or biggest fear about your condition?
The time I had a panic attack in California and I thought it was a heart attack. I was sure I wouldn’t make it to the hospital.
How do you keep yourself motivated during the difficult times?
My friends and my family keep me motivated.
Why is sharing your heart story with other women important to you?
Because people have to see that there is so much you can do to be happy. Don’t think about what could happen, just live!
What advice do you have for other women living with heart disease?
Try to forget that you are sick.
Many people are not aware that heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in the US, why do you think that is?
Health insurance. It costs money to be checked. In Austria, a yearly check is paid for by the government.
What do you think you (or we) can do to raise awareness about women and heart disease?
To raise the awareness of health at all is helpfull to so many.
What has living with heart disease taught you?
To enjoy the time outside of the hospital.
What are you thankful for?
As a heart disease survivor, you try to live a healthy lifestyle but you are human so what’s your guilty pleasure?
What do you like to do for fun?
Sports and traveling.
Any final thoughts?
Don’t be afraid of what may be. I rather would live a short life and do the things that I love than living a long life in chains.