Valvular Disease Survivor
The human spirit is the strongest cure for what ails us.
Spirit, gratitude and spunk is what defines life for Michelle Nesmith, who received her first artificial valve at the incredible age of 10.
Michelle was diagnosed with heart disease at one year of age, starting her life-long journey toward the healthy an active lifestyle she lives today. As a child, her activities were restricted due to being on blood thinner and the fear among her parents and doctors of triggering further issues with her heart.
Yet she learned how to adapt and enjoy sports like softball, biking and hiking. For nearly 20 years, she was able to function like most anyone else.
As she got older, her heart disease, aortic stenosis, "was getting in the way of my life, and was getting annoying," says Michelle.
Yet she never gave up. She was able to train for and finish the Avon 3-day, 60 mile walk against breast cancer. When training for the second walk against breast cancer, Michelle encountered problems. It was at this time that Dr. Prager determined they needed to replace the mechanical valve she received 27 years ago as it was becoming occluded from scar tissue.
She underwent her second valve replacement surgery at The Medical Center of Aurora, spending nearly one month in the hospital recovering. Every day she worked a little harder to regain the strength and level of activity she once had, and every day, she kept the attitude of gratitude for what she could do rather than focus on what she could not. To her, being able to walk her dog again is a blessing she never takes for granted.
Her advice to others, young and old, with heart disease:
"Never ever give up. Refuse to let your body limit your life. You can't always control what happens to your body, but you can always control your attitude. As my grandma said, 'Keep on keeping on!'"
Patient written permission obtained prior to the posting of this story.