May 4, 2010
Hilton Americas - Houston
1600 Lamar Street
Houston, Texas 77010
Barbara Bush often jokes that her successful life is a result of marrying well. Her husband’s service as Vice President and President of the United States provided her a unique opportunity to make a wonderful difference in the public eye. Since leaving the White House in 1993, she continues to serve others with the same energy, goodwill and humor that endear her to so many people around the world.
Born in 1925 to Pauline and Marvin Pierce, she grew up in Rye, New York, where she met and later married George H.W. Bush on January 6, 1945. They have four sons, George W., Jeb, Marvin, and Neil; one daughter, Doro; four daughters-in-law; one son-in-law; and 19 grandchildren. The Bush’s first daughter Robin died in 1953 at the age of four after fighting Leukemia. Public service is a common thread in the Bush family. Their son George W. served as the nation’s 43rd President, and their son Jeb was the Governor of Florida for two terms.
A tireless advocate of volunteerism, Mrs. Bush helped countless charities and humanitarian causes during her years in public life. She authored two children’s books, C. Fred’s Story and the best-selling Millie’s Book, whose profits benefited literacy. She also wrote the best-selling Barbara Bush: A Memoir and Reflections: Life After the White House.
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone says, “You’re too young to have heart problems”. I hear it almost every time I step into the doctor’s office and always on hospital visits…there are variations to the quote, but the context is always the same. It has become a game for me to come up with new and canned responses: ‘oh, I’m just doing it for the attention’ or ‘you know, I thought about that when I signed up for it but then I thought, what the heck!'
I wasn’t born with a heart problem. It was discovered during a routine eligibility physical for my high school dance team. I was 16 years old. The doctor detected a heart murmur and referred me to a cardiologist who diagnosed me with a Rheumatic heart with major regurgitation. Two years previously, I’d traveled to Russia on a mission trip to help needy orphans. While there, I’d had flu-like symptoms and was given a generic antibiotic. Doctors now believe that illness was Rheumatic fever which damaged my heart to the point I would one day require mitral valve replacement…
Two weeks after my 21st birthday, I was wheeled into an operating room for open-heart surgery. Instead of replacing the mitral valve, the surgeon attempted to repair it. A long hospital stay and numerous problems which I don't have the time to include, created an even bigger problem…congestive heart failure. Within seven months, I was undergoing another open heart surgery. My mitral valve was replaced with a mechanical valve. That surgery went well, but my heart was in such a weakened condition, I was placed on the transplant list and told I’d “never leave ICU without a new heart”. While waiting for a “match”, an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) was implanted in my chest as a safeguard in case my heart stopped. Time was on my side. With the help of some incredible doctors, my heart began to get stronger and eventually I was taken off the transplant list and returned to work.
As it turns out, my ICD has saved me more than once. It has “fired” several times, and as frightening as it is, I thank God it keeps my heart beating. The first time it shocked me I was working on Christmas Eve and it scared me more than words can express. It has even shocked me in my sleep, startling my dog as much as it did me.
In May of 2008, although I was finally feeling better, dizzy spells signaled more problems. My heart was skipping beats as well as beating entirely too fast, causing “heart flutters”. Doctors determined I needed an “upgrade ICD”…a dual chamber device that would function both as a defibrillator and a pacemaker. This surgery would be the first of nine surgeries for me over the course of the next three months. First, a surgeon replaced the device. A week later, it fired 10 straight times because of improper settings, before an ambulance could get me to the hospital to turn it off. I had two surgeries to repair the fluttering areas of my heart, another surgery to reset the device, and several others because the wound would not heal correctly. The final surgery last summer was to basically start over…the device was taken from the left side of my chest and placed in a new, clean site on my right side. Thank goodness for Maderma!
It’s been a couple years since my last surgery. The most difficult part of recovery was healing from the mental exhaustion and anxiety. Friedrich Nietzshe's saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is definitely something I can testify to. I am stronger physically and mentally, and perhaps most importantly, this entire experience has allowed me to be able to help others. I am so thankful to have met Amber and the amazing people at AHA. I feel honored to be able to share my story in hopes of opening peoples' eyes to the fact that heart disease can be innocently acquired; it can happen to anyone. I also pray I can continue to give people hope and encouragement as they hear my story and see what happens if you keep the faith and despite all circumstances...never give up!
Get inspired. Get informed. Join health and fitness experts, medical professionals, and women like you to hear the concrete steps you can take today for better heart health.
nationally sponsored by
locally sponsored by