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Heartache, Hope & Heart Valve Disease


From the moment I was born, my life was set on a path different from most. Born with a heart murmur, my parents began the search for diagnosis. They soon discovered that I had a defective aortic valve, that I’d live a life with heart valve disease.  

Growing up, I knew I had an illness. But the innocence of childhood shielded me from fully grasping the gravity of heart valve disease, which impairs function in one or more of the heart’s four valves. It wasn’t until I watched my friends begin to do things that left me winded or sidelined that the reality of my health set in.  

Doctors had grim predictions for my future. They forecast that I wouldn’t live past 15 or would lead a very constrained life. The prospects for people with heart valve disease were bleak back then. With limited resources and information, I felt different and questioned my place in the world. 

Despite these immense challenges, my family’s unwavering support gave me strength. My parents instilled in me the importance of owning my care, teaching me from a young age that my voice mattered, that my questions deserved answers. They prepared me to advocate for myself in a world that seems to silence many with my illness. 

Today, I am a college graduate, a retired law enforcement officer, a public servant and public speaker – all despite my heart valve disease. Each milestone has been a testament to the resilience and determination that my illness fostered within m 

This journey has been full of ups and downs, no doubt. The last few years alone have brought me to the brink of losing my life. But, within these struggles, I’ve learned the critical importance of knowing your body and taking action when something feels wrong. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to advocate for yourself, to never settle when it comes to your health.  

I want others facing similar battles to know that they need to be persistent, Black women especially. For us, the perils of living with heart valve disease can be even more burdensome, due to systemic biases in health care.  

It’s essential that the medical community not only listens but also understands and addresses these barriers – to provide the quality of care every patient deserves. My experience underscores the need for a health care system rooted in empathy, equity and respect, where every patient’s voice is heard and valued. 

As I reflect on my journey this Heart Valve Awareness Day, my message to others facing heart valve disease is one of resilience. Never lose hope, never stop fighting, and know that your voice can change not just your own life but the lives of others. Change begins with us, and together, we can transform heart health for the better.