Sarah's Story

Sarah Seals knew something wasn't quite right. Climbing stairs was leaving her winded, she was getting tired when she walked a lot and she wasn't resting as well as she used to.

"I know everybody's tired at a certain age when they climb stairs and do a lot of walking," this 71 year old acknowledges. "But this was more than that. There was a tightness in my chest. I was out of breath when I climbed stairs, and I had to do it much slower. And my heart was having funny kinds of beats."

Seals called her doctor, who ordered some tests. After those results came in, he sent her on to a cardiologist at University Hospitals. The cardiologist's tests revealed that Seals' heart had a leaky valve. "The cardiologists explained, very well, that I shouldn't wait to have the surgery," Seals explains. "He convinced me that if I waited longer, it would damage my heart."

The aortic valve replacement surgery was performed in June of 2013. After the surgery, Seals underwent several months of physical therapy specifically redesigned to help support her heart.

Seals' cardiac rehab centered around the treadmill. The point was to raise her heart rate and strengthen her healing heart muscle. Seals' cardiac regimen also had her focus on strengthening her arms, legs and chest. The rehab helped her regain her stamina, Seals says. And the experience left her stronger than before. "It really strengthened me up," she notes. In fact, even though her prescribed rehab time is up, Seals is planning to continue her physical therapy.

"There are cardiac rehab classes offered at University Hospitals," she explains. "Twice a week, specifically for cardiac rehab patients. I will definitely be signing up for more soon."

Seals had not signed up for the continuing physical therapy yet, though, because she's been busy. "I can do more now," as a result of the surgery, she says. "Now that tightness is gone, and I can climb stairs without getting so tired. I sleep better at night, too, and those funny beats are taken care of." She says she's glad she had the surgery, and even more grateful that she brought up her initial concerns with her doctor.

These days, Seals is back to her old routine, which includes walking and staying active. "I'm always doing something," she laughs. "I'm pretty active, even if it's just doing something around the house. I'm going up and down stairs, or I'm at a store. I like to shop and go to the mall. Not mall-walking, really, but lots of window-shopping."

Thanks to her aortic valve replacement surgery and continued physical therapy, Sarah Seals has lots of long, leisurely afternoons of window-shopping ahead.

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