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Brenda Graduation 2013

Brenda Walker's Heart Valve Disease Story

Friday 6th April 2018

In 2010, Brenda Walker now 84, was suffering from all of the red flag symptoms of valve disease, breathlessness, tiredness and swollen ankles. After a visit to her doctor did not result in a stethoscope exam, she took matters into her own hands and sought out a second opinion from a cardiologist. It was a good decision, Brenda was told she had aortic stenosis and that it needed to be treated.

Brenda has lived a very active life full of creative pursuits, enjoying a career divided between the arts and education. She always loved teaching and still encourages others to enjoy the activities that she enjoys so much, such as studying, gardening, music and theatre. The mother of five lovely children, Brenda sadly lost her husband to skin cancer in 1995, in 2006 she ran into an old family friend and the two became partners. She and David have lived together for the last 12 years in the village of Brent Knoll in Somerset.

When the symptoms of breathlessness and tiredness struck Brenda in 2010 she quickly became concerned. After she was diagnosed with aortic stenosis Brenda enquired how long she would have before things became serious if she was not treated and was told “three years or less.” Brenda faced either the possibility of two treatment options, open heart surgery or Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI).

As Brenda has always been studious and curious, she went to work learning as much as she could about her condition. She made an appointment with the Cardiologists at Glenfield Heart Hospital in Leicestershire and met with surgeons who ran some tests to determine her course of treatment. For Brenda, the idea of open heart surgery and a long recovery was daunting as she had recently started her doctorate at Loughborough University and was keen to continue her studies.

It was decided that Brenda was a good candidate for TAVI and after her surgeon explained the procedure and the risks, Brenda decided to go ahead with it as soon as possible, especially because she was told she would be up and about just 2-3 days after her treatment and could easily resume her studies.

“My questions were answered confidently so I felt I was part of a team undergoing something new and exciting,” said Brenda about her experience at Glenfield Heart Hospital. “Everything was explained clearly and David and I were shown the equipment, diagrams and pre procedure test results. Inspired by the confidence of all the medical staff I felt good about my treatment and glad I had decided to go ahead with it.”

Her whole experience was quite a positive one. She was treated very well in the hospital and even shared a joke with her anaesthetist, “when I asked the anaesthetist if he would like me to count to ten, he joked that I could try but he didn’t think I’d have .... I was asleep before he’d finished the sentence.” recalled Brenda. After her treatment, Brenda recalled that the staff were very kind and did their best to ensure she was warm and comfortable.

In only two and a half days, Brenda was on her way home. David arranged for her to have a wheelchair to get to her car but she felt so good she walked to the carpark unaided. In fact, the next day she went on a shopping trip with her two children one of whom had travelled all the way from Toronto, Canada to help look after her!

Since her treatment, Brenda has found that her old energy has returned. “I have felt younger, stronger and once more able to enjoy my hectic lifestyle.” said Brenda. She was able to complete her doctorate and keeps up with her writing and gardening in between enjoying life with David and spending time with her family and friends. “I am forever grateful to the team at Glenfield. If there is one thing that I would like my children and their children to absorb from my experience is to know your own body, find out as much as you can about it, and seek good advice when things start to change. We are all living longer and healthier, so never give in, saying ‘It’s just old age!’

We love your positive outlook Brenda and we wish you continued good health!

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