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Single mother of 3: I thought it was just stress, but I needed open heart surgery

Sometimes you’re too busy taking care of others to realize something isn’t right with your health. That’s how Shai Washington, a single mother of three, including a special needs child, describes her life before open heart surgery.

Washington described her day-to-day life – juggling a full-time job and raising three children – as “completely and totally busy – nonstop.”

She was so busy that she assumed her progressive fatigue was just a cold. Finally, she went to the emergency room, where she learned her condition was much more serious than she ever suspected.

Her diagnosis

Her physicians diagnosed her with mitral valve regurgitation, which meant the mitral valve in her heart was leaking.

“When the doctors told me I was going to need open heart surgery, I was completely and totally terrified,” she remembers.

Dr. [Federico] Milla was absolutely awesome,” she says. “During my first meeting with him, he took so much time to explain the procedure, to show me pictures of what my valve looked like and what it should have looked like for an individual my age.”

Washington says she trusted in Dr. Milla completely.

“His knowledge was impeccable,” says Washington. “He was absolutely wonderful and made me feel a lot more comfortable with what was going on and what was going to happen.”

After mitral valve surgery

The first few weeks after surgery were difficult, but the results were worth it.

“Today, I feel so much better,” she says. “My level of energy is completely back up to where it was way before I could almost even imagine.”

Care at Piedmont

“The quality of care I received at Piedmont was awesome,” she says. “The staff were very friendly and very open. They were very patient – it was a pleasant experience.”

Her message for other women

Washington warns other women to pay attention to their health – no matter how hectic their schedules.

“We as women get so busy with taking care of everyone and not really taking care of ourselves,” she says. “That is something now I know I will never do again. Juggling being a mom, a sister, a daughter – I know it’s very important for me to take care of myself so I can take care of my children.”

Heart disease kills 1 in 3 women. Talk to the women you love about our $99 heart screening

And to learn more about treatment for mitral regurgitation, visit the Marcus Heart Valve Center.  

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