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Avid runner and athlete shocked she needed open heart surgery

Avid runner and athlete Angie Brady was shocked she needed immediate open heart surgery after years of living with a heart murmur.

“I always knew I had a heart murmur,” says Brady, a patient at Piedmont Heart Institute. “Every time I went to the doctor for anything and they listened to my heart, they’d say, ‘You have a heart murmur.’”

Brady went for an annual physical with primary care physician Deborah Kelly, M.D. of Piedmont Physicians Group. Dr. Kelly was the first physician to ask her why she had a heart murmur. 

“I told her I didn’t know the cause – it’s not anything I ever thought I should investigate or would know how to investigate,” explains Brady. “It wasn’t causing me any problems. I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Dr. Kelly told Brady they would monitor the condition annually for any changes in blood flow through the aorta.

A scary heart valve diagnosis

Brady was diagnosed with a congenital defect in her aortic valve – the cause for the murmur.  After a checkup with her new cardiologist Sara Mobasseri, M.D., Brady found out she had significant calcification and the opening of her aortic valve was extremely narrow. 

“I was told at the time it should have been the size of a quarter, but it was like the diameter of a pen,” she says.

When Brady got the news, she was shocked. A fan of CrossFit-style workouts and distance running, she had completed two half marathons and a full marathon with no symptoms whatsoever.

The dangers of a narrowed aortic valve

“It scared me to death,” she remembers. “Thinking that you have to have open heart surgery when you’re 46 – I could be walking my dog and my heart would stop.”

Brady needed aortic valve replacement surgery.

“I didn’t have a choice of doing it or not doing it,” she says.

Her surgeon, Morris Brown, M.D., explained the danger of not correcting the condition – and said surgery needed to happen soon.

“I asked if this was something I needed to do in a few months and he said, ‘If you told me two weeks, I would say that’s too long,’” she says.

The thought of having surgery terrified her.

“The whole idea of surgery – being on a heart-lung machine, knowing they were going to freeze my heart and stop it – that was not something that a person usually has to contemplate.”

Her recovery

Four months after open heart surgery, Brady feels like herself again.

“I’m 100 percent. At the time when I was feeling depressed and vulnerable, I did not imagine that by September – four months out – I would feel this good and that I would feel like me,” she says. “To be where I am now is amazing.”

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

To learn more about treatment for aortic valve disease, visit the Marcus Heart Valve Center

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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