Medical Condition: Bicuspid Aortic Valve/Atrial Fibrillation
Medical Therapy: Heart Valve
Charity: Ironheart Foundation
Throughout his childhood and into early adulthood, David Watkins was living with an undiagnosed bicuspid aortic valve. By the time he was diagnosed, he was at risk of aneurysm, and made a difficult decision to undergo surgery to replace his heart valve. The last words he remembers thinking as he was being wheeled into cardiac surgery were, "How will I be remembered?" After recovery, he decided to start living the legacy he wanted to leave: using the power of sport to help others live their dreams through the Ironheart Foundation.
"While I had been living actively with a bicuspid aortic valve all my life, I was finally diagnosed when I was an adult. I had been a collegiate athlete and tried staying in shape, but by the time I was properly diagnosed, I was a ticking time bomb. I was told that an aneurysm had developed and my heart’s aortic root was close to rupture. With a young family, I was faced with leaving them without a father or husband. I decided to undergo surgery to replace my heart valve.
"The last words I remember when being wheeled into surgery were, ‘What is your legacy? How will you be remembered by your kids?’ I didn’t have answers. I knew I was a good dad, but couldn’t identify any tangible impact that they could carry for the rest of their lives.
"After very complicated surgeries – one in which my family was brought in to say their last words – and a grueling recovery that included a stroke, I finally recovered. It was then that I realized this second lease on life. It was time to start living and leaving my legacy. I started connecting with other cardiac patients who had recovered and were getting active through sport. This soon led to the formulation of the Ironheart Racing Team, and then the Ironheart Foundation.
"In nine years, the Foundation has grown to reach 48 states and 18 countries. We have built a network, not only of cardiac patients and athletes, but also with some of the top cardiologists, healthcare providers and centers of excellence across the country and globe. Knowing that surgery will again be in my future, I now feel that I have been able to teach not only my children, but hopefully reach the thousands of people touched by Ironheart with hope and inspiration of living life with strength, focus, determination and passion."
"Start living your legacy."
"Success can be determined based on three pillars of how you live your life. First is family. Next is your career. Finally, there is your greater community. Success comes with commitment. Are you providing a safe, nurturing sustainable environment? Do you show love? Do you show dedication? It’s not about working 100 hours a week. Instead, it’s about your actions in the time allowed. Be present in the moment. Live your legacy."
The Ironheart Foundation is dedicated to getting the world heart-smart and heart-healthy through engagement with active lifestyles, by connecting patients with some of the world’s leading cardiac professionals, and by placing lifesaving AEDs in communities.
*Not everyone who receives this therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if this type of therapy is right for you.