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Strength of Heart

By JR Ortega
Feb. 8, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 12, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.

Kelley Drastata talks with her son Daniel, 6, at their home in Edna. She suffered from a heart attack a year ago, had open heart surgery and is currently waiting for a transplant. Although she cannot engage in strenuous activities due to the LVAD, it allows her to live her daily life with her family.

EDNA - Kelley Drastata has the heart of an 8-year-old.

The problem is, she's not 8 years old. She's 36 and waiting for a heart transplant.

The Edna wife and mother of three sons will be the guest speaker at Citizens Medical Center's Red Dress Style Show for women and heart disease on Friday.

By sharing her story, Drastata feels she can open the eyes of women who feel they can't get heart disease.

"It's a miracle I'm here," she said, voice breaking. "Women, we like to put a Band-Aid on it and move on."

Drastata's heart problems began in January 2010, when she had taken on a new exercise routine.

Coming up from a sit up, her chest suddenly hurt, but she thought it was a muscle spasm.

Days of pain went by, but she never thought it was her heart.

After all, Drastata ate healthy, exercised regularly and was at a healthy weight.

Drastata continued to feel the pain and still didn't think much about it.

"It felt like someone was sitting on my chest," she said. "I never thought it was a heart attack."

It was.

On Jan. 25, Drastata, a radiologist, went from getting ready to leave to work to her husband rushing her to Citizen's Medical Center.

Not even three hours later, Drastata was in a sterile-white operating room being prepped for a double bypass.

"I was so scared for my boys," she said crying. "I felt I was leaving them behind."

Dr. Yusuke Yahagi, a cardiovascular surgeon, performed a double bypass operation on Drastata.

Drastata was the youngest person he had ever operated on for heart disease, he said.

"She escaped an acute phase of a life-threatening situation," Yahagi said.

She had a completely obstructed coronary artery, he said.

After about a week-and-a-half after the surgery, Drastata continued having trouble with her blood pressure.

Her heart was failing, and she was in need of a heart, Yahagi said.

The left side of her heart was immature and a victim of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a disease that leaves the left side of the heart underdeveloped.

"It's not common certainly," Yahagi said about her age and heart disease.

Most people who develop heart disease are in their 40s, however, Drastata has a family history of heart problems. Her father received a heart transplant when he was 40, Drastata said.

Drastata was sent to San Antonio to receive a left ventricular assist device, which helps her heart continue pumping while the search begins for a new heart.

She's had the device for just under a year.

The transplant is working well, and though Drastata needs a heart, she's counting her blessings, she said.

"We're living the days as if they are normal days," Drastata said.

Today, Drastata gets through the days by spending as much time with her family as possible and speaking for heart disease awareness.

She hopes women will leave Friday's fashion show with a better understanding of heart disease.

"I want women to be aware just like they are with their breasts," she said. "I just want women to know I'm 36 years old, I had a heart attack and I never even saw it coming."

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