Madonna Agcaoili

Madonna Agcaoili had no idea she had a serious heart condition. The fist warning sign appeared while she was on a trip.

“I found out about my heart condition when, on my vacation in California, I started to get short of breath,” says Madonna. “I went biking and there was nothing wrong. I came home, started to climb up the stairs and I felt like the air was heavy. And I really wasn't short of breath, but I knew something was just different.”

When she came home to Northwest Arkansas, Madonna returned to work, but says her symptoms were worse. “I went to work, and I was so short of breath, so I called my primary care provider and they brought me in for an appointment.”

Madonna’s health care provider referred her to Washington Regional’s Walker Heart Institute for an echocardiogram to see how her heart was beating and pumping blood. The echocardiogram revealed Madonna’s mitral valve, which keeps blood flowing in the right direction, was not functioning properly. Mitral valve disease can lead to heart failure and death if left untreated.

“They took me straight to the emergency room. The entire team was really great about talking to me and explaining to the doctor at the ER what care I needed that day – which was great. They took really good care of me. And from there, they admitted me to have my heart cath.”

Cardiac catheterization is done to diagnose or treat certain heart conditions and provides physicians with important information about the heart muscle, valves and blood vessels in the heart. Madonna’s procedure revealed that she would need emergency open heart surgery. Dr. Charles Cole of the Washington Regional Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Clinic, part of the Walker Heart Institute, repaired Madonna’s mitral valve.

A few months after her surgery, Madonna is on the road to recovery. “I think my recovery has been wonderful,” she says. “I'm currently doing cardiac rehab, and the folks at cardiac rehab are wonderful. I think it's been it's been going really well. Every day is a better day. I get stronger every day.”

Madonna says she’s grateful for Walker Heart Institute and her care team. “For the people that took care of me, I'd like to say thank you to the staff of the hospital, and specifically the people from the cardiac unit. And from the ICU nurses and aides and doctors to the people on the cardio floor on my recovery – they're wonderful.”