Heart Disease Survivor Speaks Out Ahead of Upcoming Lubbock Heart Walk

LUBBOCK, TX - A month away from the Lubbock Heart Walk, and the American Heart Association and survivors are gearing up. One survivor spoke out about why events like these can help save lives. 

“My story begins in 2009, when I had my first heart attack,” Michael Romero said. “By 2007, I had had three.” 

Then, Romero found out he had a dangerous condition. 

"Hearing the doctor say, ‘I'm sorry to tell you, you have congestive heart failure.’ It was almost like telling me a friend of mine had died or something,” Romero said of the news. “Yeah, it was depressing, but I decided to beat this thing."

His condition was emergent, and he didn't have time to wait for a transplant. But a 'left ventricular assist device' or LVAD that pumps blood from one side of his heart to the other saved his life. He was the first person in the West Texas area to receive a pump like this one. 

“I was real appreciative of everyone who had anything to do with this." 

Chief Cardiologist at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Dr. Scott Shurmur said now 15 people have had the same procedure change their lives. 

"Our program has been going a little over a year now," Dr. Shurmur said. “We are really pleased to be able to bring that to the folks of West Texas.” 

Romero said he is able to live a normal life thanks to the procedure. He'll be walking in October in the Lubbock Heart Walk to make others aware of the dangers of a failing heart. 

“Now I live with it, I’m used to it,” Romero said. “It is part of my life." 

The walk is chaired by Lloyd Whetzel who is a survivor and works for a local company called X-Fab. While the walk isn't until October, his employees are already fundraising.

"So it is to honor and to celebrate the survivors, to remember those that maybe weren't as fortunate to have the research that we have now, and to hopefully prevent it from being a long term issue for so many of us,” Crystal Reich of X-Fab said. 

Reich said all the X-Fab employees are rallying around the cause. 

“One of the things about the local heart association, is the majority of money that is raised locally stays right here. We have great partnerships with the hospitals and with research with the Texas Tech and the Health Science Center as well,” Reich said. “It is one of the leading causes of death in this country, and it is 80 percent preventable.”

Dr. Scott Shurmur agreed, saying there are steps you can take to lower your risk. 

In addition to regular exercise, a healthy diet is important, low in refined carbohydrates, like refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup. But the most important thing is awareness. 

"Control what you can is really the key step," Dr. Shurmur said. “Two things to know...what your blood pressure is and your cholesterol levels are." 

Survivors like Romero agree. 

"Raising awareness... that is the most important part,” Romero said.  

CLICK HERE for more information on how to get involved with the Lubbock Heart Walk. 

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