People

Maica Walker


walker
By Shea Connelly | September 06, 2017

Maica Walker’s energy is irrepressible. The fast-talking financial advisor is quick to laugh or make a joke and has been known to spend three hours at the gym—happily. Another detail about Walker that is impossible to ignore: A scar running down the length of her sternum, the result of three open heart surgeries.

There was a time when she may have casually rested a hand on her chest or worn a high-necked shirt to hide the scar.

“I used to be kind of ashamed,” Walker said. “I didn’t want to show my scar for years. I felt like it made people see me as weak, and I didn’t talk about it much.”

But as she grew older, and her first surgery at age 10 turned into a second at 17 and a third at age 30, she began to view the scar in a different light. She recalled the time a stranger approached her and asked if she’d had open heart surgery. When she answered yes, the woman replied, “I have to have open heart surgery. And I’m looking at you, and you look so healthy. I’m not as nervous anymore.”

A typical childhood illness left unchecked led to Walker’s heart issues. Strep throat missed by her pediatrician turned into rheumatic fever, which advanced into rheumatic heart disease. It destroyed her mitral and aortic heart valves.

“When I had my first heart surgery, I was 10 and weighed about 47 pounds—50 at the most. I was pretty much skin and bones,” she said.

Walker had valve replacement surgery in 1985 at Texas Children’s Hospital, under the care of legendary heart surgeon Denton Cooley, M.D. Seven years later, on the verge of adulthood, Walker had outgrown the valves and underwent a second surgery by Cooley, this time at CHI St. Luke’s. And in 2004, doctors discovered cartilage had built up around the valves and replaced both.

“I always feel this rejuvenated energy when I come out of surgery. When you go under the knife, you really have to go in there preparing for that to be it,” Walker said.

Before her last surgery, she wrote notes to close friends and family that she left on her bed, in case she didn’t make it through the procedure.

“When I come out of it, I have all this urgency and energy toward trying to do everything,” she said. “Life is so short. We have this finite amount of time and we have to get everything done.”

That sense of urgency has compelled her to speak openly about her experiences and to give her time to the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart-related issues.

“We only get one heart, and you have to really know how to take care of it and know the signs when something’s not right,” Walker said.

While she emphasized the seriousness of heart disease, she also said she wants people to know life can be just as full after open heart surgery.

“It doesn’t have to be a death sentence, or you walking around with a cane or in a wheelchair,” she said. “I do everything everybody else does.”

In a quiet room, the audible ticking of her valve replacements is a constant reminder of life after surgery. Sometimes other people notice. “What’s that noise?” they ask. As a kid, it embarrassed her. Now, the ticking and the scar are just a part of who she is.

“It’s a badge of honor. A warrior scar. You’ve been through some things,” she said. “Everybody has scars, it’s just that you can actually see mine.”

Tags | People



Social Posts

profile_image

Texas A&M University Health Science Center

TAMUhealthsciences

"We're expected to try to treat the patients' pain, but the only thing that is going to make someone seeking opioids happy is to feed their addiction. I have to...

1 hour ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Welcome home: After one year, local Veterans Court in Florida honors first graduate https://t.co/guLtso1fVa via @staugrecord

1 hour ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is @usairforce Veteran Gary Peterson https://t.co/nvYwE7P7sM #AirForce

1 hour ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is U.S. Air Force Veteran Gary Peterson. Gary served from 1990 to 2013 during the Gulf War and Iraq War. Gary was born in Roswell, New...

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

.@SecShulkin: “I think we’re making progress, but we have a lot more work to do.” https://t.co/8UlvXGpvN6 via @foxnews

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

#Ovariancancer survivor: “Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” https://t.co/QGvDS8gcJH… https://t.co/21hXNOu7oc

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

New hormone, asprosin, able to cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the brain’s hunger center. https://t.co/XwP5un8ElF #research

3 hours ago
profile_image

Baylor College of Medicine

BaylorCollegeOfMedicine

The Cancer Research Institute brings Immunotherapy Patient Summit to the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine. #cancer

3 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

#Breastcancer survivor explains how advance care planning helped her prepare for multiple scenarios… https://t.co/Mufvcn1btA

3 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@NrsHolly We appreciate the RT ^SF

4 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@JaimeESanchezMD Thanks for sharing ^SF

4 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@CriscellaTX We appreciate the RT ^SF

4 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

https://t.co/AhfnkPjDgz

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

MDAnderson

“It takes a lot of strength and courage to get to where you are today, so let what you have gone through be your strength.” #endcancer

5 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHCougarMBK: RT this W! • FINAL Coogs defeat highest ranked opponent since Jan 6, 1996… @iRob_G leads all with 24 pts… @CoreyTheGreat_…

6 hours ago