People

Maica Walker


walker
By Shea Connelly | September 6, 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.”




Social Posts

profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Happy Friday! Thank you to @KSFOrthopaedic for sending us this joke! If you have a favorite joke, send it to us and we might use it in a future post. #jokes #ThanksgivingJokes #funny https://t.co/jQsZxN7G1V

31 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Our Dr. Cheng-En Hsieh explains why radiation-induced liver disease is an important factor to consider during #livercancer treatment: https://t.co/M18QvNAneT @cure_magazine #endcancer

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @bcm_ocd: So excited to have Dr. Jeff Wood present the results of our NIH funded study examining personalized CBT vs. standard care CBT…

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHoustonJobs: We're hiring! Read about our latest job opening here: Instructor - Nurse Practitioner - https://t.co/ZKY1iNNTuY #Health…

1 hour ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Louis D. Brinner, who served as a rifleman in Europe during WWII and turns 100 Nov. 22: https://t.co/g8CQSNuLTI

2 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

At @TexasChildrens, we know all about helping children and their families through stressful times like surgeries. Take a look at these helpful tools to use as you prepare for your child's surgery: https://t.co/4wyHxbjcxe https://t.co/xBp95faWly

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Even though this lightweight material is full of holes, it's nearly as hard as diamond and stops bullets better than solid materials: https://t.co/N1QBG6C6yz https://t.co/XKyesrwt6c

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@ShirleyHelenTx We're sending good vibes your way, Shirley. Please let us know if your husband needs anything while he's here.

2 hours ago
profile_image

TexasHeartInstitute

@Texas_Heart

A "silent heart attack" is caused by ischemia, a temporary blood shortage. Sometimes the shortage causes the pain of angina pectoris. But in other cases, there is no pain. These cases are called silent ischemia, or "silent heart attacks." https://t.co/UKu4mglkKJ

3 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

After seeing photos of herself from a family celebration, Adriana Mercado was shocked at how unhealthy she looked. Now, thanks to a walking routine, she’s lost 70 pounds and improved her overall health: https://t.co/dx7z4STihG @FocusedonHealth #endcancer https://t.co/NVmGyo6r8W

3 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

Coogs, we love you ❄️SNOW❄️ much! Happy #CougarRedFriday https://t.co/d43lBGfJBX

3 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j Thank you!

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

VA, Prostate Cancer Foundation seek solutions for aggressive prostate cancer https://t.co/uGXX5vPImo via #VAntagePoint

4 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j This is beautiful! Can we share this on Instagram and credit you?

4 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTH_CVSurgery: Congratulations to Dr. Anthony Estrera @estrera_md, honored and appointed the Hazim J. Safi, MD, Distinguished Chair in…

5 hours ago