Heart disease survivor shares experience with others

PLATTSBURGH - Sandra Gothard wants people to know heart disease can happen to anyone.

Gothard, owner of Weight Management Inc., based in Plattsburgh and Saranac Lake, shared that message as featured speaker during the Go Red for Women Dinner Jan. 20, at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh Angell College Center. Gothard, who has also served as a professional registered nurse specializing in cardiac surgery, was born with congenital aortic stenosis, a condition in which the heart's aortic valve is narrowed and contains only two leaflets versus the normal three.

The 56-year-old Loon Lake woman said it was important to her to share her experience of having lived her entire life with heart disease and what she's gone through.

"I have known since I was a little girl that I would, at some point, need to have some surgery to repair that valve," said Gothard.

Though that didn't hold her back, she said. While growing up, Gothard's parents didn't let her condition prevent her from the activities she wanted to enjoy in her day-to-day life. For the most part, she was able to participate in games and sports like every other child her age.

"My mother and dad were so wonderful. They wanted me to do everything I wanted to do and didn't ever hold me back," she said.

Though Gothard couldn't participate in some more intense sports like field hockey, she said she was able to enjoy riding her bike, taking ballet, cheerleading and even participating in gymnastics.

In fact, it wasn't until her second pregnancy that Gothard began to have problems with her heart's aortic valve and needed it replaced.

"I was having this severe chest pain, this constant chest pain that wouldn't go away," recalled Gothard, who said she took immediate action. "And, usually when an aortic valve needs to be replaced, it needs to be replaced yesterday. It's a very powerful valve in our heart."

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