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Reenergized after heart surgery

A tricuspid valve repair procedure got Radoishka (Lolly) Trujillo back in the ‘swim’ of things.

Hispanic woman who underwent heart valve surgery in bathing suit in indoor pool.
Lolly isn’t afraid of vigorous physical activity anymore. In fact, she’s a regular at the pool.

Radoishka Trujillo—who’s known as Lolly—is 43, a busy mom, and a health and wellness coach who lives in North Lindenhurst, NY. She’s also someone who’s been dealing with cardiac issues for decades. Lolly first experienced heart-related issues when she was just 20.

“I couldn’t lay down,” she said, recalling those first scary symptoms. “I would start choking and coughing to the point where I couldn’t sleep.” Doctors suspected pneumonia, but discovered she had endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers, and congestive heart failure (CHF), a chronic condition in which blood flow from the heart slows.

While in the hospital all those years ago, Lolly experienced a tear in her mitral valve, which is located between the two chambers on the left side of the heart. She had open-heart surgery to replace it. For several years after the surgery, Lolly didn’t notice any CHF symptoms but then started experiencing swelling in her ankles and legs. Her doctors prescribed diuretics, which increase urination to get rid of excess body fluid, and suggested she wear compression socks to keep fluid from pooling in her legs.

Meanwhile, her life marched on. Until last year when, in addition to swelling, Lolly felt like her energy level was unusually low. “I was also experiencing dizzy spells,” she said. Unable to reach her own doctor on a Friday, she headed to the emergency department at Southside Hospital. Her blood pressure and heart rate were also unusually low. After emergency department physicians observed her and ran some tests, she met Azhar Supariwala, MD, a cardiologist at Southside Heart & Lung. “He said, ‘We’re admitting you to the hospital to figure out what’s going on.’”

Based on her test results, Dr. Supariwala recommended Lolly have a pacemaker implanted to regulate her heartbeat. The procedure was straightforward, but when she went for her follow-up appointment, Dr. Supariwala noticed that the vein in Lolly’s neck was pumping too hard. After further evaluation, he determined that Lolly had tricuspid regurgitation, a condition in which the blood is pushed back into the vein instead of moving forward into the lungs. It needed repair.

“He told me I could have an open-heart surgery to fix the valve, or I could continue on my diuretic medications for the long haul,” Lolly said. “I opted for the surgery because my concern was that my other internal organs were going to have problems because of all the diuretics I’ve had to take.” Dr. Supariwala referred Lolly to his colleague at Southside Heart & Lung, Chair of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Robert Kalimi, MD.

Although Lolly had been through open-heart surgery before, this time, she had a 5-year-old daughter, a fiance and two soon-to-be stepchildren to consider. “It was nerve-wracking for me and my family,” she said. “I had a lot of fear going into it about the outcome.”

However, Lolly immediately felt comfortable and secure with Dr. Kalimi, an experienced surgeon who patiently answered her questions. “The communication was beyond amazing. Every step of the way, I knew where I was supposed to show up and what test I was going to have done. The level of care was bar none.”

Hispanic woman in pink bathing suit doing the side stroke in an indoor pool.
Exercise, a heart-healthy diet and enjoying an active family keep Lolly swimming.

Lolly underwent a seven-hour surgery to repair her tricuspid valve. The procedure took longer than expected because of scar tissue from her previous procedure. Dr. Kalimi and his team also had to be careful to avoid pacemaker wiring. Lolly spent a week recovering in the hospital, and physical therapists ensured she got up to walk the day after surgery. She also received at-home physical therapy and saw cardiac nurse practitioners who were able to monitor her through the Follow Your Heart program.

That surgery happened a little over a year ago. Today, Lolly is amazed by how much energy she has. “I didn't realize I was so fatigued,” she said. In addition to keeping up with her family and working for the town of Babylon as a permit clerk, Lolly can now actively participate in the workout programs she offers through her health and wellness coaching business. She is an avid swimmer, loves cooking and has embraced a low-salt diet. In fact, she posts many of her dishes on social media to motivate her clients. “Mentally I'm feeling better, and physically I’m stronger every day.”

Hear from Lolly about her experience at Southside Heart & Lung

Lolly spent her life searching for relief from her congestive heart failure symptoms. With the right team and the best care, she was able to take control of her heart condition.