Every great journey begins with a single step. For Shirley Allenbrand, that first step was a heart screening that prompted an unexpected heart surgery and saved her life.
Shirley Allenbrand is in the business of creating. She's a partner in Ad Astra Development, an Olathe company that designs, develops and builds innovative living and working facilities from the ground floor up. So when she sees a need for change, she acts on it.
Before her 50th birthday, Allenbrand decided to start working with a personal trainer to shed some extra pounds and get in shape.
A friend urged her to meet with a physician for a heart screening first. During a stress test at The University of Kansas Health System, Allenbrand’s physician noticed a spike in her blood pressure and referred her for a cardiac catheterization procedure. During this procedure, cardiologists found an aneurysm in her upper aorta – a 4.9 on a scale with 5 being the highest (and most dangerous) possible rating.
Allenbrand needed surgery right away.
"Doctors told me something as simple as picking up a suitcase could have caused the aneurysm to rupture," she notes.
In March 2005, cardiothoracic surgeons performed a complicated surgery to repair the aneurysm and replace her damaged aortic valve. The surgery was a success, and Allenbrand soon began cardiac rehabilitation and recovery. She found out what steps she needed to take to prevent future aneurysms, and she began learning more about her heart.
"I never cared about my heart 'numbers' before," she said. "I know there are other very active, busy women out there who don’t know theirs either. After my experience, I made a commitment to help women learn these things about their hearts."
I'm just lucky I'm here. The physicians at The University of Kansas Hospital gave me my life. – Shirley Allenbrand