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Collette Sroka is CardioSmart

Being active, eating healthy and taking her medication are among the things Collette Sroka does to live well with heart failure.

Collette Sroka
Collette Sroka was born a blue baby and required immediate surgery. Today, she is living well with heart failure.

I was seeing my cardiologist ... and each time the message was clear: Take your medicine regularly, exercise and eat right.

Collette Sroka, patient with heart failure
When my daughter suggested I enter the I Am CardioSmart contest, I thought: “What could I possibly say about living well with heart disease? I just live a normal life.” Even though I was born with transposition of the great arteries, I never viewed myself as much different from anyone else. So I thought about what I have done. I realized that just by taking care of myself, I have lived well. Being active, eating healthy, taking my medication, and visiting the cardiologist regularly have been the keys to my success. My doctors are even surprised at how well I am doing. Now, as I age and more problems arise, these steps that seemed small are more important than ever.

My name is Collette Sroka, and I am a 54-year-old woman who was born a blue baby and required immediate surgery. So, when I was 36 hours old, I had my first open-heart surgery. This surgery created an opening in my heart to allow blood to mix together so oxygen would go to my body. It wasn’t until 1969 that I was able to have a corrective procedure done. At 6 years old, I had another open-heart surgery, the Mustard Procedure. I did very well and went on to live a fairly normal life. To me, I didn’t feel any different from anyone else except that I had regular checkups with my cardiologist and took antibiotics for any dental work. 

Growing up, I was as active as my condition would allow. . As a young adult, I exercised regularly by walking and doing Jazzercise. At 19, I had a pacemaker put in. I went to college, got married and had two beautiful daughters. Although more precautions were taken with my pregnancies, for the most part, they were uneventful. I even exercised throughout both my pregnancies.

As I hit my 40s, I started going into atrial fibrillation. This required a few cardioversions, a new pacemaker, new medications and, ultimately, an ablation. My doctor stressed the importance of taking my medication as directed. At this point, I was seeing my cardiologist more often and each time the message was clear: Take your medicine regularly, exercise and eat right.
Now that I’m in my 50s, I have been diagnosed with heart failure and am being evaluated for a heart transplant. My diet is much stricter (less than 2,000 mg a day of sodium), and I continue to exercise. Until last year, I worked full time. I continue to be very active. As a matter of fact, I walk a mile a day with my 90-year-old father-in-law!  I have yet to be officially placed on the transplant list because I am doing well for now. My family support and being CardioSmart has helped me live well.
Published: February 2018

Infographic: Heart Failure

Infographic: Congenital Heart Defects