All throughout February, CTVS has been sharing ways to get heart healthy in honor of American Heart Month.

One important piece of advice we are sharing comes from a special patient of ours, Chris Valdez, who says that you should never ignore troubling health symptoms, especially those regarding your heart, as it could mean a matter of life and death.

Chris, a 43-year old single father of five, recently shared his emotional story on CBS Austin.

He was born with a heart defect which he did not get diagnosed or seek treatment for until later in life, despite having chronic and challenging symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and frequent bouts of passing out. He admitted he ignored these symptoms for years and did nothing about them.

Eventually, a cardiologist found the cause of his problems: an infected heart valve. He went through two emergency surgeries in an attempt to correct it before things took a turn for the worst, suffering a heart attack while on the operating table during one of the procedures.

“Listen to your body and get regular check-ups,” urges Chris. “I wish I would have done this because it would have prevented my heart attack and my heart disease from progressing to near death.”

Following this near death experience, Chris came under the care of CTVS board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. William Kessler.

Chris credits Dr. Kessler with getting his heart health back on the right track.

“When we met him, he was extraordinarily ill, and dying of endocarditis, or an inflamed valve usually caused by an infection,” said Dr. Kessler.

Dr. Kessler implanted a life-saving LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device)  to sustain Chris’ heart while he is now awaiting a transplant.  A VAD, or LVAD to assist the left side, is an implantable pump inside the chest that keeps the chambers of the heart pumping when it fails to do so on its own. It is often referred to as a “bridge to transplant” while a replacement heart is being located.

CTVS has a history of helping the hearts of Central Texans for 65 years.  Our team of cardiothoracic and vascular specialists is responsible for many ground-breaking surgical procedures that have taken place in this region, including the first-ever heart transplant performed here in 1986.

Dr. Kessler, Chris, and all of our board-certified specialists at CTVS urge you to always pay careful attention to your body if something doesn’t feel right, especially if it has to do with your heart.  Following these tips to boost heart health, and scheduling regular check-ups with your doctor, can go a long way in preventing many serious heart conditions or catching them early on and getting treatment, before it might be too late.

For questions about any of our cardiac, vascular, or thoracic services, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and check our blog for regular updates.