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86-Year Old Valley Resident Successfully Undergoes Life-Saving Valve Surgery At Harlingen Medical Center

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86-Year Old Valley Resident Successfully Undergoes Life-Saving Valve Surgery At Harlingen Medical Center

Diagram of HeartHarlingen – She is talking and walking like nothing ever happened. But, Maria Olivia Hernandez of Weslaco is very thankful to be alive and enjoying her family, today. The 86-year old mother and grandmother just underwent a life-saving procedure at the award-winning and nationally recognized Harlingen Medical Center.

"After meeting and assessing her health status, I knew that Mrs. Hernandez was a prime candidate for the aortic valve replacement procedure," said Dr. Daniel Martinez, Thoracic Surgeon and Partner-In-Care to Harlingen Medical Center. "She was showing all the symptoms of aortic stenosis and I knew we were able to help her."

"For two weeks, I didn't feel very good. I had shortness of breath. I had this pressure on my chest and it made me feel like I was suffocating. I knew something was wrong," said Hernandez.

Hernandez, as it turns out, was suffering from aortic stenosis, a type of heart disease, which causes the aortic valve in the heart to almost stiffen. The stiffening of the heart valve results in an abnormal blood flow, which then causes the heart to work harder to pump blood into the rest of the body. This type of stress on the heart will usually cause a person to experience fatigue, pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and the sensation of a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Her Cardiologist, Dr. Juan Joel Garza, a Partner-In-Care to Harlingen Medical Center discussed having an aortic valve repair and she was willing to proceed with the risks involved in the procedure.

Patients like Hernandez may sometimes qualify, based on their age and health status, for heart surgery. But, when "high-risk" factors are present, such as the case with Hernandez, their best clinical option is aortic valve replacement.

"Aortic valve replacement can lead to serious consequences such as heart failure and even death, if left untreated. Ms. Hernandez needed a new heart valve," said Dr. Martinez. "I was confident a new heart valve would correct her condition and get her back to her normal, everyday life."

Hernandez arrived at Harlingen Medical Center and met with Dr. Martinez shortly after the New Year. A day after her arrival at the hospital she was in surgery surrounded by a multi-disciplined heart team.

"I am very thankful, and grateful, to Dr. Martinez for saving my life," said Hernandez. "He took care of me, here, in the (Rio Grande) Valley, and I didn't have to leave home. He took care of me right here; so thankful to him."

The 86-year old Weslaco resident is eager to be back at home doing her daily routine, which includes taking care of her home, walking around her garden and caring for her plants.

Harlingen Medical Center has been recognized with the highest award rating, from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), for its Cardiac Surgery Program for the second consecutive year. The STS has designated the hospital with a three-star rating for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgeries. This places the hospital among the top-15% heart surgery centers in the country.

About the Cardiovascular Care Program at HMC

The Cardiovascular Care Program at Harlingen Medical Center is paving the way for progressive treatment of patients from across South Texas. We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, and our top-ranked heart team provides minimally-invasive diagnostic testing and treatment, as well as advanced cardiac and vascular interventions, such as angioplasty, stenting, cardiac ablation, open heart surgery, minimally invasive heart valve repair and replacement, and coronary artery bypass graft.

To learn more about this program and Harlingen Medical Center, log on to our website at