Woman runs Baltimore marathon after treatment for aortic aneursym

Anne King

Anne King on left after completing the Baltimore marathon.

Anne King of Catonsville, Maryland has always enjoyed being physically active, despite being born with a heart defect. When Anne was 13 years old, a routine sports physical revealed a heart murmur. Tests showed that the murmur was a result of a hereditary heart condition known as bicuspid valve syndrome. While unusual, doctors had no concerns that Anne would not be able to continue her active lifestyle. Anne was instructed to return for regular echocardiograms every three to four years to monitor her heart function. 

As an adult, Anne maintained her physical fitness through running, which she managed to squeeze in while raising three children and working full-time as a nurse. One morning, Anne woke up with a feeling of tremendous pressure in her chest. Her nursing background warned her that something was not right, and she anxiously drove to the emergency room at her local hospital. A CT scan revealed a shocking discovery: a thoracic aortic aneurysm. Despite the fact that Anne was feeling healthy until that morning, her emergency room doctor informed her that her condition was life-threatening. The doctor then called Teng Lee, MD at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) for advice on how Anne’s treatment should proceed, and it was decided that Anne would immediately be transferred to the Center for Aortic Disease at UMMC to discuss advanced options for this life-threatening condition. 

Lee, a cardiac surgeon who specializes in aortic aneurysms, spent that evening running additional tests and answering the numerous questions Anne and her husband had about the scary diagnosis. Lee informed Ann that corrective heart surgery was needed, and without it she would be putting herself at risk for a time-sensitive aneurysm rupture that could cost her her life. 

Soon after, she underwent a five-hour repair of the aneurysm in her aorta. The surgery went well, and Anne, ever so active, was already up and walking the very next morning. After three nights at UMMC, Anne was discharged home to begin her recovery. 

Even as a nurse who knew the limitations of surgical recovery, Anne was still frustrated about not being able to “jump back in” to where she had been physically prior to her procedure. However, she abided by the limitations set by her physician, returned to work 10 weeks later, and life began to get back to normal. 

A little over a year after her surgery, a friend came to her as she was preparing for her first marathon and asked Anne to be her running partner. On their first venture, Anne surprised herself by running 12 miles. She continued to train and signed up at the last minute to compete in the Baltimore Marathon. Anne surprised herself when she finished the race within one minute of her time from before her heart surgery. 

After proving to herself that she could keep up with her old self, Anne put on her running shoes and never looked back. She is feeling great and is preparing for the Columbia Iron Girl Half Marathon.  Anne is extremely grateful for the attentive and excellent care she received at UMMC, which has allowed her to regain the physically active lifestyle she treasured. “I literally and figuratively have running shoes on from the time I wake up,” said Anne.

“Anne is a very lucky woman. She was able to get treatment for her aortic aneurysm before it became a life-threatening emergency,” said Lee. “We encourage families like Anne’s who have a history of heart defects and aneurysms to consider getting screened to determine if other loved ones could be at risk for the same diseases. Early intervention is key in saving lives from aortic emergencies.”

Anne, the youngest of six children, has encouraged her siblings to schedule an appointment with their doctors. Three of her siblings have had echocardiograms, all with normal results. Tragically, Anne’s oldest brother passed away three months after her surgery from a myocardial infarction. Anne’s three children are scheduled for their own echocardiograms as well. After experiencing first-hand the effects of heart disease, Anne is sure to be a wonderful role model for her family – demonstrating the importance of routine health evaluations and leading a healthy, active lifestyle. 

This page was last updated: March 13, 2014

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