Greene County

70-year-old continues to play basketball after a hole in her heart

Hole in heart

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - A woman was 70 years old before she found out she had a hole in her heart, and just two weeks after a procedure she's back shooting hoops with her team.

70-year-old Madge Walker is full of life. She is on the Senior Olympic Team in Greeneville and plays basketball four times a week with the girls, but playing ball hasn't always been easy for her. "I would play for a while and the first few minutes I was gung-ho, and then I would get out of breath," says Walker.

Walker tells us that's when she knew something was wrong. It took several doctor visits and tests to figure out the shortness of breath was because of a hole in her heart. "I was just so glad they found it, because I was a walking time bomb and just didn't know it," adds Walker.

Walker had to put down the basketball and have surgery to repair the hole."They put a little umbrella-like thing in there and plugged the hole up. It's just been absolutely amazing," says Walker.

"When positioned in there it closes the hole and the body eventually covers it with a tissue," adds cardiologist Dr. Jack Whitaker.

Dr. Whitaker is a cardiologist for the Wellmont CVA. Heart Institute. He tells us cases where a hole in your heart goes unnoticed for so long is unusual. "It's amazing that patients can go for decades with an undiscovered hole in their heart," he said.

It's been two weeks since the procedure and Walker tells us she feels like a new woman. "When we went in and they were prepping me they told me, 'Now, Mrs. Walker, you're going to be turning cartwheels.' I just couldn't imagine, but today I think I could do that," adds Walker.

Walker tells us this year she just might compete in the state Senior Olympics because she's got a new breath of fresh air.

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