Innovative heart valve surgery gives Coon Valley woman a chance to take on new challenges

COON VALLEY, Wis. (WKBT) — Holly Herlitzke was diagnosed at birth with bicuspid valve disorder, a heart condition that reduces blood flow in the heart. She has lived with it her whole life, but just six months ago, she went through a surgery that inspired her to take on another challenge.

For over 30 years, Holly has always been active.

“I’ve always done a lot of biking, hiking, um we have plenty of hiking opportunities around here, I like to shoot archery,” Holly said.

She is not afraid of a challenge.

“I successfully made it through two pregnancies,” Holly said.

Throughout her life, Holly and her healthcare team have done all they can to keep her active and healthy.

Overtime, especially after her second pregnancy, her condition got worse.

“I always knew that I would need open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve, but I just didn’t know when,” Holly said.

  As an active, young mom, the open-heart surgery options she had were limiting. But after speaking with her cardiologist, one option caught her eye.  

 The Ross Procedure at UW-Health in Madison.

That procedure, done in the heart, takes the pulmonary valve and shifts it to the aortic valve side, then replaces the patient’s pulmonary valve with the valve from a donor.

Holly’s surgery in December was successful, giving her the chance to live a full life.  

“My cardiologist said ‘I’ve never heard your heart sound so great,” Holly said.

 At her 12-week checkup, she decided to take on a new challenge.

At her 12-week checkup… she decided to take on a new challenge.  

 “I said just tell me what I can’t do, and she said nothing. So I said I’m going to try and take up short distance running,” Holly said.

 The toughest part now is getting out the door.

But Holly does it almost every day.

 “I’m certainly not going to win any races or get a seven minute mile or anything like that, but it’s just cool that my body allows me to do that now,” Holly said.

Holly hopes to run a 5K race locally some time soon.

She’s taking it on– for her family, herself and other women who want to take on all that life has to offer.

During her medical journey, Holly connected with people living with the same condition across the world.

She hopes to be an advocate and friend for others with her condition.