Beat the odds: Living and thriving with congenital heart defects | News






WAAY 31 News producer Alisa Sample defies the odds, thriving after multiple heart surgeries for congenital heart defects.


High stress and heart issues don’t seem to go together, but to know WAAY 31 News producer Alisa Sample is to know that she tends to go against the norm.

“They thought I would be in the hospital for a week and be out in four days,” she said.

It was his last operation.

Sample has had a ventricular septal defect, essentially a hole in his heart, since birth. She also has an aortic coarctation, which means that part of her aorta is narrower than usual.

“For the most part, my parents were surprised when they found out my coarctation was as bad as it was, because they were like, ‘She’s not turning blue, she’s not lethargic,'” Sample said.

She said she never showed signs of a heart defect, but it required three surgeries.

“I had one when I was 2, one when I was 8, and one last year,” she said.

She takes it all in stride, never letting her condition define who she is.

“I was only limited by sports. I focused more on academics, and I loved that and I loved reading and pursuing those things and learning a bit of everything,” Sample said.

She encourages others to follow her lead.

“Don’t let that stop you from doing something you really want to do,” she said. “You can change everything.”

Knowing that congenital heart defects are genetic is a lesson she seeks to instill in her own daughter.

“Evie has a narrow pulmonary valve, but she grows with it and they don’t worry about it,” she said.

If that changes, she is confident in the work carried out by the American Heart Association and knows that her daughter will be able to flourish thanks to medical advances.

“I’m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a wife, I’m a news producer, and I’m a warrior,” Sample said.

Some of this technology is being developed right here at home. Currently, the American Heart Association funds 36 research fellowships in Alabama, totaling more than $9 million.

Just to show how far technology has come, Sample’s 4-month-old nephew recently had surgery for an aortic coarctation, like her. But, instead of a large scar on her back, doctors were able to make a small incision in her side to get in and make repairs.