Tasha Believes Heart Surgery Gave Her a Gift to Give Back

October 18, 2017

Tasha Hunter Believes in providence's heart Surgery Program

Tasha Believes in a Healed Heart.
Providence Helped Make it Happen.

Tasha Hunter, 39, had been suffering from a fast heart rhythm for nine years. “One day, I decided there had to be something more to my story,” she said. She went to see a cardiologist.

Tasha Hunter leads a healthy active life after heart surgery

It was soon discovered that Tasha was born with an abnormal coronary artery, a condition called Anomalous Right Coronary Artery.

She had served in the Army for nearly 21 years before retiring. She was deployed twice. She ran track in high school. And at any moment with her particular condition, her artery could have burst. “I was lucky to be alive.”

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The only way to correct the problem was open-heart surgery.

“They said I could go anywhere I wanted – Duke, MD Anderson, wherever. So I did my research. I looked up the doctors nationwide, and I found some of the best at Providence,” said Tasha. “So I chose to stay at home and have the surgery here.”

Tasha was scheduled for a 2-hour procedure to widen the artery. When the procedure began, the surgery team was concerned that the wall of her artery was too thin to be widened. The team switched its course in the moment and performed a coronary bypass instead.

“My heart was stopped for 5 hours and 22 minutes,” said Tasha, “but my GOD jump-started my heart, so I could be here to tell my story.”

During the procedure, Providence’s waiting area was filled with about 30 family members, including her two sons age 15 and 17. “I jokingly told the staff before my surgery, 'You guys are going to need a lot of space for my family.’ I was in such good spirits because I had done my research, and I knew I had made the right choice with Dr. Yarbrough and Providence Health.”

Tasha fondly remembers the compassionate care at Providence. 

“The nurses were so nice to me,” she said, telling a story of how she wasn’t able to get a shower chair from the Department of Veterans Affair and the nurses collected funds to buy her one. “They put a big box with a bow on it and delivered it to my room and I just cried. It was a blessing.” She chose to stay as long as she could to remain in their kind care. “I really appreciated that time there.”

Tasha Hunter walking with her sons in Columbia, SCToday, Tasha is not only a survivor of heart disease; she is also an advocate for women to listen to their bodies. "The signs are there, do not ignore them,” she tells friends and family. “If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. See your doctor and demand tests.”

Tasha is grateful she listened to her body. “I remember getting out of breath when I would set up my desk. Medical staff couldn’t find anything wrong. But it was getting worse. I could hear my heart beating in my ear. So I went to Dr. Devlin, a Providence cardiologist, on my own. He found the problem."  

Every day I think, “Wow – I could have died at any moment. This is my second chance.”

Not one to waste an opportunity, Tasha uses her second chance to give back to others and her community. She volunteers several times a week at Transitions shelter and often brings her sons. “I want them to understand that others are not as fortunate. I want them to know the gifts we have been blessed with.”

Tasha, who received a clean bill of health at her recent doctor appointment, feels different since the surgery. “It’s like a weight has lifted off of me,” said Tasha. “I’d always eaten well, and I couldn’t understand why my cholesterol was so bad. Now that I’ve had surgery, all my blood work has even improved. I couldn’t be happier.

"I am FINALLY at peace, THANK YOU Providence!"

Tasha Hunter is featured in Providence Health’s #IBelieve commercial series.