6 Celebrities Who Have Overcome Heart Conditions

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When your child has a heart condition, he may feel different and singled out. He may even feel—or be outright told by well-intentioned but misinformed adults—that he will never be able to do certain things that he wants to do in life.

But your heart kiddo can go on to achieve great things in life in spite of—or maybe even because of—what he’s been through.

Here are 6 celebrities who have overcome heart conditions and accomplished their dreams.  

Omaha-Breti

The multi-talented Michaels is the frontman for the glam metal band Poison, which has sold more than 45 million records. He’s also a solo recording artist and the winner of Celebrity Apprentice 3.

He had a condition called patent foramen ovale, which is a hole in the heart between the left and right upper chambers, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

We all have this hole in our hearts before we’re born. In most of us, the hole closes up shortly after birth. But with this condition the hole stays. This can become dangerous if blood clots enter a person’s bloodstream that might otherwise have dissolved in a person’s lungs—which can cause a stroke.

People with this condition usually go untreated unless they experience a related health issue—like a stroke.

But Michaels suffered a warning stroke in May 2010. He then underwent cardiac catheterization surgery to repair the hole in January 2011.

Despite these and other health issues, Michaels continues to tour and pursue a number of other creative endeavors.

Omaha-Shaun

Shaun White underwent two heart operations before his first birthday. He later went on to become a two time winter Olympics gold medalist in snowboarding.

Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is a combination of four congenital heart defects: ventricular septal defect, pulmonary stenosis, right ventricular hypertrophy, and an overriding aorta, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What all of this adds up to is that, in a person with TOF, inadequate amounts of blood reach the lungs, so the blood that flows to the body doesn’t have enough oxygen in it.

This condition affects about one in every 2,000 babies. It is usually fixed with open heart surgery by the time a baby reaches infancy.

White competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Omaha-Brian

In addition to being one fifth of the Backstreet Boys—to date, best-selling boy band in the world —Brian Littrell is also an accomplished contemporary Christian solo recording artist.

He had a ventricular septal defect, which is a hole in the wall that separates the heart’s lower chambers, explains the American Heart Association (AHA).

Depending on the size of the hole, many heart kiddos who have this condition may never experience symptoms.  It is usually detected during a heart examination when a murmur is heard with a stethoscope.

This was the case for Littrell until 1998, when his doctors noticed that his heart was swelling. That year he underwent open heart surgery to repair the hole. During the operation, the doctors discovered a second hole, which was also successfully treated.

The Backstreet Boys—including Littrell—are still going strong more than two decades after becoming a group.

Omaha-Miley (1)

Miley Cyrus, daughter of the famous country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, has gone from a happy-go-lucky Disney kid to a rebellious, twerking pop star. Regardless of how questionable her image may be, she is part of the club of young people who live with a heart condition—or two.

While touring in 2006, Cyrus started feeling sick during performances. An electrocardiogram (EKG) revealed that she had tachycardia—a form of arrhythmia in which a person’s heart beats too fast. Further testin showed that she has a hole in her heart.

While she hasn’t required any treatment for either condition, Cyrus has said that the diagnoses were a wake up call for her to take care of her health by eating right, exercising right, and getting enough sleep—whether she’s on tour or not.

In October, Cyrus finished a world tour for her most recent album, and says she is working on more music.

Omaha-Erik

Erik Compton’s name may not inspire as much awe as that of Tiger Woods, but what makes this golfer special is that he has undergone two heart transplants.

Diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy when he was 9 years old, Compton had his first transplant three years later at the age of 12, according to an August 2014 ESPN article.

In 2007, Compton’s second heart started to fail; he noticed symptoms while he was driving in his car. He somehow managed to get himself to a hospital, where he underwent automatic implanted cardioverter defibrillator (AICD) placement. Then, in 2008, he had his second heart transplant.

Compton recently completed his best PGA Tour yet, earning him an invitation to the Masters Tournament of the 2015 US Open.

Omaha-Toni

I’m sure many of us who are old enough belted out Braxton’s 1996 hit song “Unbreak My Heart” in the shower, in the car or in other places when we thought no one else was listening. Who knew that this 4-time Grammy award winner would later go on to contend with a heart condition?

Braxton noticed something wasn’t right in the mid-2000s. She experienced symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in her chest.

One day, during intermission—she was performing in the Broadway play “Aida”—she felt like the room was spinning around her. A trip to the ER led to her being diagnosed with pericarditis. Pericarditis is a inflammation of the pericardium, or sac covering the heart, says the NIH. It is usually treated with anti-inflammatory medications.

Braxton later found out that she has high blood pressure as well, according to a January 2008 article in Newsweek. She takes a beta blocker to lower her blood pressure. She also exercises regularly and watches what she eats to keep herself healthy.

In May 2014, Braxton released a book entitled Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir. She was also recently cast to play singer Darlene Love in a biopic that will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Barb Roessner

Hi, I'm Barb, and I'm a Physician Assistant and coordinator of the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I work with patients and families at every step of the journey, from diagnosing their child's heart condition to my favorite part—calling them to say "We have a heart."

8 Responses to "6 Celebrities Who Have Overcome Heart Conditions"

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  1. Amanda

    December 16, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    hi my names Amanda I was born a Chd child I’ve just had my 1st transplant at 33 I’ve had lots of ops yo keep me alive over the years I’ve got a lot to say bout it so if u want to hear my story I don’t mind shareing I shouldn’t of made it until now x

    Reply
    • Barb Roessner

      December 18, 2014 at 10:20 am

      Hi Amanda, thanks for reading. We’d love to hear your story–it could inspire other kids and adults with CHD. You can share it with us here.

      Reply
  2. Karen osgerby

    December 17, 2014 at 5:17 am

    I’m a dectrocardia n have situs inversus too I have lived with this from birth my son has a pacemaker in since the age of two he was a prem baby n only had a heart murmur n hadn’t picked my condition of his organs been back to front like me then we were told he was fine until that day he collapsed n my world came crumbling down no one knew wat was wrong did number of tests n that until they saw his heart rate went down n he fainted collapsed then he had to have an op to put a pacemaker in to keep my son alive he is 100% dependent on it for rest his life we carnt thank the team enough at Leeds n I have to live with mine we never let it get us down

    Reply
    • Barb Roessner

      December 18, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Thanks, Karen, for stopping by the blog. I’m sure having to live with a pacemaker was not what you’d expected, but it sounds like you worked with a great team. You have an awesome perspective. That’s right. You definitely can’t let it get you down.

      Reply
  3. karen osgerby

    November 12, 2016 at 3:45 am

    i have now got primary cilia dykensis what my condition is now known as im awaiting results of my genetic test and my son who has the pacemaker in is now 30 and has a daughter of his own my other children do not have my condition nor does my granddaughter with me been a dextrocardia heart n lungs n my stomach liver kidneys spleen been opposite sides to yours im thankful im still here now at 50 but i know im detoriating as my body is not reacting too well with my antibiotics but i manage to keep going even doing a nvq in floristry level 1 n 2 n passed with distinction too considering how ill ive been . i have a granddaughter now that keeps me going too life is good never take anything for granted live each day as though its ur last as ive seen many school friends go in past week or so only 50 n 51 . hope everyone is feeling great wat ever ur heart condition is

    Reply
  4. Marc Andre Quirim

    March 2, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Good day! I need help because my younger brother suffers tetralogy of fallot. My father died already and my mom has no work. Hope you can help us. He is already 5 y.o. and always gets out of conscious. Please help us.

    Reply
    • Barb Roessner

      April 28, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Marc, please have your mom contact your local children’s hospital. They should have some sort of Family Services department that can assess your family’s situation and advise you on next steps for care. Best of luck.

      Reply
  5. torrentrg

    May 7, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Though being diagnosed with a condition is always unfortunate, a celebrity’s illness can sometimes offer a silver lining to others with the condition by helping to raise awareness of the disease.

    Reply

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