A 300-point game is every bowler’s goal. In life, amateur bowler Randi Suppes is doing that and more. A wife, mother and grandmother … a retired travel agent who explored Australia, Bali, Italy, Singapore and more … a dedicated Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) and Mended Hearts volunteer whose cardiologist nicknamed her, “Wonder Woman” — Randi embraces life.
“I love the Prescott area,” said Randi, who moved with her husband to the community in 1998. “The people are friendly and it has four mild seasons. When we first moved here, I worked at Kachina Travel Agency on Cortez Street. It was great working downtown.”
In retirement, Randi continued an active lifestyle. She took long walks and joined a bowling league. That’s why she was surprised when a heart murmur – first discovered when she was a child – was linked to a 2011 diagnosis of heart valve disease.
“As a young kid, no one seemed too concerned about my heart murmur,” she said. “Now, the doctors think it’s a family thing. My sister had a heart murmur and a heart valve replacement, like me. My brother also has had open heart surgery.”
Heart valve disease is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that restricts blood flow. This makes the heart work harder to pump blood into the aorta, the body’s main artery which supplies oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. Heart valve disease is most often tied to age and lifestyle. For some, like Randi, it stems from a congenital heart defect called a bicuspid aortic valve or heart murmur.
Randi is grateful to the family medicine physician in Prescott who detected her worsening heart valve. He referred her to a YRMC PhysicianCare cardiologist who diagnosed, monitored and helped her manage the condition.
Unfortunately, there are no medicines to cure heart valve disease. The condition is managed by medications that lower high blood pressure and reduce high cholesterol. A healthy diet and active lifestyle also can delay the progress of heart valve disease. Heart valve disease, however, can only be corrected with heart valve replacement surgery.
In the fall of 2013, Randi began to experience new symptoms.
“I had no energy and I was short of breath,” she recalled. “I was having hot spells.”
A nuclear cardiac study and diagnostic angiogram, both performed by YRMC’s Cardiopulmonary Laboratory team, revealed Randi had a blocked artery in addition to a deteriorating heart valve.
Randi underwent heart valve replacement surgery and a single coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) in October 2013 at The James Family Heart Center at YRMC West. Pierre Tibi, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, performed the operation.
“I was very calm before the surgery. I went in with an open mind,” said Randi. “As they say, ‘mind over matter.’”
It’s that attitude that motivates Randi to take on new challenges. Since her aortic valve replacement and CABG, Randi has participated in the City of Prescott Senior Olympics and the 2016 United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Women’s Championships in Las Vegas. As a Mended Hearts volunteer, Randi visits patients and families in The James Family Heart Center at YRMC.
“I talk to them about my experience and encourage them to follow their doctors’ instructions,” she said. “I let them know I received the best care at the hospital. Everybody was wonderful.”
And who would know better than someone who earned the nickname, Wonder Woman?