Wanda's Story

Photo of Wanda

Two years ago, Wanda was told she wouldn’t survive open-heart surgery. Today, she’s rocking out to her own beat.

At 87 years old, Wanda Huckabee still knows how to bring down a house. She’s been playing guitar most of her life, and hosts jam sessions at her home in Copperas Cove, Texas, each week. Once a month, she heads to a music hall an hour away in the little town of Pearl, and rocks to a country-western beat well into the night. Wanda knows what it is to appreciate every day. Two years ago, a doctor told her she would never survive the surgery needed to save her life.

Wanda suffered from aortic stenosis. Her aortic valve was tightening, cutting off the flow of oxygen –rich blood to her body. She needed open heart surgery. Wanda, however, was too weak to survive the procedure. Her son, Scott Huckabee, recalls being at the hospital, being told the surgery would not happen. “We looked at the surgeon and said, ‘What do we do now? Is she going to die?’”

Photo of Wanda

The surgeon directed Huckabee and her family to the Dallas Valve Institute at Medical City Dallas Hospital. There, Dr. Bruce Bowers and Dr. Todd Dewey explained they were pioneering a new procedure – an alternative to open heart surgery. In May of 2010, they inserted a catheter-a tiny tube- through a small incision in Wanda’s chest. It was guided to her heart, where a synthetic valve was released, to replace the function of her diseased valve.

The surgery was a success. And now, more than two years later, Huckabee’s weekly jam session just keeps growing. “Up to 25 people attend now! I used to cook for everyone, but now it’s become a potluck.” Huckabee’s also adding more lullabies to her play list these days. In January, she welcomed her second great-grandson.