Helping fellow heart valve disease survivors is therapeutic for Kimberly Goodloe.
“I like to encourage my fellow survivors to keep the faith, stay connected to family and friends, especially on the days you need support,” said the former social service case manager and substitute teacher in suburban Atlanta.
For more than 10 years, Goodloe has volunteered for the American Heart Association, including as a Heart Valve Ambassador the past five.
Her health journey includes multiple surgeries and a mechanical heart valve. When she found out, as an adult, that she was born with an aortic defect, she struggled to cope with unexpectedly needing a pacemaker after complications from valve replacement surgery.
Goodloe, who recently celebrated the 11th anniversary of her first open-heart surgery, said serving as an Ambassador allows her to connect with many patients and medical experts. She encourages patients to track their symptoms, develop a good relationship with their care teams, ask questions and find a listening ear.
The experience has also taught her the importance of being an advocate for herself and having a strong support system for patients and caregivers.
“It’s important for caregivers to take time for themselves and get help and support,” she said. “They’re part of the healing and we’re all in this together.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodloe has encouraged others virtually through forums such as the American Heart Association’s online Support Network.
“Take it one day at a time and never, never lose hope,” she said. “Brighter days are ahead.”