For former UCLA softball player Stevie Wisz, the thought of being healthy again is an awesome feeling, but a difficult process.
“Each day is different. I didn’t think I would struggle with recovery,” she said Friday, three weeks after her third heart surgery. “I think I was so excited to get it over with that I overlooked the recovery part.
“It’s been hard emotionally. But I glad I’m fully making my way to being healthy again. I can’t wait to see how I feel when it’s all said and done.”
Days after her surgery, Wisz, 22, was walking around her neighborhood in Orcutt, an unincorporated town in the Santa Maria Valley. A week later she bragged that she could walk 15 minutes unassisted. Two weeks later she was actively doing lunges in the living room.
“I get bored so I try to do as much as I can, but I am limited,” she said.
On June 21, a team of USC doctors performed a Ross procedure on Wisz — a four-hour operation which moved her pulmonary valve to her aortic location and then replaced that pulmonary valve with one from a donor.
She is in the first stage of a three-stage recovery, and everyday tasks are restricted. She can’t walk more than 25 minutes, lift anything over 5 pounds or drive. Her brother Canyon assists her with driving.
Wisz got her stitches removed Monday and a follow-up appointment with her cardiologist revealed that the new valve is working just fine.
In a Twitter video posted by her mother, Wisz’s cardiologist can be overheard saying, “Dramatic improvement and I am very pleased with the new valve. And Stevie, your attitude towards everything, in general, will take you far in life.”
Wisz chose to delay her latest surgery so that she could play her final season at UCLA. She spent most of the season as a pinch runner. The Bruins won the national championship on June 4.
Wisz was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, leading to the severe narrowing of her aorta, when she was 1. She underwent open-heart surgeries at 9 and 15.
Prior to her surgery, Wisz met Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen. Jansen, who has undergone two heart surgeries, and his wife reached out to Wisz after hearing her story. This month she will be honored at the Kenley Jansen Foundation’s “Night of Courageous Hearts” event.
Wisz plans to spend the next 10 weeks focusing on her recovery. After that, she plans to start clinical hours at a hospital and apply to a physician assistant’s school next fall.