A Troy University student battled open-heart surgery and still found the strength and courage to return to school. At age 36, a then freshman and native of Montgomery, Shanetta Mahone decided to begin school and earn her degree in homeland security.
According to Mahone, she was enrolled in four classes and just walking across campus to each class was difficult. She always found herself out of breath.
“After walking just a few flights of stairs, I felt like I was going to pass out,” she said. “It was as if I had just run a marathon, and by the second flight, I would have to lay against the wall.”
Due to her constant exhaustion and short breaths she decided to schedule a visit with her doctor. During her visit after explaining symptoms, chest x-rays and ECG testing, a test that is done to examine any issues with the electrical activity of your heart, the doctor informed Mahone that she might have a heart disease.
Mahone, a mother of three, says she did not want to tell her children about her doctor visit because she did not want them worried.
“My doctor told me that I was at high risk for a heart attack and strongly suggested that I have the surgery the next day,” she said. “And if I were to have a heart attack, the only way they could save me is if I were already on the table opened.”
Mahone said she was in a panic and could not believe this devastating news.
“After a few days of thinking it over I decided to have the surgery, but I still decided not to tell my kids,” Mahone said.
Mahone’s surgery, a coronary artery bypass, took place Aug. 29, 2011, at Baptist South Hospital in Montgomery. This was also the day of her oldest son’s 16th birthday.
Mahone says after her surgery she went through a stage of depression but was grateful to have her children, then ages 16, nine and seven, take care of her.
“My daughter, Destiny, would cook macaroni and cheese every night,” she said. “I was so proud of her. She really helped out so much with me and her two brothers.”
She said she reflects back on a time at the on-campus gym when the treadmill would not allow her to increase her speed. “Little did I know the machine was trying to let me know something was wrong,” Mahone said. “I was a walking time bomb and didn’t even know it.”
Mahone said the best description of her chest pain felt like having an elephant in her chest.
Although, it has been a two-year journey, Mahone still suffers with chest pains and has to apply a silicone strip that includes a medicine solution called ScarAway that removes keloids on her chest.
Mahone said, “People often ask me if I am trying to hide my scar, but I let them know that it is medicine.”
Mahone tried to return to on-campus classes when she was released under the doctor’s care in June 2012. However, carrying schoolbooks became extremely difficult considering she cannot lift anything weighing more than five pounds.
Therefore, Mahone takes classes online, but with the opportunity of having a work-study job in the Financial Aid office, she still gets the feel of on-campus interaction.
Despite the health obstacles Mahone has overcome she says being in school and her kids are what inspire her and keep her motivated.
“I just wanted to live and see my kids grow up and watch my future grandchildren grow up too,” Mahone said.
Due to her surgery Mahone’s graduation date has been postponed to 2016. Now at age 38, she said she is looking forward to the future and earning her degree.
“I love my major and in my spare time I enjoy watching investigative criminal research shows like ‘20/20’ and ‘On the Case with Paula Zahn,’” Mahone said.
She says there was no way her surgery could have been prevented. “I was born with heart disease and never knew it until it was almost too late,” Mahone said.
Mahone said she encourages people to get annual check-ups, regardless of their age.