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Yoga, Snowboarding, Trapeze School and Open Heart Surgery

Tracy Cruickshank


Tracy CruickshankBorn with a heart murmur, Tracy Cruickshank began seeing a cardiologist when she was just six months old. Because she was asymptomatic, Tracy lived a very active lifestyle that included cycling, snowboarding and power yoga.

At 40 years old, she felt great and believed she didn’t have to worry about her heart unless she felt pain. Then came a shock when a routine check-up with her cardiologist in October 2010 revealed an aortic aneurysm—and even more shocking, the need for open heart surgery.

“The day before the diagnosis, I had been standing on my hands in yoga. I really couldn’t believe that something like that could be possible,” said Tracy.

Robert Riley, MDTracy was treated by Scottsdale Healthcare cardiac surgeon Robert Riley, MD for a bicuspid aortic valve with an aneurysm of the ascending aorta.

According to Dr. Riley, Tracy was born with the condition, a common one that typically progresses over time to the point where the valve needs to be replaced.

“It seemed incomprehensible to be my age and have to have major heart surgery,” recalled Tracy.

Naturally, she was nervous. “I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live the active lifestyle that I had before. I didn’t know what the future would be like and this was my only option,” said Tracy.

“Tracy is a young woman and she was concerned about a big lifestyle change she thought she would have to go through,” said Dr. Riley. “She was considering the risks associated with heart surgery, physical activity limitations, as well as the cosmetic concerns of open heart surgery.”

Eight weeks after surgery, Tracy began to resume the activities she loves. She returned to her yoga moves, including standing on her hands and back bends. She snowboarded, competed in the Tour de Mesa cycling race, participated in trapeze school, and the Tour de Scottsdale.

“Tracy has clearly demonstrated that you can return to normal life after major open heart surgery and valve replacement," said Dr. Riley.

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