CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Scientists say laughing is good for your heart.
“I’m still kicking,” said Dorinda Jones with a hearty laugh. Perhaps that’s why her heart is so strong despite being born with a congenital heart condition.
At 6 months old she was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects. “There was no cure. That’s just you know, nobody even talked about it.”
At age 6, Dorinda’s family moved from Cuyahoga Falls to Tennessee. “My classmates were very good. nobody made fun of me.” But her childhood, she says, was restricted by her health. “I could walk so far, I’d have to squat and rest, or I’d get dizzy.”
She started passing out as she got older. I asked her if that scared her. “Yes,” she admitted. “I didn’t think of dying but I thought, somebody’s got to do something. I sort of felt that way.”
Dr. Donald Effler at the Cleveland Clinic was that somebody. She was also treated by Dr. F. Mason Sones. Effler was the first doctor to perform open-heart surgery in 1956, a procedure that requires stopping the heart temporarily.
Dorinda had her surgery less than a year later when she was 12. “I saw it as hope. I thought is it this is my chance to be normal.”
After her first surgery doctors postponed further action as long as possible to take advantage of the fast-growing technology. “Went to college, got married, taught school, I did all that before my second one.”
At 25, when she and her husband were ready to have kids, again there was Dr. Effler for the follow-up surgery. “They were personal doctors not just doing their job,” Jones said.
In 1996 she started having irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, and was treated by Dr. Mina Chung. “She’s kind of lived through to experience some of the developments in treating congenital heart disease so that’s really great that we can support her through that,” Chung said.
A memoir still to be published, “Blue Baby” will reflect on her life as a patient, teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. All those titles culminating in the last chapter entitles “Just Me.”
With a full life at age 76, this Dayton resident is grateful to God and the Cleveland Clinic for keeping her, as she says, still kicking.
“It was no accident that I had Tetralogy of Fallot, or that I got the Cleveland Clinic or that I got Dr. Effler, for both surgeries, and then Dr. Chung, you know it’s just amazing. They just keep me plugging along.”