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What Is Viral Cardiomyopathy?

Robbie Owens for CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A virus triggered heart disease is now making headlines after country crooner Randy Travis was hospitalized in North Texas over the weekend.

According to his publicist, the 54-year-old Travis is in critical condition after undergoing surgery to treat viral cardiomyopathy.

“It’s a virus that directly infects the heart muscle, and causes the heart to become weak,“ says Carter King, MD.  Dr. King is an interventional cardiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas.  “The list of viruses that can cause it are long.  And many of the viruses cause other common problems like colds or summer diarrhea.  Just the right virus in the right person, sometimes causes viral cardiomyopathy.”

82-year-old Audrey Stonebraker, says she has learned to live with it.  “I can’t run, because I’m out of breath.  But, there’s no pain involved in it… it just limits you,” says Stonebraker.

Diagnosed more than a decade ago, Stonebraker says she finally told her doctor about the recurring exhaustion that often made her physically ill.  “I was just tired.. exhausted… for no reason.”

There is no specific cure for viral cardiomyopathy.  But, according to Dr. King, some two-thirds of sufferers either get better on their own, or respond to treatment to manage the symptoms.  Severe cases can lead to heart failure and some patients may require transplants.

Already retired at the time of her diagnosis, Stonebraker opted for a simpler route—keeping up with her regular checkups and limiting her physical activity.  She says she has also learned to pace herself, while still enjoying regular activities.

“You can go out walking or shopping… and when you know that you’re getting out of breath, when it’s difficult to take a deep breath, you know it’s time.  It’s time to stop and let your body recuperate and it does, and then you go about your business.”

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