grateful woman for cardiologist, living life to the fullest | Iredell Health System

Imagine that your breathing is so labored that it is difficult for you to walk or move. Accomplishing once simple tasks like cooking or even walking around the room seem like mountainous obstacles. You are being treated for a lung disease, but feel in your heart that it is something more than that. What you didn’t feel, however, is what was actually happening on the inside your heart.

That was reality for Betsy Evans, a 78-year-old Statesville resident. She had always considered herself healthy and proactive in her medical appointments and screenings. But, as breathing became increasingly difficult for Evans, she found herself reaching for her oxygen and inhaler, prescribed for her lung condition, more and more frequently.

“I would have several episodes where I would sit in my chair, put myself in a fetal position and couldn’t move. I told my husband, ‘We need to see a cardiologist,'” Evans said.

Evans made an appointment and shortly after, in late October 2021, she visited the office of Bradley Martin, a cardiologist at the Statesville Cardiovascular Clinic.

“She [Evans] was one of those people that I knew right away when I walked into the room something was wrong. Her whole demeanor – the way she breathed, the expression on her face – you could tell she was uncomfortable and struggling. I realized that was something we were probably going to need to move forward quickly,” Martin said.

After an electrocardiogram (ECG), a heart monitoring test, Martin realized that Evans had atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is an irregular and often very rapid heartbeat.

“Dr. Martin spoke to me and explained everything to me in terms I could understand. His last words were, ‘I’ll see you in the hospital tomorrow morning,'” Evans said.

At this point, the full extent of Evans’ condition was yet to be discovered, but it wasn’t just a lung condition. It was also heart disease.

Martin scheduled cardioversion for Evans the very next day. A cardioversion is a procedure used to treat atrial fibrillation by using rapid, low-energy shocks to restore a regular heart rhythm.

When Evans arrived at Iredell Memorial Hospital the next day, she had to have a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) done before her cardioversion. A TEE is a type of test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart and its structures. In order to have a safe cardioversion, since there is a risk of stroke, a TEE is done before to make sure that there are no blood clots in the heart.

“Amazingly, on his TEE, I realized the real problem. It was actually not the AFib. It was a problem with his mitral valve,” Martin said.

The mitral valve is one of the four valves of the heart. A healthy mitral valve keeps blood flowing in the right direction.

Some of Evan’s tendon cords that hold his mitral valve in place have ruptured, causing blood to leak through the valve and resulting in an irregular heartbeat.

“Dr. Martin explained to me that I had a faulty valve and that I had to stay five more days at Iredell Memorial. After that I would have to be transferred to another hospital to have open heart surgery and replace the valve said Evans.

For five days, Martin and his team prepared Evans medically for open-heart surgery. They removed the excess fluid, put her on medication to help her heart work and performed heart catheterization to make sure she had no blockages.

After leaving Iredell Memorial, Evans met a surgeon at the hospital where she was transferred. Just six days later, on November 17, Evans underwent open-heart surgery. Its valve was replaced with a pig valve.

She stayed in this hospital for 16 days after the operation. Once released, Evans went to an assisted living facility in Statesville for rehabilitation, where she spent two weeks before finally returning home.

“When I got home, I felt wonderful. People tell me I took a trip. But, for me, it wasn’t a trip. It was a day trip. It all happened so fast,” Evans said.

Evans felt much better and returned in time to enjoy the vacation with his family.

“I saw Evans about eight weeks after the operation, and she was a brand new woman. She couldn’t believe how much better she felt. She had been taking care of it for a long time,” Martin said.

Later, in March 2022, Evans was at Iredell Health System’s Outpatient Rehab in Statesville to complete his cardiac rehab therapy. Unfortunately, while she was there, her blood pressure shot up to 190/90, and she went back into atrial fibrillation.

“I immediately went to Dr. Martin’s office. I saw the AP there, and she explained to me what was going on. They did another ECG and set me up with Dr. Martin a few days later,” Evans said.

During his appointment with Martin, he decided to schedule cardioversion to bring Evans’ heart back to a normal rhythm.

And since that procedure, Evans has had no further problems. She was able to go back to doing the things she so desperately missed, like crafting and spending time in her beach house.

“I wasn’t really living before my operation. But now I’m excited about life moving forward. I finally do the things I want to do. For the first time in a long time, I was able to drive to the beach alone. I will live every day that I can to the fullest,” she said.

Martin says he always finds it rewarding to see patients return to the life they wanted to live.

“The first time I saw her, I don’t think she knew she would ever have the quality of life she had before. She had been sick for a while, and I don’t think she thought she was getting better. But, I knew once we saw this valve that things were going to get better pretty quickly. And it’s not fun having open-heart surgery, but it was definitely the right thing for her and she did very well,” Martin said.

Reflecting on her experience, Evans is incredibly grateful to all of the medical professionals who cared for her. She is especially grateful to Martin, who discovered the cause of all her life-altering symptoms.

“Dr. Martin’s staff have been so wonderful. And, the main thing I want to say about Dr. Martin is that he doesn’t just care about your heart and your physical being, he cares about your mental health and your emotional health. He always asks how you are feeling, really talks to you and cares about you,” Evans said.

Learn more
Evans’ story was shared last week at the Iredell Health Foundation’s inaugural Heart of Jazz, a fundraiser to benefit the Cardiac & Vascular Care Fund for Iredell Health System. The fund supports the lifesaving efforts of cardiologists, vascular surgeons, nurses and technicians throughout the health care system, and 100% of funds raised stay in Iredell County. To learn more about the fund or to donate, visit or call 704-878-7669.

Dr. Bradley Martin sees patients in Statesville, Mooresville, and Taylorsville. If you would like to make an appointment with Martin, please call 704-873-1189.

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