Ava Native and Daughter Celebrate Life After Receiving Heart Transplants

February 14th is even sweeter for the Valentine family. Father and daughter, Rocky and Lyla Valentine, both received heart transplants that make it possible for them to celebrate the special day. 

Growing up in Ava, Rocky was known for his energy and athleticism. After what was initially thought to be a case of the flu when he was 13 years old, Rocky’s doctors discovered that his heart was enlarged. The diagnosis was dilated cardiomyopathy. When medication failed to improve his heart function, Rocky was placed on the transplant list. Six months later, he received his new heart. Little did Rocky know, his new heart would also bring him a future wife.

During her senior year in high school, Rocky’s now-wife Breanna read a story about Rocky’s heart transplant. Twelve years later, they welcomed a healthy baby girl that they name Lyla. At six months, Lyla began sitting up and making grunting noises. Lyla’s heart health mirrored Rocky’s experiences 12 years earlier, and she was placed on the transplant list. At only 9 months of age, Lyla received her new heart. 

 It has now been six years since Lyla’s transplant and the Valentine family–which now includes 3-year-old Lily, who joined the family via adoption–celebrates two full recoveries this Valentine’s Day! Rocky is now a school superintendent at Sparta R-3 and Lyla is an active 7-year-old girl who loves swimming and playing with her sister.

The dynamic father-daughter duo are February’s featured survivors for #NoMOHeartDisease, the American Heart Association’s year-long initiative created to increase awareness and reduce the prevalence of heart disease in Missouri. They will also be featured survivors during theSouthwest Missouri Heart Walk, which will be held, Saturday, April 6 at Hammons Field.

#NoMOHeartDisease works to educate Missourians on changes they can make to prevent heart disease, while unifying heart disease survivors. 

Of why they chose to be part of the initiative, Rocky remarked, “My wife and I became involved with the American Heart Association shortly after our daughter received her heart transplant. My daughter and I have benefited first-hand from research funded by the AHA. #NoMOHeartDisease is an opportunity for us to use our experience to help educate people and reduce heart disease in Missouri. My hope is that people follow the initiative and become more involved in their own heart health.”

Each month, #NoMOHeartDisease focuses on a different heart disease survivor from Missouri. The survivor’s story is told through video, blog and social media, all of which can be found at heart.org/nomoheartdisease.