Rocket, one half of the MIX 93.3 FM radio morning show along with Teresa, has been transparent about his heart health problems, but chatting with him almost three months after receiving a clean bill of health from James Mitchell, a cardiologist at North Kansas City Hospital, it’s apparent he has a spring in his step.

The radio personality and Northland resident went into congestive heart failure in December 2019 after experiencing life-threatening complications from undiagnosed bicuspid aortic valve disease, a rare condition affecting 1% to 2% of the population. BAVD is a birth defect that’s twice as common in men. It occurs when the aortic valve has two leaflets instead of the three needed to properly regulate the heart’s blood flow.

“More than a year ago, I was feeling fatigued and thought it was my asthma,” he said. “I thought it would go away, but my daughter told me to go the nearest emergency room.”

Little did Rocket know that he had this his whole life.For Mitchell, seeing Rocket when he did, the doctor was able to diagnosed the condition quickly and start the process of getting Rocket back to health.

“I knew I was in congestive heart failure,” Rocket said. “I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, but then my daughter said she wanted to be a mother and I needed to be around to be a grandfather. I straightened up and realized I would be in to get myself up and healthy enough for heart surgery.”

Mitchell performed a successful artificial heart valve procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

“I saw the signs of shortness of breath and the fluid being retained in the body,” Mitchell said. “I knew there was a valve not closing and opening right. The process for this valve replacement is done under sedation where the work is done through a cut in the groin and takes about 35 to 45 minutes as this new valve anchors in. The recovery time is shorter. Most people go home the next day.”

Meritas Health cardiology department has performed around 300 of these replacements as the group marks its sixth year.Mitchell said he knows due to the pandemic, people have been putting off doctor’s appointments, but they need to listen to their hearts.

“I know there is a lot of fear and I know there is heart disease going untreated,” he said. “They are symptomatic and it’s hard to get back to normal because their symptoms have gone to a more severe degree. We are taking as many precautions as possible with COVID. I really want people living a healthy life.”

Rocket understands trepidation with doctors.

“It’s hard to go to the doctors because you are worried about all the things that are wrong with you,” Rocket said. “However, don’t be afraid of doctors.”

Rocket said 2020 provided difficulties during his recovery as gyms were closed and rehab was not open.Rocket is appreciative of the Kansas City radio community.

“We aim to laugh,” he said. “The support has been overwhelming. It kept me going. I knew I was on prayer chains all over the country. People do care for me.

“I want people to learn to read a label on food products to look for healthy food choices,” Rocket said. “I want them to listen to their bodies, go to the doctor. You only have one life and your heart is the No. 1 priority.”

And being around for his daughter? Now Rocket gets to add the title of grandfather as his daughter had a baby girl last week.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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