Connecticut Heart Disease Survivor Recognized by 'I am CardioSmart' Contest

Contact: Sam Roth,, 202-375-6582

WASHINGTON (Feb 28, 2018) -

Thirty-six hours after being born, Collette Sroka required open heart surgery. Sroka was born with transposition of the great arteries, often referred to as a “blue baby,” a highly complex congenital heart defect where the two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed. The surgery she received as a baby created an opening in her heart to allow more oxygen into her body, ultimately saving her life. Sroka’s incredible story has led the American College of Cardiology to recognize her in the “I am CardioSmart” contest.

At age 6, Sroka required a corrective surgery and received her second open heart surgery, called the Mustard procedure. The Mustard procedure, named for the surgeon who first performed the operation, corrects the direction of the blood flow from the left ventricle out of the right ventricle. 

Despite the early surgeries, living with a congenital heart defect has not been without its difficulties. At 19, Sroka had a pacemaker put in to help regulate her heart beats. At 40, she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which required a new pacemaker and a cardiac ablation procedure to destroy the tissue in her heart that was causing an abnormal heart rhythm.

Sroka began seeing her cardiologist, Lynda Rosenfeld, MD, FACC, at the Yale New Haven Hospital more often, whose message was clear and consistent: Take medication regularly, exercise often and eat a heart healthy diet.

“Being active, eating healthy, taking my medication and regular visits to my cardiologist have been the keys to my success,” Sroka said of her efforts to staying on top of her cardiovascular disease. 

Throughout her life, staying active and living “CardioSmart” have been a constant for Sroka. As a young adult, she got involved in Jazzercise and began going on daily walks.

“My advice to others would be to not let CHD define who you are,” Sroka said. “I never let the fact that I had CHD stop me from doing anything.”

Recently Sroka was diagnosed with heart failure and has been evaluated for a heart transplant. In March 2018, Sroka will have a pulmonary artery sensor implanted in to monitor signs of worsening heart failure. In response to this news, she has taken a careful look at her diet by lowering herself to less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day and walking a mile each day with her 90-year-old father-in-law.

Sroka makes sure to live her life surrounded by friends and family. “I’ve focused on the things that are meaningful in life,” Sroka said. “I have always remained positive even when things didn’t always look so good. Just by taking care of myself, I have lived well.”

CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the ACC. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with heart disease conditions. Five individuals are being recognized this year.

Sroka’s story of living CardioSmart will be featured on as a positive example to people living with heart disease. To read more about her story, visit

The four other “I am CardioSmart” contest finalists are Jared Blitz of Denver, Colorado; Melissa Cappuccilli of Carlsbad, California; Michael Melstad of Banks, Oregon, and Kathleen Thompson of Orange County, California.

To learn more about congenital heart defects, visit

The American College of Cardiology is the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College and its more than 52,000 members is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care, offers cardiovascular accreditation to hospitals and institutions, provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more, visit


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