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From story to art: Healing the hole in Heidi’s heart

Our patients inspire us to get better at our craft every day. Inspired by their stories, we challenged local artists to create unique works of heart. That’s how Heidi Easley and Laragh Gallagher met — at the intersection of art and medicine.

Heidi Easley always been a creative spirit. But even as an artist and entrepreneur, she had no idea the healing role art would play in her life.

After doctors discovered a hole in Heidi’s heart, surgeons at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Fort Worth sealed the hole using an innovative minimally invasive procedure. But that’s not where Heidi’s story ends. As she adjusted to life after surgery, painting became a form of healing. Through art, she has found the strength she needed to move forward.

Inspired by Heidi’s own illustrations, artist Laragh Gallagher painted a portrait that symbolizes the closing of the hole in her heart — and pays tribute to the healing power of art.

The Story: Discovering the hole in her heart

There were other little signs along the way, but Heidi first knew something was truly wrong when she suddenly experienced partial vision loss for more than 10 minutes.

“I started crying hysterically and then it felt as if my brain was squeezing in on itself,” she said. “I realized that my health, my life, may change forever.”

At first, Heidi was diagnosed with an ocular migraine. But after coming to a cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Fort Worth for a second opinion, doctors discovered she had actually experienced a transient ischemic attack, or “mini stroke.” The stroke was a result of a patent foramen ovale (PFO), an opening between the upper chambers of Heidi’s heart.

“Explore."

“Before birth, everyone has a hole in their heart to allow blood to bypass fetal lungs,” Farhan Ali, MD, interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Fort Worth, said. “The hole closes up on its own for most newborns, but for one in four people the hole remains. Millions with a PFO live their whole lives without problems, but the opening can potentially allow dangerous clots to travel up to the brain and cause a stroke.”

“Pray BIG! Expect miracles! And be grateful for everything because you don’t know what is around the corner.”

Heidi was the first patient in Texas to undergo a minimally invasive closure procedure using the AMPLATZER™ PFO Occluder, the only FDA-approved device designed to seal this type of opening and prevent blood clots from entering the brain.

Today, Heidi is healthy and enjoying life with her family and a thriving business that empowers other female artists. As healing and uplifting as art has been for her throughout her journey, she hopes to use art to inspire others.

As she continues to live life to the fullest, Heidi’s eyes are fixed forward.

“Pray BIG! Expect miracles! And be grateful for everything because you don’t know what is around the corner,” she said.

The Art: From one artist to another

When Laragh Gallagher first spoke with Heidi, it was an instant artist-to-artist connection. By day, Laragh applies her creative talents in the marketing world. Outside of the office, she is becoming known for her raw, real portrait style.

Laragh approached Heidi’s portrait with the same intensity of emotion, drawn out by bold, contrasting colors and thick, dark lines. She also found a way to honor Heidi as an artist by incorporating patterns and brushwork unique to her own artistic style.

With both of Heidi’s eyes surrounded by hearts — and each heart featuring a small loop at its center — the painting symbolizes the hole in her heart that was repaired by our care team.

When people see the portrait and hear her story, Heidi hopes they feel inspired to keep looking forward, no matter life’s challenges.

“Hopefully this will inspire people,” she said. “I want them to know that if they have something like this happen, it’s traumatizing and scary and awful in the moment. But there’s a way to make that your path and not your future.”

Discover more works of heart, inspired by patients like Heidi.

About the author

Grace Glausier
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Grace Glausier is a senior digital engagement strategist for Baylor Scott and White Health. A graduate of Baylor University, she is passionate about connecting people through powerful stories and empowering individuals toward better health.

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From story to art: Healing the hole in Heidi’s heart