Carl Mays: Sometimes, bad things can become good things

Jul. 11, 2013 @ 11:57 PM

As I write this column prior to publication deadline, country singer Randy Travis is in critical condition at a Dallas hospital. He is being treated for viral cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition.

My wife Jean knows all about this condition. She is one of the few patients who have worked not only to overcome it but to defeat it almost entirely. She credits poison ivy, a physician assistant, some good physicians and her determination and hard work – all being God-led – for what her physicians call “an amazing recovery.”

With Randy Travis’ situation in the news, many print and electronic media are defining viral cardiomyopathy as a heart disease most commonly caused by conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and atherosclerosis. They are calling Travis’ condition “unique” since it was caused by a virus.

Dr. Carter King, cardiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, told media, “It’s a virus that directly infects the heart muscle and causes the heart to become weak. The list of viruses that can cause it are long, and many of the viruses cause other common problems like colds or flu. Just the right virus in the right person, sometimes causes cardiomyopathy.”

Dr. Guilherme Oliveira, cardiologist at University Hospitals Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute in Cleveland, said, “There’s no specific population that is more or less susceptible. We never know who is going to get it or when or what conditions. There are no predisposing risk factors that we know of. It could happen to anyone.”

Travis originally thought he was getting a cold.

In Jean’s case, she says God must have led her to get into some poison ivy on the outer edge of our yard, an area she had been in many times without incident. The rash and itching on her legs led her to go to our doctor, which led Jean to tell a physician assistant about her unusually high pulse rate.

The assistant checked. It was 99 at the time. An EKG was taken. The PA sent Jean to a cardiologist. The cardiologist took her to the hospital and personally administered an echocardiogram.

Jean was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, plus mitral valve prolapse.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “MVP occurs when the valve between heart’s left upper chamber (left atrium) and left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn’t close properly. During MVP the valve bulges (prolapses) upward, or back into the atrium. MVP sometimes leads to blood leaking backward into the left atrium...”

Jean’s heart was enlarged and working extremely hard to get her blood moving properly.

Jean had no idea she was in such a condition. After all, along with doing other cardiovascular exercise, she had been walking up and down our steep mountain road an hour and a half daily.

The first cardiologist was surprised at her extensive regime and told her she needed to walk no more than 30 minutes daily on level ground.

Jean cut her walking to one hour daily and didn’t walk as steep an incline. She began to take a couple of heart medications. She also changed her diet (and mine) and we cut down on eating out, positive for me also, decreasing my triglycerides and cholesterol to healthier levels.

Jean’s current cardiologist Dr. Roger Riedel and family physician Dr. Steve Johnson both told her that being in great physical shape when she caught the virus, along with her continued hard work and taking her meds, is why she has completely overcome mitral valve prolapse and almost 100 percent overcome cardiomyopathy.

She reminded them, “Put God first in the equation.” They agreed. They also agreed when she said, “Sometimes, bad things (poison ivy) can become very good things.” If she had not gone in for poison ivy treatment that day 13 years ago, who knows?

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit