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85-year-old woman pushes to walk again so she can volunteer at local elementary school

85-year-old woman pushes to walk again so she can volunteer at local elementary school
Posted at 7:48 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 11:46:24-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Each step is especially important for 85-year-old Shirley Johnson. Shirley’s headed to Rivera Elementary for the Kindergarten graduation. She’s volunteered there for seven years, walking to and from the school almost every day. But she wasn’t sure she’d make it for this year’s ceremony.

“I only took one day at a time, and built up strength one day at a time, I couldn’t project too far ahead,” Johnson said.

This short walk almost killed Shirley a few months ago. She stopped halfway, unable to breathe One of the valves in her heart wasn't working.

“I was so swollen, I couldn’t get my shoes on, I was like the little dough girl,” Johnson said.

Her doctor, Kapildeo Lotun, replaced her heart valve by going through her groin, instead of opening her chest. He’s the first to bring this procedure to tucson, and without it, Shirley might’ve died. This is her first walk since then, so Dr. Lotun and his nurse decided to join her.

“To experience with someone who actually benefits from this procedure is amazing,” said Dr. Lotun, Structural Heart Program Director, at Carondelet Health Network

Shirley quickly made her way to the graduation ceremony. Her perseverance rewarded by the kindergarteners' excited welcome.

“We do so many procedures on so many people, but this is why we do this," Dr. Lotun said. "We do this to improve people’s lives.”

Shirley wasn't the only one who took steps that day.

“May it continue, may they grow," Johnson said. "May they grow and be good kind, lovely little citizens.”