EXCLUSIVE: The Woodlands' Julieta Valdes joins VYPE to talk road to recovery, community support
HOUSTON - It's been a long three weeks for Julieta Valdes.
The Woodlands High School freshman has spent them laid up in a hospital bed at Texas Children's Houston recovering from sudden cardiac arrest, which she suffered on May 3 while working out.
It has been a tough road, including having to be helped to just walk down the hall again, but Valdes says she is feeling great about her progress.
"Good, I'm really happy to be getting to my release date and getting to go home," "It's been a long three weeks. I'm feeling great, I'm finally off tubes and I'm really excited. My mom and I are really anxious to go home. I'm working really hard towards that."
On May 3, Valdes was doing push-ups when it all happened.
According to Valdes' post on her GoFundMe page she has always lived with arrhythmia, an abnormal beating of the heart. In an instant with her sister by her side, her heart stopped.
Valdes doesn't remember anything from that day as her family has had to fill in the blanks. She was told she stood up and then collapsed and that's when her sister and eventually first responders sprung into action.
"I would not be here or even as healthy and cognoscente without them," Valdes said. "There's a lot of people that survive the attack but not everyone still have full cognoscente or physical abilities. It's all due to how fast my sister and my mom responded and how fast the first responders came and did their jobs.
"I'm here today and talking to you as well as I am because of them. I could never say enough thank yous to them for everything they've done. It's incredible what they did and how fast they came and how they handled everything."
Since Valdes has woken up and recovered from multiple surgeries, there have been rounds of physical therapy that she has had to go through.
The process has been mentally tough for the freshman at times.
"I woke up and I was very lost," Valdes said. "The last image I had was being home, my family, playing volleyball and being happy. I wake up and I'm in the hospital with all these machines attached to me. My first reaction was not the greatest. I was a little anxious. It's been a long road.
"I definitely wish I wouldn't have taken things for granted. It's not easy to do all the things we do every day. I never realized that until you don't have that anymore and have to work up to it. Like getting up and out of bed, I'm still not able to do that. It's hard mentally to go from being an athlete to not being able to use the restroom by myself or breathe on my own ... It's been tough, we're getting there. We're making progress."
For Valdes, the next steps are in place for her on the road to recovery.
In the next two months, Valdes said she is not allowed to do anything too hard. She can improve her walking speed and distance but she has a hematoma where she had her surgery, so currently she cannot lift her arms.
"I know for the next six weeks after I go home, I can't do much," Valdes said. "It's just trying to work on simple mobility things that won't harm me. I'm not sure what the path will look like but it will be prolonged. But whatever it takes."
Since Valdes went into the hospital, the volleyball community has rallied around her and her family.
The GoFundMe page, which was set up just days after her cardiac arrest, originally had a goal of $25,000. They blew past that goal within a day. Currently, they have raised $53,380 of a now $75,000 goal.
"It was amazing to see all the support that we received," Patricia De La Garza, Julieta's mother, said. "The support from the volleyball community, friends and family. I didn't expect it. It was amazing to see the love, the prayers, the calls and the texts that I received during the process. For me it was very important to feel that support because I was alone in the hospital.
"Having people checking on her condition, I didn't feel alone during this process. Seeing people supporting us and seeing what we needed was very kind and unexpected."
There has also been an outpouring of support on social media from across the state, which all means a lot to Valdes and her family.
"It's truly amazing," Valdes said. "I never expected anything like this to happen to me. I'm usually the person on the computer reading other people's stories and commenting and giving them my prayers. Being on the other end and receiving so much support from people I look up to from all over the country is amazing to see how many people I have rooting for me. I can not give enough thank yous."