A Superb Second Act
At 32, Natalie Rose Havens has already had a star career as an opera singer. But last January, a cardiac event threatened to derail it. She tells us how she rebounded.
How did you find out you had a heart problem and would need treatment?
I went to get a physical done, and the doctor at the urgent care told me I had a weird or an abnormal heart murmur. They sent me to get a cardiac MRI, which is a two-hour, intense process. After that they told me I had a mitral valve prolapse, a birth defect that led to a severe enlargement of the left ventricle. So I would need heart surgery.
What did you go through, mentally and emotionally, after hearing that news?
Emotionally, it’s scary—I am very transparent about the fact that you worry that you’re going to die, or you think, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to be opened up, and I’m so young.’ A lot of things went through my head. But everybody reacts in their own way. I think it’s critical for people going through that experience to have a support system that doesn’t make them feel that their reaction is too intense or wrong in some way.
Were you able to fully rebound after surgery? How do you feel now?
After the surgery, one of my vocal cords was not back to its full function at first. But after working with a speech therapist and making a full recovery, I made an audition video for Anita in “West Side Story.” And I ended up getting the job. Besides that, I have slowed down to control my stress level, and my husband and I are conscientious about what we eat. But I’m never going to stop singing. It’s very rare for a professional singer to have major heart surgery and continue to pursue their career—but I’m happy to be that singer.This is a paid partnership between Go Red For Women and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio