The Bionic Bride’s Journey Continues with the Texas Heart Institute
HOUSTON – Ally Babineaux – known as the “Bionic Bride™” – is an official ambassador for the Texas Heart Institute. Ally Babineaux was not born with heart disease. An avid athlete growing up, Ally began dancing ballet at the age of five and advanced to become a pre-professional ballet dancer by the age of 11; she continued to dance until the age of 17. Upon arriving at Texas A&M University at Galveston in 2006, Ally joined the Crew (rowing) team and subsequently competed in rowing competitions around the State of Texas.
During Ally’s freshman year in college, she fell ill and was ultimately diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that eats away at the heart muscles and causes heart failure. Initially, her primary symptom consisted of feeling faint, which caused her to sometimes pass out, but her symptoms later became so severe that they reached the point of Ally not being able to get out of bed on a frequent basis.
From 2007 to 2008, Ally received treatment at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, TX, where she began the stages of drug therapy designed to help improve her heart function. By the end of 2008, her heart condition had taken a turn for the worse, and she was transferred to the Texas Heart Institute’s Heart and Lung Transplant Center. At THI, she met her new doctor, Dr. Roberta Bogaev, who immediately placed Ally on another aggressive treatment of drug therapy for her heart failure. Ally did well on these drugs for about eight months, until her heart could no longer handle the medication, and her condition worsened again. In April of 2009, Ally was implanted with a Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD), which acts as a pump to replace the demand on the left side of the heart. This device was developed in order to provide the left ventricle heart muscles with a respite, allowing the heart to have a chance to recover. The LVAD is a continuous flow heart pump that moves blood throughout the body in the same manner as a normal heart; Ally was outfitted with the LVAD for a full 18 months.
Then, in January of 2011, Ally was admitted to the Texas Heart Institute due to excessive blood thinning as a result of bleeding in her brain. Ally’s heart’s left ventricle had healed with help of the LVAD, but the right side of her heart was now failing – resulting in numerous medical complications. Immediately, Ally was given 1A status on the heart transplant list; a few days passed, and Ally fell into a coma. Her entire body shut down organ by organ: her liver, kidneys, and lungs each began having complications due to poor blood circulation – a result of the failure of her right ventricle.
Just a month later, in February of 2011, Ally’s life changed forever when she received the gift of a lifetime – a healthy new heart. After a successful transplant, Ally still faced a challenging road ahead that consisted of intense rehab. After re-learning how to walk, talk, and write, Ally finally felt like she was able to begin to recoup the last four years of her life, which had felt like her body was at war with itself. She now possessed the freedom to live the life afforded to healthy 24-year-old peers of hers. Ally quickly returned to the active lifestyle she enjoyed prior to the onset of her health issues; she returned to college, began pursuing her hobbies of hunting and fishing for the first time in a long time, and finally was able to travel for fun again.
In the fall of 2013, however, Ally began to notice signs of her body rejecting the transplanted heart. She suffered from swelling of the ankles, shortness of breath, fatigue, and heart palpations. At this time, Ally received a diagnosis of vasculopathy, a medical term describing any disease affecting blood vessels. She was placed back on the heart transplant list in January of 2014 – this time with 1B status. After several subsequent stays at Texas Heart Institute in April and May of 2014, Ally was sent home so that she could work certain medications out of her system in order to be upgraded to 1A status on the transplant list. Then, on June 9, 2014, Ally moved to Texas Heart Institute until she could receive another heart transplant. Ally was placed in the ICU unit as a result of the medications she needed at the time. This admittance to THI kicked off a six-month ICU stay, during which Ally passed the time by walking, working on puzzles, watching movies, and visiting with friends and family. After five months, in November, Ally was told that she would be receiving a new heart. After a marathon 12-hour surgery, Ally received her second heart transplant. This time, her recovery after the transplant proved to be slightly easier and faster. However, Ally was left with no feeling in one leg and also had a damaged vocal cord. In order to regain her full voice, Ally had a gel implanted into her vocal cord every four months. She was finally released from the hospital in late December of 2014.
In 2019, Ally entered the EMS Academy at RC Health Services in order to advance her love for helping people through medicine. Graduating from the program in December of 2020, Ally is now a certified EMT. Since she became a heart failure patient years ago, Ally has focused on health and safety, including through her participation in Endurance Racing, which is an organization of car racing teams throughout the nation. In 2010, Ally helped bring Endurance Racing to Texas Heart Institute, coining and popularizing the team’s official motto, “Racing Against Heart Disease”. While on the team, Ally eventually took a role in becoming its fire safety worker. Over the years, Ally has met a host of people in the racing community and now works with several teams on fire safety that stretch from San Diego, California to Woodstock, Vermont. Ally’s EMT certification now means that she can act as a private EMT for the Endurance Racing teams she supports.
After myriad personal challenges overcome, since 2009, Ally has taken the opportunity to share her experience with heart disease and heart failure with others. In 2011, she procured the inspiration to start her own company, Bionic Bride, L.L.C., which she utilizes as a vehicle for motivational speaking on heart disease awareness in order to educate people of all ages. She has spoken to children in grade school, to women at conferences, and to families with a loved one who is waiting in the hospital for an LVAD or a transplant of his or her own.
“We are truly honored to work with Ally. She is giving back to the community and inspires us with her unwavering commitment to helping others, ” said the Director of the Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health Dr. Stephanie Coulter.
ABOUT TEXAS HEART INSTITUTE (THI)
The Texas Heart Institute, founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the devastating toll of cardiovascular disease through innovative and progressive programs in research, education, and improved patient care. THI’s scientists and physicians conduct fundamental biomedical, translational, and clinical research in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, molecular-based medicine, stem cell, and gene therapy, and regenerative medicine both independently and in collaboration with organizations worldwide. As global leaders of patient care for nearly six decades, Texas Heart Institute has been ranked among the top cardiovascular centers in the United States by U.S. News & World Report for the past 30 years. THI is dedicated to spreading awareness and sharing updates on ways to prevent, treat, and defeat cardiovascular disease. With over 10 million visitors coming to its website from around the world every year, www.texasheart.org is just one of the ways THI is helping to educate people on the importance of heart health. For more information, please visit https://www.texasheart.org.