Chehalis Woman Celebrates 80th Birthday More Than 50 Years After Doctors Predicted Her Heart Would Fail

Now a Great-Grandmother, Carla Wiseman Reflects on Discipline, Support That Helped Her Live With Cardiomyopathy

By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]

At 26 years old, Carla Wiseman, already a mother of three, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and told she likely had one year left to live.

This weekend, surrounded by her children, husband Robert, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Wiseman celebrated her 80th birthday. Sporting buffalo plaid, red spiral earrings and a straight, tall posture, it would be hard to guess she’s 80 — let alone that she calls getting there a “miracle.”

“I truly think that all of this family probably thought I would never make it to 80,” Wiseman said. “So, each birthday is a gift.”

Wiseman had all three of her children by age 22. Despite her youth, she found herself easily exhausted by the demands of everyday life and motherhood. After a small car accident sent her to the doctor, Wiseman’s cardiomyopathy was discovered and she started taking medication.

“I just kept taking medicine that the doctors gave me and that seemed to work. And I just kept doing everything they told me to do,” she said. “I’ve always paid attention to the details of what I should be doing and how to treat my body. … And pretty soon the kids were graduating from high school.”

Then, she said, they went to college. And got married. And had their own children. Time continued to fly, and now, the multi-generational family all lives near one another, with the farthest in Vancouver, Washington.

“We’re a big, rowdy family,” she laughed.

Within the first years following her diagnosis, Wiseman and her young family moved to Chehalis.

There, she and her husband began renting houses. While she recalls being hesitant to move to a town with “only one street” at the time, Wiseman now feels her health was helped by joining a tightly-knit group of friends, keeping busy with work, paying attention to diet and getting plenty of rest.

In a speech during her birthday party Saturday, Wiseman’s son, Todd, recalled the early days of his mother’s diagnosis: “Learning your life could well be a short journey must have been so scary. But the way in which my mom responded to this reality is such a good example for us all on how to actually live.”

Since the family’s move to Chehalis, Wiseman’s undergone two heart surgeries and had to cut out salt from her diet. She continues to work, but said she moves much more slowly. She said she’s very thankful to have a husband who has stepped up and completed tasks when she couldn’t.

Now, Wiseman hopes she can inspire others who are going through chronic illness. She tries to be forthcoming about her illness and encourages others who are struggling to follow their doctors’ orders strictly.

“When I was first in the doctor’s office in Tacoma, they had a list of heart surgeries, and it was like ten. That’s all he was doing in a month,” Wiseman recalled. “Think of that now — just think of all the stuff they can do.”

Wiseman proudly stated she’s now shooting for 85.