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Walters brings awareness to heart disease

February 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Many of us know who Barbara Walters is, but you may not recall the scary ordeal she went through nearly a year ago.

Walters said she's literally pouring her heart out in the hopes that the people who are watching will start caring about their own hearts.

On the morning of Walters' surgery to replace a faulty aortic valve, the hospital journey felt silent and surreal.

"Strangely enough, I wasn't frightened," said Walters about not being sure she'd survive the surgery. "It was as if it wasn't happening to me. I also had this thought, 'if I die on the operating table I won't know it'."

Walters never imagined she'd ever need open heart surgery, and neither did a group of other well known heart patients she interviewed about the day their lives changed.

"In the case of someone like David Letterman who almost never gives interviews," said Walters. "And talks about how he felt and how he burst into tears just saying 'I'm alive'. And how he would not have had a son, had he not had this operation."

While Walters' interviews also included Bill Clinton, Regis Philbin and Robin Williams, she doesn't want to ignore a very important part of her audience.

"I also want to direct a lot of the program, and we did, to women," said Walters.

An informal survey on the street reveals many women are more concerned about cancer than heart disease. Experts tell us heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined.

"See I have cancer that runs in my family," said Los Feliz resident Madeline Schussel. "So that's my top concern. So I never really think about heart disease."

"You kind of always assume that those kind of cancers, or cancer in general, would be more than heart attacks," said Clearlake resident Olga Clymire. "For women too, heart attacks more so? Wow."

"We don't have EKGs," said Walters. "We don't have the same symptoms necessarily as men. Women are not just small men."

"We hope for both men and women that this will just save lives," said Walters. She also said that of all her specials, she truly considers this one a matter of life and death. "I think that this may be the most important special that I've ever done."

Catch the Barbara Walters special, "A Matter of Life and Death," Friday at 10 p.m. on ABC.