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Murray Journal

Murray resident appreciates life-saving heart surgery that helped her survive 98 years

May 30, 2022 04:51PM ● By Peri Kinder

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

LaDawn Powell’s life has been a series of miracles. Born on May 11, 1924, in Huntington, Utah, Powell weighed only three pounds. Her grandmother, who was a midwife, placed Powell on the open oven door to keep her warm. At the time, no one knew her heart hadn’t developed correctly.

Her first heart attack happened when she was 14. She had to stay in bed for two years to give her heart time to heal. Her second heart attack occurred when she was living with her husband, Deon, in California. She’d been told by doctors in Utah to move to California, thinking the environment would be better for her heart condition.

“The doctors asked me why I was in California when the heart doctors are better in Utah,” Powell said. “So we moved back to Utah because the doctors in Salt Lake were really smart.”

One of those doctors was Dr. Russell Nelson, a reputable heart surgeon and now the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He performed a heart valve replacement on Powell when she was 32. She was terrified of the surgery, which involved cutting into her back and removing a rib to get to her heart.

“I was so afraid,” she said, “but I had to have it done so I could have a little family.”

Powell has had several heart surgeries in her lifetime, including seven pacemakers. Now, at 98 years old, Powell has survived heart trauma, a brain tumor and a serious car accident that could have ended her life. She said it just hasn’t been her time to go.

“The dear Lord just doesn’t want me right now,” she said. “I’ve got to finish what He sent me to do and when I’m done, goodbye!”

Powell’s bright blue eyes and wide smile are a reflection of a life she’s thoroughly enjoyed. A longtime Murray resident, Powell worked at Don’s Drive-In near Murray High School when she was in her 50s. She enjoyed seeing the high school students, even when it embarrassed her son, Chris.

In previous years, she worked in an ammunition factory during WWII and in her 70s she packaged medical supplies with a team of women before being told she couldn’t work anymore because of her “leaky heart.”

“I just broke down and cried because I was having so much fun working with those young girls,” Powell said.

She and her husband raised three children, two girls and a boy, and she has 12 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. She’s proud of the fact that she has all her original teeth, minus one, and only one filling.

When her husband died in June 1988, Powell was devastated. They’d been married at the age of 20 when he returned from the war, and he was the love of her life.

“I had the most wonderful husband,” she said. “He helped me in any and every way. He took care of me many, many times. He and I had a lot of fun together. I wouldn’t trade what we had for nothing.”

Powell said she’s not sure why she’s still around, but she’s grateful for every day. She thinks the Lord has more for her to do, and that might include writing her life story. On her 98th birthday, surrounded by friends and family at her home in Murray, Powell looked back at the way the world has changed since she was born in her grandmother’s home in 1924.

“Even now I thank Him,” Powell said. “I know my time is going fast. I never dreamed I’d be this old. I’ve had the most wonderful life.”