He's Back on Track, His Spirit — and Heart — Intact

When a heart condition meant he needed a mechanical valve, Zeke Mankins didn't let it slow him down one little bit.

Healthy Heart|Oct.06, 2021

The Old Testament prophecies of Ezekiel 36:26 speak directly to the renewing testament of technology found in Zeke 56.15.

Both are blessings living in Ezekiel "Zeke" Mankins, Texas teenager and burgeoning track star, the adopted son of Christian missionaries Chad and Janeene.

They are eternally thankful he is here. We all are.

It hasn't always been easy.

Zeke, 13, is an athlete. From roaming fields and trails in a remote mountain village in Papua New Guinea — where, early in his life, his parents took their family to spread their word — to football in Texas where the Friday night lights are always brighter, he always had been active with his siblings (ages 16, 10 and 3) and friends.

Then came sixth grade. Chest pains. Diagnosis of a heart murmur.

The cause: A severely leaking mitral valve.

The cause of the cause: Asymptomatic strep throat and rheumatic fever combining to damage his mitral valve. He had inflammation around his heart. He had an enlarged left ventricle. He was in so much pain he had to sleep sitting up.

By then, it was too late for medication and natural healing to reverse the devastation to Zeke's heart.

"His whole heart problem just shocked us, took us off guard," Janeene told the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate.

His cardiologist, Dr. Alan Sing, and his surgeon, Dr. Robert Jaquiss, at Dallas Children's Hospital recommended that Zeke have a Masters mechanical heart valve put in to restore his heart's functioning.

"I just knew that God had a purpose and that I had to have that surgery," Zeke told the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate.

The timeline from that procedure … to him healing and getting back to full strength ("For six weeks, he couldn't do any activity," Janeene said.) … to really getting his legs under him … to competing at an elite level …

It all races by like Zeke on the track: A blur.

  • Summer 2020: Masters valve goes in.
  • Spring 2021: He's on the mend and on the way back.
  • Summer 2021: He's on the track, competing against some of the nation's best sprinters at the AAU Junior Olympics with his Eagles Elite Track Club teammates.

"He's not just running, he's running at an incredible level," Chad told Dallas Children's. "It's amazing to see how healthy he is and how strong he is, and that even after all he has gone through, he is able to keep up with the kids in his track club."

His new valve meant Zeke had to hand off his dream of being a football wide receiver — mechanical heart valves and contact sports don't mix — and pick up the baton handed him on the track.

And now?

He is soaring, setting his sights higher. As he has transitioned from football to track, he also has adjusted his dream of being a pilot from Air Force fighter jets to commercial airliners. When one cockpit closes, another cabin door opens.

"From the moment I first met Zeke, his positive attitude and resilience have been truly inspiring," Dr. Sing told Dallas Children's. "He has not let his heart condition limit his passions or dreams."

So, yes, when Ezekiel 36:26 begins, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you," it reaches — directly — two millennia later to Zeke 56.15, his time (in seconds) for his leg in the 4x400 relay at those Junior Olympics in Houston, helping his team to a 3:45.34 finish, Top 20 nationally.

And so it is. And so it shall be.




The SJM™ Masters Series Mechanical Heart Valve is intended for use as a replacement valve in patients with a diseased, damaged, or malfunctioning aortic or mitral heart valve. This device may also be used to replace a previously implanted prosthetic heart valve

The SJM™ Masters Series Mechanical Heart Valve is contraindicated for individuals unable to tolerate anticoagulation therapy.


  • For single use only. Attempts to reuse the valve may result in valve malfunction, inadequate sterilization, or patient harm.
  • Do not use if:

- The valve has been dropped, damaged, or mishandled in any way
- The expiration date has elapsed.
- The tamper-evident container seal or inner/outer tray seals are damaged, broken or missing.

  • Remove any residual tissue that may impair valve size selection, correct seating of the valve, rotation of the valve, or leaflet motion.
  • Proper valve size selection is crucial. Do not oversize the valve. If the native annulus measurement falls between two SJM™ Masters Series Mechanical Heart Valve sizes, use the smaller size SJM™ Masters Series Mechanical Heart Valve.
  • Use only St. Jude Medical™ mechanical heart valve sizers.
  • The outer tray is not sterile, and should not be placed in the sterile field.
  • To minimize direct handling of the valve during implantation, do not remove the holder/rotator until the valve has been seated in the annulus.
  • Do not use hard or rigid instruments to test leaflet mobility, as this may result in structural damage to the valve or thromboembolic complications. Use a St. Jude Medical™ leaflet tester to gently test valve leaflet mobility.
  • Place sutures in the outer half of the valve sewing cuff
  • Never apply force to the valve leaflets. Force may cause structural damage to the valve.
  • Use only SJM™ Valve Holder/Rotators to perform valve rotation. Use of other instruments could result in structural damage. The valve holder/rotator is intended for single use only and should be discarded after surgery.
  • The two retention sutures on the valve holder/rotator must be cut and removed before the SJM™ Masters Series Mechanical Heart Valve can be rotated.
  • Do not pass catheters or other instruments through St. Jude Medical™ mechanical heart valves. This could result in scratched or damaged valve components, or leaflet fracture or dislodgment.
  • Cut suture ends short, especially in the vicinity of the pivot guards, to prevent leaflet impingement.
  • Three cases of impeded leaflet motion not satisfactorily explained were reported in a survey of 149 centers reporting on 4,934 patients implanted over a period of three (3) years. A number of other cases occurred early in the investigation of this prosthesis; however, the rates of occurrence are not statistically determinable.


  • Do not touch the prosthetic valve unnecessarily, even with gloved hands. This may cause scratches or surface imperfections that may lead to thrombus formation.
  • Be careful not to cut or tear the valve sewing cuff when removing the identification tag and the holder/rotator from the SJM™ Masters Series Mechanical Heart Valve.
  • Before placing sutures in the valve sewing cuff, verify that the valve is mounted correctly on the valve holder/rotator.
  • To avoid structural damage, the valve must be rotated in the fully closed position.
  • To minimize rotational torque, verify that the valve holder/rotator is properly seated in the valve, and that the valve holder handle is perpendicular to the valve (Figures 15a and 15b).
  • Remove any loose suture or thread, which may be a source of thrombus or thromboembolism.

Complications associated with replacement mechanical heart valves include, but are not limited to: hemolysis; infections; thrombus; or thromboembolism; valve dehiscence; unacceptable hemodynamic performance; hemorrhagic complications secondary to anticoagulation therapy; prosthetic failure; and heart failure or death

Any of these complications may require reoperation or explantation of the device.