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Country singer Randy Travis remains in critical condition after being hospitalized Sunday with a heart infection called viral cardiomyopathy.

Webster & Associates Public Relations & Marketing confirms the 54-year-old country music legend underwent placement of a heart pump called an IMPELLA peripheral left ventricular assist device. The device stabilized Travis prior to transferring hospitals, according to the news release.

Viral cardiomyopathy occurs when a virus attacks and weakens the heart muscle. It is relatively common, and usually clears up on its own.

High blood pressure, diabetes, genetics, nutritional deficiencies, and excess alcohol consumption over many years can cause the condition. But doctors say it can also affect healthy people without warning.

Twenty-three years ago, WFAA audio specialist Wally Wawro thought he had a lingering cold. "I was gaining weight for unknown reasons," he recalled. "My legs were swelling... particularly my ankles. And I was running out of breath, and all I wanted to do was sleep."

That's how many patients say they feel when a common virus attacks their heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms include:

  • breathlessness with exertion or even at rest
  • swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
  • bloating of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
  • fatigue
  • irregular heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting

"I was in shock," Wawro said after learning the cause of his illness. "You really can't explain it, because it hits you like a ton of bricks."

Randy Travis received a device to help his failing heart function. Wally Wawro lived for many years on medication, then a pacemaker, and eventually received an implanted left ventricular device, or LVAD.

He had a heart transplant in 2007.

"All of it from a simple virus that I have no idea how I got," Wawro said.

Now 61, Wawro's hands still tremble from anti-rejection medicine. But his heart, words, and work sing of survival from viral cardiomyopathy.

"We are very thankful to the fans for their love and support during this time, said Randy Travis, according to his public relations firm. Cards and well wishes can be sent to:

Randy Travis
266 Blanks Road
Tioga, Texas 76271

Several country stars conveyed their best wishes for Travis' recovery.

"Sending healing strength and love to you this morning @randytravis," Keith Urban said in a message to Travis on Twitter.

And Carrie Underwood, with whom Travis won a Grammy Award in 2010, wrote: "Thinking about my friend, @randytravis, tonight. Hope he gets better soon..."

Long a popular figure in country music, the North Carolina-born singer has been trying to put his life back together after a series of embarrassing public incidents involving alcohol. Travis pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in January following an arrest last year and received two years probation and a $2,000 fine. He was required to spend at least 30 days at an alcohol treatment facility and complete 100 hours of community service.

The multiple Grammy Award-winning singer rode his alternately mellow and majestic voice to stardom in the 1980s and `90s with hits like "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Three Wooden Crosses."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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