Katrina got involved with Heart Walk through her employer, Detroit Medical Center (DMC).DMC and its parent company, Tenet Healthcare, have been long-time supporters of the American Heart Association in Detroit, Dallas and across the nation.
One year Katrina was asked to lead the local Heart Walk effort at Detroit Medical Center – a job she was concerned would be hard to fit in with her other responsibilities. It didn’t take very long for Katrina to realize this job was "in the cards and a divine order…it was destined to be part of my journey." Katrina had lost her 29-year-old brother to a heart attack years earlier, and she dedicated her Heart Walk volunteerism to his memory.
Within a short time, Katrina was walking for a completely different person, herself. At age 44, she suffered a stroke while having lunch at work.
"I had just finished up giving a group of students a tour of the facility. I came back after the program and joined a couple of the nurses who were having lunch in our office. I had just pulled out my bag lunch and was unwrapping the sandwich. It fell out of my hand. It happened a couple times. I got this weird feeling. They talk about this state of confusion; I was aware of everyone but felt like I was moving slow. Let me get up - maybe I'm just eating too late - let me try to shake this off. I could hear one of the nurses ask me where I was going….I had my keys and lunch and mini-can of pop in one hand and was attempting to open my office door. Then I just felt my body collapsing. The nurses got me before I hit the floor. Within a few minutes I was able to speak. They immediately got a wheelchair, and the stroke team came out right away in the ER. The MRI revealed I had a stroke and the Doppler test found a blocked carotid artery. Plaque had traveled through my MCA and didn't get through. Since I had less than a 50% block they treated it through medication. I didn’t have high blood pressure, cholesterol and wasn’t diabetic. The doctors determined I was pre-disposed to heart disease given my family’s history including my brother and other family members with cardiovascular disease.”
Katrina is now a six-year survivor, but is honest about the hurdles of embracing a new lifestyle. “You come out with all of this resolve about living healthier. It's a challenge every day - I love food. I made quite a few changes and then slipped back into old habits.” But over the last three years she has cut out soda, fried foods and sugar, thanks in part to one of DMC’s in-house health challenges. “I now eat my regular food in moderation. I wanted to create a lifestyle. I needed to look at things differently and the long term impact on me and my daughter.”
She said, “The Heart Walk gave me a reason to want to carry the message of health and wellness - it provided that for me. It provided me with the drive for me to carry a torch for this work. The education and information that's out there because of the American Heart Association about prevention and signs and symptoms that can be shared is so important.”
Beyond the prevention awareness, Katrina also believes that the advocacy and policy work the American Heart Association does to effect change is critical. “That's very meaningful for me. For me to raise funds to support this work, I'm creating longevity for myself and others. I'm saving a life - a life that could be one of my family members."
“Being part of the walk keeps me motivated and gives me a purpose. We go a lifetime trying to figure what our purpose is and now I'm clear. The Heart Walk allows me to know I am not alone in this fight. And to honor people who didn't have the tools and resources I was blessed to have - every year research is done and things advance and we find other ways to improve upon previous findings and more lives are saved. Just to know I'm not alone and that I'm allowed to be here today because those people paved the way for me to be the recipient of the advances in technology that saved me. As long as I have breath I will be involved. I'm not just doing it for myself, I'm doing it for the next people. I'm saving them just like I was saved. (Walk day) is a day I look forward.”