I was born on my Grandpa Ed’s 56th birthday. Though I had a large extended family, with multiple cousins, March 4th was always a day shared by just Grandpa and me. Like many young children, I assumed the adults in my life were invincible. My first memory involving any illness of an adult was when Grandpa had a cardiac event after my 4th birthday (his 60th) at Chuck E. Cheese. He went on to live many more years, though he struggled with Type 2 Diabetes and ultimately some other minor cardiac events through the years. In 2000, he had a major heart attack that led to triple bypass heart surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital (now the hospital where I work). Postoperatively he suffered another heart attack and was urgently taken for repeat surgery. Though he discharged from the hospital, he was never the same. His multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease were compounded with the trauma of multiple surgeries; vascular dementia ensued. He ultimately passed in 2007.
Around the same time that Grandpa had surgery, I also had a scare with my dad’s health. I was at home practicing for the Father-Daughter Dance that we were going to perform that night at half-time of the boys’ basketball game. I got a call from my step-mom and that my dad was in the hospital in Eugene and wouldn’t make it back that night. He had struggled with heart palpations for several years. While driving down I-5 to Eugene for work, his heart had an arrhythmia that caused him to pass out at the wheel. Fortunately, his foot slipped off the gas and he slowly drifted toward the center median (only one small stretch of this freeway has such a median!) while another driver watched and called 9-1-1. He went on to struggle with atrial fibrillation (A.Fib) for several years, frequently requiring a SHOCK to get him back in rhythm. He finally decided to have an ablation procedure done to fix the abnormal circuitry in his heart; this was done just two days before my wedding. He continues to live a healthy life with no skipped beats. Most importantly, he is healthy enough to see my kids growing up.
Though the stories of my dad and grandpa come to mind, I know our family is not the only one affected by heart disease. As an OBGYN, I work very hard every day (as well as many nights and weekends) to prevent adverse health outcomes for my patients. I’ve done hundreds of pap smears to prevent cervical cancer. I order mammograms and do breast exams to prevent breast cancer. But the truth is, HEART DISEASE is the number cause of death both worldwide and in the US. Heart disease takes more women’s lives than all cancers combined.
I run for many reasons. Let’s be honest, I run so that I can fit in those tight jeans, I run to counteract that bowl of ice cream, and I run so I can get the free t-shirt. However, after feeling the effects of two pregnancies and my mid-30s on my body, I now run to feel better. I run to sweat out my toxins, to strengthen my muscles, to condition my heart, and to breathe fresh air. I run to be a role model for my patients and my kids. I run so that I can be healthy enough to watch my Owen & Emma grow up and someday have children of their own. This October, I will run 26.2 miles in The Chicago Marathon. I am running this race on the Run with Heart Team and will be raising money for The American Heart Association. By helping me fundraiser for this organization, your donation will support such life-saving efforts as research, education, advocating for better health, improving patient care and reaching populations at risk.
Thank you for your contribution. I heart you.