On July 9, 2000 my mother, Veronica Blount died from complications of heart disease; she was 46 years old. In 2010, I experienced my first major heart episode resulting in a cardiac catheterization; I was 37 years old. Once released from the hospital I called my friends and asked them to meet me for lunch at a local restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate my mother's birthday. I asked the ladies to wear red shoes in support of the American Heart Association and Heart Month. I treated everyone to lunch and in return I asked them to make a donation to AHA in memory of my mother.
As they passed the iPad around the table, each making a donation on my mom’s memorial page on the AHA's website, I recall being filled with emotion. It was just days prior to this event that I realized what happened to my mother could happen to me. I reflected on the history of women in my family; each dying younger than their mother. My mother's mother was just 51 years old when she died. It was in this moment, in this restaurant surrounded by these strong women whom I called my friends - these women whom with little notice dawned their sexiest red shoes and came out to help support me and my very personal initiative that I decided that I would not be a victim of heart disease. I understood the hereditary aspect and I understood my odds, but my mother's death was a warning to me. Unfortunately, no other woman in my family before me had taken the hint. Maybe if I hadn't been rushed to the hospital where I laid on that cold operating room table in Atlanta and heard the nurses refer to me as "the young girl", just as the nurses back in Baltimore ten years prior had referred to my mother, then maybe I too would have missed the message.
I can’t say that I excelled at the perfect healthy lifestyle; in fact there were many times I fell short; however, there was so much I changed in regards to my lifestyle and diet. If nothing else, I kept every appointment with my Cardiologist and treated those appointments sacred. I believe that by the time my mother collapsed on the floor at her job when she was just 43 years old, it was too late for her. It would not only be the first day she’d ever miss work; it would be the last day she’d ever return. Over the next 3 years after my mother's incident, our family endured multiple quadruple bypass surgeries and her chest scars had become a part of her personality. She would often burst the stitches right after surgery from laughing so hard. In fact, she was doing just that when she died, she was laughing at a Tyler Perry movie and the peanut she was eating became lodged in her throat. Even though she was able to cough it up and family members were able to immediately assist with medical attention, those few seconds were more than her weak heart could handle. A lady with one of the biggest hearts in the world died because her big heart wasn’t strong enough. I feel that if my mom had sought medical care much earlier than that tragic day she collapsed to the floor, then she too would have lived a longer life, like David Letterman. The late night host underwent his quadruple bypass just days before my mother and he was back on the air joking about how easy it was. It wasn’t easy for her and she was much younger than he. Why did he give us false hope? Why did my mother have to die?
I decided to make this lunch an annual event, growing it each year by inviting more people. Among those who knew me, I became the unofficial poster-child for the American Heart Association, leading a fight to educate and inform. I knew my stats, I knew the signs, yet I was still trying to graduate from my every 2 month appointments with the cardiologist to 3 months and then even to 6 month appointments, but I could never get myself to yearly appointments which was the goal. In June 2014, now at the age of 41 I was experiencing some sort of illness, I thought it was a bug bite so I drowned some Benadryl and ignored warnings from others that I needed to go to the hospital. Even when the entire left side of my body stopped functioning properly and I couldn’t even unzip my jeans to use the bathroom, I denied that it was anything cardiac related. I was four years into being the local “Poster-Child” for AHA and I knew FAST (Face, Arms, Speech and Time), but not me; it was a bug bite.
Well on that day, I vaguely remember an EMT pulling me from my running car that was pulled to the side of a gas station in Suwanee, Georgia. I remember them talking to me, but I could not talk. I remember them yelling code red on the walkie talkie and saying something about “coming in hot” to the hospital. I remember trying to talk to them and they were telling me to hold on. When I opened my eyes there were a group of doctors surrounding me, one was a Neurologist and another was shining a bright light into my eyes. I could hear myself speaking but the words sounded like a tape recorder that was dragging; it didn’t sound like me at all. I began to panic and then caught a look at myself in the mirror over the sink and I realized my entire face was drooping. I went into full panic mode and woke up sometime that evening in a bed on the intensive care floor. I remember my friend, my brother and my son being in the room at some point. The nurse said to me “I heard the call come in over the loud speaker and I knew you would be my patient tonight, but I didn’t know you would be so young.”
Heart disease is not fair, it’s literally the lady killer, killing more women than all cancers combined. African American women have a higher risk factor than any other race. I have vowed to make it my mission to spread the word as much as possible. Along with my relatively small group of family and friends, we’ve raised funds to support the American Heart Association. It’s not a large dollar amount in comparison to what the large corporations and organizations give, but it’s a very big deal to me. I view all donations as a gift to my mother; after all, the lunch is held the last Saturday of February to acknowledge National Heart Month, but also to celebrate her life for her birthday. These gifts no matter how small are more than I could ever gift my mom, even if she was alive. It means so much to me that people give in memory of a woman whom most of them have never met.
If you are here for the first time, thank you and please consider making a donation to support a necessary cause. If you are returning, thank you and welcome back! Please know that your continued support is greatly appreciated.
-Love, Veronica’s Daughter xoxo
THE RED SHOE LUNCH:
My Personal Web Log
10th Anniversary Red Shoe Lunch
The 10th Anniversary Red Shoe Lunch will be held on February 29, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. I am humbled to reach this milestone. On the day of the event, I will officially be 2 months older than my mother when she died, breaking the family curse where the women do not live longer than their mothers. Please join me on this special today to celebrate the survivors of heart disease and remember those whom we loss. - Veronica's Daughter
by Veronica Blount on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 @ 11:36 PM
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