by Cori Hilsgen
More than 500 walkers registered for the American Heart Association Heart Walk held last Saturday, April 28 at CentraCare Health Plaza, St. Cloud.
The walk was held to educate people about the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke and ways to prevent them. The funds raised are used to support medical research, public awareness and education.
According to Bobbie Mattison, regional director of corporate development, the American Heart Association has invested almost $2.5 million to fund new, multi-year studies at research institutions in Minnesota. Unfortunately, not all grants were funded. Many people and companies have helped raise funds to try to fill the gap.
At the time this story went to press, Mattison said they had almost reached their goal to raise $50,000 at the St. Cloud Heart Walk.
Organizers of the walk hope to encourage people to walk for their friends, family and themselves or to just get out and walk because it’s good for their heart. One in three Americans currently lives with some type of cardiovascular disease and it is the number-one killer.
Diane Buschena-Brenna, chairperson of the Heart Walk, said she was delighted and amazed by the support the Heart Walk receives from the community.
Many heart survivors were on hand to tell their stories. Survivors received a red cap with the words “Change Tomorrow. Today” printed on the back.
One survivor included 2-year old Weston Schermer. Weston’s parents, Mike and Kayla, shared their story about Weston’s congenital heart defect. Weston, who was born four weeks early, had one heart surgery in 2010 and will need another when he is a little older and has gained more weight.
Dale Lappegaard shared his story about his wife who recently received a heart transplant and is doing “OK.”
Mike Klein, the president of Mended Hearts, signaled the start of the walk. Mended Hearts is a support group that offers peer-to-peer support to patients, family members and caregivers. The group helps people understand there can be a rich, rewarding life after heart-disease diagnosis. Members of the group share their experiences and volunteer to talk to other heart patients about what they may face, including lifestyle changes, depression, recovery and treatment.
Another support group is the Mended Little Hearts, which provides hope and support to children, families and caregivers who are impacted by congenital heart defects to help extend and improve quality of life.
St. Joseph resident Joe Vogel is another heart survivor. Vogel is part of the Mended Hearts support group. Vogel had a heart attack on Mother’s Day 2004 in his yard while his wife and daughter were present. He had heart blockage and now has six stents in his heart. Vogel said he was not afraid when he had his heart attack.
“God gave me a very special gift that day,” Vogel said. “It is hard to describe, however, I know I will be with God when I die. (Only) 5 percent of the people who have heart attacks and go out actually make it. So don’t be stubborn. Call and get help.”
Vogel has helped organize a local golf tournament to be held Sept. 13 at the Eagle Trace Golf and Event Center in Clearwater. Funds raised will be used to purchase an automated external defibrillator. An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient.
Organizers of the tournament would like to have 18 teams of four golfers with at least one member on each team being a person who has had heart surgery.
“We want people to know there is life after heart surgery,” Vogel said.
For more information, contact Vogel at 320-293-1296.