Hundreds of Fairfield County residents took steps to help their hearts, and the American Heart Association’s mission, at the AHA’s Heart Walk and 5K Run at Sherwood Island State Park on Saturday, April 22nd. The event combined heart-healthy exercise with fund raising to make an impact on the nation’s #1 killer—heart disease, and the #5 killer, stroke.
A 47-year old Milford woman was honored at the event for sharing her story of survival from heart disease. In March 2016, Laura Terranova felt flu-like symptoms of headache, trouble breathing and dizziness which were progressively getting worse. Her father called 9-1-1 and at emergency room she discovered that she was in heart failure, with fluid building up around her heart. It was caused, doctors thought, by a virus that attacked her heart.
Her heart function was only at 10% and doctors told her family to prepare for the worst. She beat the odds after receiving an LVAD, left ventricular assist device, to help the heart pump and keep her alive. She had eight surgeries in total before being discharged from the hospital after five months, not seven as doctors predicted.
Because her muscle function had been severely diminished, she fought through three months of rehabilitation to re-learn how to do tasks like eat, hold a toothbrush, and eventually she learned to walk again.
Terranova went back to work in October—strong enough to participate in the AHA’s last Heart Walk. The doctors attribute her recovery to the fact that she was very healthy before this happened. What kept her strong through it all? She said, “My true motivation was to get back to being a mom again to my daughter. My daughter is why!”
Margaret and Jerry McCann (contributed photo)
Also honored was Christine Wayne from Stamford. She survived sudden cardiac arrest in December. She felt tired all day and while in the shower, she began to cough and was overcome with exhaustion and nausea. She said she thought about calling a few friends to have them take her to the hospital because she did not want to call 911. What if someone saw her? Why incur the cost when someone could just come pick her up? She began to have trouble breathing, and finally called 9-1-1.
On route, her heart stopped--four times. She awoke to people counting and shouting “CLEAR!” She was gasping for air, and could feel the extreme pressure on her chest. At the hospital, two stents were put in, and afterwards, she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. She was released after a week and is now back to her daily routine.
She wants everyone to recognize the signs of heart attack, and listen to their bodies. “Do not be embarrassed of who might see you, or who you might inconvenience! Do NOT delay the call, every minute matters,” she said. If she had waited just a few minutes longer, her story could have ended fatally.
Jerry McCann received a heart transplant in Madison, Wisconsin, two years ago. After his recovery, he had an idea to participate in a heart walk in each of the states. Jerry and his wife Margaret have been working on that goal steadily and participated in the Fairfield County Heart Walk this year, and also joined the Putnam Heart Walk in Brewster, NY on Sunday—which is now the 13th event they’ve walked in to give back to the community and raise awareness for heart transplant.
The toll of CVD on society is chronic, pervasive, and devastating. Nearly 801,000 people in the U.S. died from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases in 2013—that’s about 2,200 deaths per day. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined, including women. CVD causes one in three deaths in women. Congenital cardiovascular defects are the most common cause of infant death from birth defects. About 356,500 people experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States—survival is only about 8% nationally.
Christine Wayne and Laura Terranova (contributed photo)
About 795,000 people have a stroke every year, and it is the No. 5 cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 129,000 people a year. African-Americans have nearly twice the risk for a first-ever stroke than white people, and a much higher death rate from stroke. The AHA supports research and programs to combat these killers and funding comes from events like the Heart Walk & 5K Run.
To register for the event or to make a donation to the American Heart Association, visit www.fairfieldcountyheartwalk.org. The Heart Walk and 5K Run is sponsored nationally by Subway, and locally by Cause Sponsor, Stamford Health; PwC; Frontier Communications, and Stop & Shop, and media sponsors, Hearst Media, News12 and Fox Radio.