Aubrey Virgin: Aubrey was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease at the age of 2. Because it was caught early she was able to receive life-saving treatment that was developed through American Heart Association research funding. Kawasaki Disease is the number one cause of acquired heart disease in children. Aubrey and her family have worked hard to raise awareness about this little known disease and stress the fact that heart disease can affect any one, at any age.
Willow Stennett: Willow was born February 12, 2016 with two holes in her heart. She spent the first four and a half months of her life reliant on a feeding tube for nourishment as her doctors tried to build her strength to endure her needed surgery. She suffered from congestive heart failure and enlarged ventricles, amongst other complications. On June 30th, she underwent successful open heart surgery and today is a happy, healthy and growing young girl as well as a testament to the importance of research!
Jaimee Higgins: Jaimee was born in 1992 with a hole in her heart. At several months old Jaimee was flown to Washington to take advantage of pioneering open heart surgery first being offered there. The procedure consisted of patching the hole with a gauze-like material which over time allowed her heart's own muscle tissue to fill it in. To give back for the research and technology that saved her daughter’s life, Jaimee's mom, Sallee, became a donor and volunteer with the American Heart Association Heart Run and Go Red Luncheon events. In 2014, Jaimee joined her mom as a volunteer at the Go Red Luncheon. Since then, they have volunteered together on the Go Red Luncheon Committee, the Go Red Auction Committee, and have served as "Heart Hero" guest speakers.
Maria Downey: KTUU NewsHour Anchor and Senior Executive Producer Maria Downey had what started as pressure in her chest, but then it got worse. At first she didn’t want to interrupt her time with her daughter, who was home visiting, so she didn’t immediately schedule time to see a doctor. Eventually the pain became so severe, that it made it hard to breathe. Her family took her to the emergency room where doctors found a severely clogged artery. “When you have a scare like that it really puts things into perspective,” says Maria. “Paying attention to the warning signs can truly save a life.”
Anneslia Turner: Anneslia was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a child, but because she experienced no other symptoms over the years, most members of her family questioned the diagnosis. She was a smoker for almost 30 years, quitting in 1984. In early 2013, while grocery shopping with her husband, she began to feel ill and sat to rest while her husband completed the shopping. Having previously developed knee pain, her family attributed that to her not feeling well. After a second similar occurrence, her family insisted that she visit her primary care physician. A stress test was completed, but because of her knee pain, the test was not done on a treadmill. The test results returned negative and her and her family’s concerns were temporarily quelled. A third incident, again while shopping, proved different. She told her husband that she was having chest discomfort. Her husband called their primary care physician who had her come for an examination that day. After a brief examination, her doctor immediately had her admitted to a hospital where a cardiac catheterization identified a large blockage in her main coronary artery. She was scheduled for surgery the next day to clear a 95 percent blockage in one coronary artery, as well as two 50 percent blockages in other arteries. Doctors also repaired a damaged heart valve. As an American Heart Association volunteer, Anneslia‘s message to others is to be aware of warning signs and take immediate action.
Sharon Boko: Sixty-six year Fairbanks resident Sharon Boko lost both of her parents to heart disease. With that daunting family history, she knew to consult her family doctor when she started to feel unusually tired. Tests revealed major blockages in her arteries and she was scheduled for emergency triple by-pass surgery. Eight years later, she developed additional blockages leading to a heart attack and had surgery to receive two stents. Thanks to new technology and treatments supported through American Heart Association research, today she is doing well.
Pat Willson: After experience unusual fatigue, difficulty navigating stairs, and fainting, retired teacher Pat Wilson promptly visited her doctor. That led to her undergoing carotid and triple bypass surgeries, as well as having a pacemaker implanted. Afterward, she became American Heart Association volunteer to help educate others that it pays to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease—even the most minor can be major.
Emily Machos: Emily Machos became an American Heart Association volunteer after losing her father suddenly to a massive heart attack. Emily used that tragic event as motivation to change her lifestyle and to encourage those around her to care for their hearts and to not be afraid to seek medical attention. She believes WE have the power to prevent heart disease!!!
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