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Stories of heart disease and survival

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of all Americans. In fact, deaths from heart disease are greater than deaths from all forms of cancer combined. Below are inspiring stories of women, men and children who have been affected by cardiovascular disease. These are members of our community of all ages, races, and backgrounds. They have survived cardiovascular disease in various forms, whether it be sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, heart attack, or death of a family member. These stories serve to remind us that cardiovascular disease can affect anyone, and that is why it is important to make healthy lifestyle choices, and know the signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke. For more information on heart disease, visit The Hope Heart Institute’s website.


Jackie Carr - Stroke Survivor

JackieMy name is Jackie Carr and I am a stroke survivor. Every day, I did the same thing...always supported the needs of others, never prioritizing my own health. I'd been diagnosed with high blood pressure and through trial and error my doctors prescribed a medicine regimen that would control my "silent killer." It was quite an easy fix: four pills twice a day. The problem was, more often than not, I would forget to take my medicine.

I considered myself to be a SuperMom. From the moment I woke up to the minute I went to sleep, I was the "get it done" girl for everyone in the household except myself: breakfast...cooked; laundry....cleaned; errands....completed; kid activities...done! In the words of my friends, I could leap tall buildings in a single-bound. With a schedule like mine, who has two minutes to take a pill?

My SuperMom status changed on a Thursday afternoon in 2006. I had a horrible migraine headache and really wanted to take a few minutes to rest, but resisted so that I could make dinner. By that evening, everything in my view was tilting to the left. I had a horrible headache, but justified it as being caused by "vertigo" (my own self-diagnosis).

The next day, I continued my daily errands and managed to drive myself to the grocery store. It was once I left the store that I was forced to acknowledge that there was something very wrong. I could not find my car because I could not recall what type of car I drove. In an instant, my short term memory was gone and I went from remembering everything to remembering nothing.

Fortunately, a neurologist ran tests to determine that I, like other moms in their early 40's had created a perfect storm for a TIA or “mini stroke”: migraine combined with uncontrolled high blood pressure. In the words of my physician, a TIA serves as a warning that lifestyle changes are needed.

I have since retired my SuperMom cape. I decided that MY health is far more important than a completed task list. Each day I take my medicine, exercise, and make healthier food choices. My blood pressure reads textbook numbers (120/80) and while my lifestyle changes may not be a foolproof way to prevent a stroke, I know that I'm definitely living a more heart-smart life.

Living a Beautiful Life is more about a feeling than a look. Living a beautiful life means feeling grateful for ALL things; being present in the moment; positively touching the lives of others; being kind, compassionate and loving yourself.


Max Yandt - Heart Attack Survivor

Max YandtIt isn’t every day that you get a new lease on life, let alone twice in one lifetime. We are honored that Max Yandt is willing to share his story and support for The Hope.

In 1999, I suffered my first heart attack and was given two stents, stabilizing my heart.  Not long after, I went into Atrial Flutter and after several attempts at cardioversion, I was told I needed an oblation. My providers were having challenges finding a doctor to perform this procedure, so my daughter Tracy, who at the time worked with Dr. Lester Sauvage at The Hope Heart Institute, asked Dr. Sauvage to step in and make something happen.  Within 20 minutes I had an appointment with a cardiologist and was on my way to Seattle to get the care I needed.  After years of smoking, I realized how blessed I was at getting a second chance at life and have never had the urge to smoke again.

While in the hospital, Dr. Sauvage came to visit me. He gave me two of his books and a personal card.  He was such a grand person. I will always remember his kindness and warm heart, and I’m not even talking about the skills that set him apart from most.-I’m talking about him as a human being. He was quoted in one book as saying, “ My hands are just an extension of gods will.”

Reading his books have opened my eyes to a lot of things. His job went far beyond performing an open heart surgery.  When someone would ask him to be their surgeon he would ask, ‘Why do you want to live?’ He deeply cared about the people he was helping and their families

Harriet and I have had a wonderful life and things were going well until August of 2014. I walked into a record store and collapsed from an arrhythmic heart attack which sent me into sudden cardiac arrest. I am so lucky that there was an Army vet there who performed CPR on me until the EMT’s arrived.  I am grateful to him every day for keeping me alive. Eleven shocks and 21 minutes later, my heart began to beat again.  My prognosis for recovery was grim, however with the encouragement of one doctor who saw past the statistics, the encouragement and love of my family, I pulled through.

With all that I have been through, I am truly a blessed man.  The Hope has been a wonderful part of my life, and my wife Harriet and I decided a few years ago that we would make a bequest in our will to further the mission of The Hope. Every time I sit in my cozy chair and read my bible, that card from Dr. Sauvage is right there to remind me how good life is.

Mariella Galvez - Heart Attack Survivor

Mariella 2My name is Mariella Galvez, and I am 60 years old. I was born in Iquique, Chile and moved to Seattle in 1977 as a refugee. I am a mother, a grandmother of four beautiful grandsons and an advocate in my community for students in the migrant community.

One Saturday in the fall of 2008, I began feeling very sick, nauseous, and tired. I thought I was getting the flu. I went all day trying to feel better. I had a gathering with my friends and decided to go, thinking that I would feel better later. I collapsed in their bathroom. I was disoriented and had the chills. My friends called the ambulance but I refused, so they took me to emergency room. I didn’t believe this was happening to me - I was having a heart attack. It happened because I was not taking care of my diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Afterward, I followed the doctor’s recommendation and took my medications until I felt I didn’t need them anymore. Then I had a second heart attack in December 2013. This was a pivotal moment when I realized that, if I wanted to live longer, I needed to take care of myself and pay more attention to what my body is telling me. Since my second heart attack, I have been paying more attention to the signs. As women, we tend to forget about how tired and stressed we are and we do not take care of ourselves. I always put myself last.

Since last December I have been getting up at 5:00 am to walk 3 or 4 times a week. I feel so much better and full of energy. There are days when I do not feel like doing it, but I tell myself “It’s good for me.” I just turned 60 and I want to live a longer life so I can enjoy my beautiful grandbabies! I want them to know me and be there for a long time; so I can teach them, tell stories and play with them. They are the love of my life.

To me Living Life Beautifully means loving myself, being healthy and positive, and remembering every day is a blessing - “La vida es bella disfrútala al máximo”!

Jamie Kenningham - Heart Defect Survivor

JamieMy name is Jamie Kenningham and I was born with complex congenital heart defects, among others, Pulmonary Atresia. I have now had six open heart operations during my life, the last being in 2005. I’m so lucky to be alive. I had access to world class care in London and many of my operations were ground breaking medical advancements. I am grateful for the amazing care I received. Because I’ve had my condition since birth, I grew up with a lot of adversity around my health and realize now how lucky I am to be here.

I moved to Seattle in 2008 after meeting and falling in love with a tall American girl on an eight hour bus trip in New Zealand! We live in Magnolia with our pets Kai and Toby.

My heart condition shapes the way I look at the world. It makes me want to find ways to give back and help others. I am hopeful that by raising awareness I can be an advocate and show that you can not only survive, but thrive, with a complex heart defect.

To me, Living a Beautiful Life means having respect and love for everybody. Everyone has their own journey and path to take, and I want to do my best to help people along that path if I can.


Jenny Hagen - Cardiovascular Disease Survivor

JennyMy name is Jenny Hagen and I watched my sister Laurie walk down the runway of Living Life Beautifully show last year as a sudden cardiac death survivor. Never did I imagine that I would follow in her footsteps just one year later.

This past winter, I'd been feeling pretty exhausted and was having heart palpitations. One morning this spring, I was starting my shift at the hospital. I felt very unwell and like I was going to lose consciousness. Luckily for me, my co-workers are all in the medical field and one of them listened to my heart which was very irregular. Quickly, my body began to break down. I couldn’t walk, and my body was numb and tingly due to lack of oxygen. My co-workers took to the ER where tests revealed that I had structural problems with my heart. I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and worsening mitral valve prolapse. I was started on two cardiac medications and have been feeling much better. This past September I received a defibrillator.

I always thought that the heart issue was my sister’s “thing”, but last year my mom was diagnosed with the disease and now me. Thankfully, we are catching it early and can prevent becoming a cardiac death survivor like my sister. We are doing genetic testing as a family so that we can make sure others in our family are aware of the disease.

My heart condition has changed my life in several ways. First, by making sure I prioritize my health. As a mom it is easy to put everyone else's needs ahead of your own, but if I am going to be around to watch my son grow up I need give myself permission to take care of myself, too. It has also changed my perspective on how other people experience a change their health. I'm an oncology nurse, but now I have firsthand knowledge of what it's like to feel perfectly healthy one day, and then walking out of your doctor’s office with a life changing diagnosis the next. My personal journey has brought a deeper sense of empathy to my nursing practice.

I am the only person that can change my life for the better. To me Living A Beautiful Life is a life I don't take for granted. A life that is not passive. If there is a goal or an experience that I want, I need to go for it. Because now more than ever I know that my time is finite and every day is precious.


Karen Aldana - Heart Attack Survivor

KarenMy name is Karen Aldana. One Sunday night in March 2005, I felt restless and couldn't sleep. I got up and did laundry and things around the house until it was time to get ready for work. I still felt off and my stomach was upset but otherwise I was fine. My co-worker came in and, after a bit, asked if I was OK. "Of course," I replied, but he didn't believe me and called my daughter to tell her he was concerned. My daughter asked me to meet her for a quick check at the doctor's office. Grudgingly, I agreed and we met at the Urgent Care clinic in Poulsbo. They did an ECG and told me that I had a funny sinus rhythm, but seemed fine. They said to go to Harrison Hospital for another ECG for my records.

We walked in the door hospital and asked for directions to the Emergency Room. I got about half way down the hall and down I went. I clutched my chest, called my daughter’s name and collapsed. A code team showed up within seconds and there I was on the floor having a full blown heart attack with all of the ER staff working on me. I spent five days in the ICU and three days on the Cardiac Floor. I had three months of Cardiac Rehab and have been going ever since.

I now work out regularly, walk, do all of my own work around the yard and still work full time. I have since had three wonderful grandchildren. I am truly grateful to everyone who helped me through the process and I thank God for giving me a strong, healthy body to help me recuperate from this experience. I am truly blessed.

My heart episode was a life-changing event. It showed me that the control that I felt was important to me and that I commanded in my life is just an illusion. This life can be taken away at any time by unforeseen forces totally beyond our control. It has allowed me the opportunity to re-prioritize my responsibilities with my enjoyment and love of family and dear friends. I am always aware of the fact that when I am speaking to a loved one, it could be the last conversation that I have with them. I always tell them how important they are to me. Responsibilities are important, but loved ones are the most important connections that we have on this earth. They are to be treasured at all times.

Living Life Beautifully is about living in harmony within your world and treasuring loved ones. Believe me, I am far from perfect, but each day I try to go forward gently and in harmony with my surroundings. Life is beautiful and should be appreciated as an incredible gift.


Stephen - Heart Defect Survivor

Stephen 2My name is Stephen Woomer and I am 14 years old. I was born with Ventricular Septal Defect – more commonly known and described as holes in the heart. My case was quite severe and complicated, and I underwent life-saving open-heart surgery at just four months old.

My heart condition has not changed the way that I live my life. If I lived life on the sidelines and not to the fullest then I'm allowing my heart problems to beat me. I live my life like any other teenage boy because I am not any different. Today, I am an extremely healthy, smart, active 14-year-old. I am a sports enthusiast. I play both basketball and baseball for my school and participate in a summer baseball league.

To me, living a full life means never holding back, ever. Also to live in the moment, don't look back at your past and don't necessarily look too far forward in the future, because before you know it the present won't be there anymore.


Angela Anania - Heart Attack Survivor

Angela newMy name is Angela Anania. I am 43 years old and I have worked for Gene Juarez for 21½ years. I am a cancer survivor and have been diabetic from the age of 9. I considered myself to be a healthy until April 15th, 2014 when my life changed once again.

I was in the middle of a blow dry service for one of my favorite clients. I had to excuse myself because I had broken out in a sweat with severe chest pains. Not knowing yet that I was having a heart attack, I motioned to one of my co-workers Ana to get me a glass of water and grab a manager. I felt very nauseous, lethargic and weak. I made my way to the back office and my manager Jennifer called 911. It felt like a life time, but the paramedics - all 8 of them - arrived in 3 minutes. I was rushed to Virginia Mason’s ER and immediately taken to the catheterization lab where my now favorite doctor, Dr. Krizter, put a stent in one of my arteries. It was 100 percent blocked.

Two months later, I had a stress test and a week later had two more stents put in another artery. I'm so grateful and eternally thankful for everything all of my co-workers did for me that day. I feel I would not have survived if I had been anywhere else. The stars were definitely aligned for me.

Every event in my life has changed me a little - diabetes, breast cancer, the loss of both parents, and this. I've always eaten well, I exercise a little more, but mostly it makes me appreciate every day and everyone. Our lives are precious. I continue to work out and watch the food I eat. I encourage everyone to please know the symptoms for a heart attack for both men and women and do not take them lightly. Be good to yourself, you are worth it!

To me, Living Life Beautifully means taking care of myself, and cherishing your family and friends. It means making the most out of every day, and loving yourself for who you truly are!


Heather Kelley - Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivor

Heather KelleyMy name is Heather Kelley. I am a married mother of two teenaged daughters and I live in Bellevue. I am 49 years old and have had perfect health until this past year.

On Feb. 5, 2014 I was walking to the Seahawks Super Bowl celebration at CenturyLink Field with my 15- and 14-year-old daughters when my heart stopped. My amazing and courageous daughters called 911 and performed CPR until help arrived. The medics shocked my heart three times before they got a heartbeat. A week later I had a defibrillator implanted and it has saved my life two times already. As I have learned about heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest, I am aware of how lucky I am to be a survivor. It has been an emotional journey for my whole family as we learn to live with this new “normal.” I am immensely grateful to be alive.

I am often asked how my heart event has changed my life. I know that this is not the expected answer, but I’m not sure that nearly dying changed my life in a big way. I’m still sort of winging it, trying to be grateful every day, trying to be here, now, trying to live a life of meaning and joy.

To me, Living Life Beautifully means that I’m open to the little joys and wonders of each day. It means being grateful for my ordinary, gorgeous life.


Bonnie Sawyer - Cardiovascular Disease Survivor

BonnieMy name is Bonnie Sawyer and I am 70 years old. I am a retired teacher and my husband and I have three sons, and have been blessed with 5 beautiful grandchildren.

I first realized I had a heart problem in 2000. I was teaching at an elementary school in Kent and it was close to the end of the school year. For about three weeks, I had experienced shortness of breath, and my heart was fluttering and skipping beats. I thought it was just because the end of a school year is always busy and I was tired. I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and was put on metropolol, a beta blocker. This controlled my atrial fibrillation for 11 years with only a few episodes.

One night in 2011, I thought I was possibly having a heart attack. I had shortness of breath and I pain between my shoulder blades. I knew that women experience a heart attack differently than men do, so we headed to the hospital.

I was not having a heart attack, but an echocardiogram showed that my aortic heart valve was getting bad. I had a pressure gradient of 25 and was told to have an echocardiogram repeated in one year. The following year the pressure gradient was 50, and my cardiologist told me that I would probably need to have the valve replaced within the next ten years. When I repeated the echo in 2013, the pressure gradient was 65 and I was told that I would have to have the valve replaced within two or three years.

Then in March 2014, my cardiologist said that I would need the surgery very soon and it was scheduled three weeks later. I did not completely understand what pressure gradient was. My oldest son is a cardiologist at NW Hospital in Seattle. He explained to me that it was like taking a garden hose and squeezing it until the water was under so much pressure it would shoot out. Basically, the pressure that my heart was under trying to get the blood out of my poorly working aortic valve and out to my body was about double my blood pressure.

My biggest fear of open heart surgery was that I would not be able to see my grandchildren grow up. I was scared but grateful to have a lot of people praying for me. The day of the surgery, I could feel the power of prayer and I felt very peaceful.

My recovery taught me to appreciate so many things. You don’t realize what you do that you take for granted in life until you can no longer do them. I have always eaten healthy from our huge garden, and exercised a lot. But now, at the age of 70, I am so grateful to once more be able to exercise, work in my flowers, cook from our garden, and play with my grandchildren. I am grateful for a heart that now beats strong and steady, and I never take a day for granted.

God has given me the gift of life with my new heart valve. I must honor that gift with a healthy lifestyle so that I can volunteer and do God’s work, and so that I can enjoy my husband, my children, my 5 beautiful grandchildren and my extended family and friends for as long as I can. That is what Living a Beautiful Life means to me!


Helena Kovacova - Heart Attack Survivor

HelenaMy name is Helena Kovacova and I am 61 years old. I was born and raised in Slovakia, and moved to the Seattle area 30 years ago. I have a son and a daughter, and two adorable grandsons who are six and three years old. I am a Skin Care Therapist and I have worked at Gene Juarez for 26 years.

On May 27th of this year I had a heart attack. I had just returned from a vacation visiting my family in Slovakia where I was already feeling some chest discomfort that was radiating into my left arm. I told myself that I would call my doctor first thing when I returned. When I explained my symptoms to the nurse she said that I needed to go the Emergency Room right away because I might have something going on with my heart. In the ER, after a few tests, the cardiologist told me that I was having a heart attack. I was shocked. I couldn't believe it because I had always felt healthy and in good shape. I was taken urgently to the cardiac catheterization laboratory which revealed a 100 percent closure of the left coronary artery. It was treated with a coronary stent. Everything happened so fast that it took me a few days to realize that if I hadn't gone to the ER, I might not be here today.

Now I live more in the present moment, and enjoy the time with my family and friends. I take even better care of myself and the people around me. I like to take long walks and bicycle rides, and when the weather gets gloomy I like to curl up with a good book. I spend lot of time with my family, especially my grandsons. I like to cook healthy and comforting food for them.

To me, Living Life Beautifully means living a healthy life by developing heart-healthy habits and lifestyle.

Alexis Curran- Cardiac Arrest Survivor

alexis_curranI have been running on a very regular basis for about 5 years now. Leading up to my cardiac arrest on November 7th, 2012 I was training hard for the Seattle Marathon (which would have been my 3rd after Winthrop in 2010 and NYC in 2011). Just a few short weeks before, I was in the Enchantments on a 21-mile loop. When I think about where I was when my cardiac arrest happened and the fact that it didn’t happen when I was in the middle of the Enchantments, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and there is a reason I am still here. I find it a little bit funny to be the one writing about my story, because I don’t actually remember any of it, but through those who were there the evening of November 7th, 2012, I have been able to put together the puzzle pieces and the events that took place.
After work that day I agreed to meet my dad and my good friend Jef for a training run going from my apartment on Capitol Hill, down to Lakeview Blvd, up a long staircase and back over to my apartment. We made one trip up the complete set of stairs to 10th Avenue and back down. On the second trip up, after the first set of stairs at Streissguth Gardens I sat down at the base of the second set of stairs because I was tired. Blake Bidleman, an off-duty firefighter-in-training, and his wife happened to live next door to the gardens and were out for an evening walk. He noticed that I wasn’t doing well and when I stopped responding to him, he immediately began CPR, asking his wife to call 911. The engine, ambulance and Medic One unit came and 8 individuals worked to keep me alive. The thing that I worry about most is my dad. To watch your little girl go through what I went through is unimaginable. In speaking to him about how he was affected by that evening, he says that when he saw how many people were tending to me, and the absolute skill and professionalism of the medics/firefighters, it was actually very calming for him and he knew that everything was being done to save me.

It still has not been determined why this happened to me, and I don’t know that I will ever know the exact cause. I had no previous signs of any heart problems and there is no history in my family. It still seems unreal that this happened to me and I still can’t believe that every piece of the puzzle fit so perfectly together that evening to enable me to be here to tell my story. I am so incredibly grateful for my friends, family, Blake who saved my life, and Kayla Burt who I have had the fortune to meet this year - my fellow survivor and an absolutely amazing friend who has helped me in a way that no one else can by helping to wrap my brain around what happened from the perspective of someone who has also been there.

Deena Hanke- Stroke Survivor


deena_hankeMy name is Deena Hanke and I am a stroke survivor.  I have actually survived two strokes. My first stroke was in 1998 when I was only 50 years old.  I was paralyzed on my left side, but my symptoms reversed when I was given IV heparin at Harborview Medical Center.  While I was in Harborview they discovered that I have a calcified aneurysm deep in my brain.  They believe the stroke was caused by bits of calcium breaking off and clotting with my platelets and these clots blocking off arteries in my brain.  They decided that my aneurysm is so deep in my brain that doing surgery for it would not be worth the risk.  They sent me home on aspirin antiplatelet therapy.  I was lucky enough to have no residual symptoms and the aspirin therapy prevented my having another stroke for 15 years.

In April of this year, I had another stroke.  I was paralyzed on my left side again and I was taken to Harborview Medical Center.  They think this stroke had the same cause. They said I had failed aspirin therapy and gave me a big bolus of  Plavix which is more effective antiplatelet therapy than aspirin.  I was lucky enough to have very few residual problems again and have almost completely recovered from that stroke, too.

I retired from my 26 year career as Technical Supervisor of the Molecular Hematopathology Laboratory for the University of  Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine at the end of  May 2013.  The Molecular Hematopathology Laboratory uses DNA and RNA testing to diagnose patients with leukemias and lymphomas; and follow their therapy by looking for minimal residual disease.  I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of molecular testing for our department and had a very interesting and fulfilling career developing and performing molecular testing for hematologic diseases.


Joy Hollingsworth- Survivor


joy_hollingsworthI’ve  played competitive basketball since I was old enough to dribble. At the age of 15, I was playing in a basketball tournament in Portland, when I started to get dizzy and nauseous.  As a result, I fainted on the court during the game. I went to a heart specialist shortly after who started me on a series of tests (EKG, stress test, MRI’s). I also had to wear a 24-hour heart monitor to try to record one of the heart episodes that would occur while exerting myself during basketball.  Shortly after, they were able to record an episode, and I was diagnosed with Superventricular Tachycardia (SVT).

The doctors at Children’s Hospital performed an ablation to close the extra circuit and I quickly recovered. The doctor’s explained that there could be another pathway that could cause the same episodes, but that I should be able to perform normally again. Off to college I went, and I began to have episodes again. After that, I saw another specialist who said I needed medications or to have another ablation.

Most recently (2 weeks ago), I had a run in with an episode where I had to go to the emergency room. I was put on Warfarin (a blood thinner) and another medication to expand my valves. Since then, I've been taken off all medications. My doctor at Swedish, Dr. Zivin, is now reviewing my medical history and records from Group Health and Children’s Hospital.

I had a teammate in college at the University of Arizona who passed away of a blood clot in her heart. Shawtinice Polk, who was such a beautiful human being and GREAT talent was taken too soon at the tender age of 23.  So I truly understand the importance of a healthy heart especially in the black community.


Kayla Burt- Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivor


kayla_burtNew Year’s Eve will forever be a day of remembrance for me, for the rest of my life. In addition to ringing in a new year; I celebrate my second chance at life.

It was 2002, a day like any other. I was a starting sophomore guard on the women’s basketball team at the University of Washington and in the prime of my athletic career. Being a young athlete in my early 20’s with no prior medical history, I felt invincible to medical hardship; oblivion to what would nearly kill me in the blink of an eye. A new reality in the journey of my life had just completely changed who I would be forever.

Being New Year’s Eve, I had eight teammates at my house. We were just watching movies, eating junk food, and apparently looking through my high school yearbooks. I have no recollection of what takes place next, but I have amazing friends (I call them my sisters) who took over a situation that transcends my comprehension.

It was 11:15pm, I had gone upstairs to brush my teeth, get ready for bed, and do everything in my power to stay awake until midnight to ring in the New Year. Earlier that day was entirely too normal for me. Woke up, had a nice 3 hour practice, lifted weights, and drove my teammates to the store to get a movie and food to relax for the evening. We didn’t have a particularly good practice under Coach’s standards ,so she called for an 8:00am practice New Year’s Day. That was early for us.

About 11:23pm I go and sit down on my bed next to one of my teammates when I nonchalantly state that I felt light headed. Next thing she knows, I collapse off of my bed. She thought I was joking but when I landed face down in an awkward position; she quickly realized this was a serious situation. She called for the rest of my teammates that were downstairs, that something had happened to me and that I might be having a seizure.

This is when my sisters all play a vital role in ultimately saving my life. When they rolled me over, my eyes were rolled in the back of my head, I was completely purple, and they said I was simply “lifeless”. Everyone played a part. One was on the phone with 911, one going door to door for help, another moving furniture for EMS personnel, and two more performing CPR. Without any one piece, I don’t believe I’d be here today.

Paramedics were able to shock me out of ventricular fibrillation and into a normal sinus rhythm where I lay in a coma for 15 hours at UW Medical Center. Six days later I had an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) placed in my chest to shock my heart back to a normal rhythm should another arrhythmia ever occur again. I had to hang up the basketball shoes in that moment but I also realized how fortunate and blessed I was that I was even alive.

To this day, experts are unsure of why I went into cardiac arrest that night and they may never know. Today, I live a completely normal life that involves daily exercise, basketball, biking, running, and anything else I set my mind to do! It has become my passion and I believe it’s what I was placed here to do, to now do what I can to raise awareness to those young athletes who may have prevented to them what happened to me.

Kayla graduated from the University of Washington in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication.

She is a former employee of Hope Heart and is currently working as an EMT.


Laurie Hatch- Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivor


laurie_hatchOn Sunday, January 6, 2002, while driving to Dicks on Holman Road, I experienced Sudden Cardiac Death.  You don’t drive very well when you are dead, so I crashed into the rockery on the side of the road, just past Dick’s Drive-in.
Someone driving behind me called 911 to report the accident.   The Medics from Fire Station 35 performed CPR for about 8 minutes until support, possibly from Northwest Hospital, arrived with a portable defibrillator.  I was shocked 7 times; on the top, sides and back before my heart started to beat on its own.  I was then rushed to Harborview Hospital where I remained in a coma for three days.  On the fourth day, I had surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center to receive a Medtronic pacemaker/defibrillator unit.  At 35 years old I discovered I had a heart condition, mitro-valve prolapse and cardio myopathy.

Because I was dead for so long before the Medics arrived, doctors told me that less than half of one percent survive such an incident and have full use of their faculties. My recovery process involved 3 months of neurology and cardiac rehab.  If you listen you might occasionally hear me accidentally say things like “please take the sweater out of the refrigerator” but maybe that is just old age setting in early.


Lisa Dawson- Heart Disease Survivor


lisa_dawsonI was training for a half-marathon and found myself getting winded very early on during my runs. I’d get short of breath, and my chest and throat would burn until I rested. At first I chalked it up to a lingering cold, but after a few runs I figured I was simply out of shape and needed to suck it up. I tried to power through the next run – after a few minutes I had to turn around, go home and lie down. I started wondering if something was going on with my heart.
A Google search and the Hope Heart Institute website made it pretty clear I needed to see a doctor. My regular doctor thought I might have exercise-induced asthma, but initial tests didn’t show anything. So she did an EKG, which led to a cardiologist referral. A stress test showed a blockage in my coronary artery.

There’s nothing like a problem with your heart to remind you of your mortality.

The following Monday an angiogram led to the discovery of a blood clot. The location of the clot made a placing a stent difficult, so I was put on blood thinners and beta blockers to help it break down and allow it to be reabsorbed.

Today, I’m doing well. I’ve started running again and tests indicate my heart is healthy, my arteries are clear. I’m still taking some medications and added an aspirin to my daily vitamins. We don’t know what caused the clot, but I’ve got a great team at the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute keeping an eye on me.

To learn more about Lisa, and signs and symptoms of heart disease in women, visit: http://www.mypinkink.me/category/heart-health/


Lisa Youngblood-Hall- Affected by Heart Disease


lisa_youngbloodLet me start by saying my father, Robert Youngblood, is simply amazing. A true blessing. He and my mom will be married 57 years on October 27th and have raised eight children together in Maryland. My dad and I spent a lot of time together. I was a daddy's girl. When I was a young teenager, I inherited my brothers' newspaper route and every morning, my dad and I were out there together delivering the newspaper.
A smoker since he was a teenager, my dad had his first heart attack around age 59. He had just retired after his return from living eight years in Seoul, Korea.  Thankfully, he was working part time at a community center at the time, which was located across the street from the fire station. The firefighters knew him because they regularly worked out at the community center, ran across the street and saved his life.  My dad promised to quit smoking.

His second heart attack was only a few years later. I was living in Chicago at the time and took my eldest daughter to D.C. to see him in the hospital. She was just a baby. When I went to see him in the hospital, I told him that I didn't want to tell my daughter about him; I wanted him to live long enough for her to know him. Also, we found out he had not stopped smoking. This time he quit.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, somewhere along the way, my dad and I began talking on the phone every morning. He tells me about the weather and the rest of the family and I tell him how we were doing out here.

This past August, while in Oregon for my youngest daughter, Sophie's, softball tournament, I received a call from my oldest sister.  My mom and dad had only been home for one day from his second ever family reunion when he had a heart attack. Everyone was rushing to the hospital.  I had to tell the girls. Sophie was worried about him. We all were.  He had just been in Seattle for my oldest daughter's high school graduation. I began to wonder if that week with him was my goodbye. Again, my dad was blessed.  At the time of the heart attack, he was sitting in my niece's hospital room where he was just handed his great granddaughter. He turned to my brother, said "Take the baby," and after handing the baby off, he fell to the floor. Again, thankfully, he was on the hospital floor where the urgent response team happened to be getting ready to leave for the day. They raced to the room, determined he was having a heart attack and very quickly got him the necessary care, which included another angioplasty. Doctors also revealed that he had out of control diabetes.

Since that day in early August, my dad has been following doctors’ orders. He has been eating healthy, he's lost 13 pounds and is participating in cardio rehabilitation therapy three days a week. It's funny to have my 79-year old dad tell me he was feeling the burn when he was exercising. My siblings will go and pick up my mom and dad to take them for walks.  A week before his heart attack, I had already stopped my daily, sometimes twice a day latte and pastry habit.  I also decided I need to start exercising again. It is slow going with a busy schedule and getting my eldest off to college, but I'm determined.  Sophie helps me exercise. I recently started doing weekly core workouts with her softball team, and last week, I surprised myself by riding about 13 miles on my bike. We're all eating healthier. I'm blessed that I'm still having my morning phone calls with my dad.


Lori Emery-Olson – Heart Attack Survivor


lori_emery-olsonIn 2009, I was a married 38 year old, with a 2 year old and a 6 year old.

Thursday, October 8th of 2009, was one of the last days of a week without my husband, who was out of town hunting.   I had dropped off each of my kids at school, then went in to work to see about taking the day off, for a “me” day.   I arrived at work around 10 am and was getting settled, waiting to meet with a supervisor, when I started to feel what I would call indigestion.  It wasn’t going away so I went outside to get some fresh air.  The sensation was getting worse – it was getting harder to breath and I was starting to feel sweaty.   I was pacing, trying to figure out what to do, when a co-worker let my supervisor know I didn’t look well.  My supervisor sat me down to talk to me.  As we talked, my hands were cramping up and my symptoms continued to get worse, so he decided to call 911.  The paramedics came and said I was having a panic attack.  After some time of trying to “calm me down,” they decided to take me to the hospital.  It was there that they hooked me up to an ECG - it determined that I was having a heart attack.  I had 100% blockage in my LAD.  After two attempts, a successful stent placement was completed and I began my new life as a heart attack survivor.   Of the handful of risk factors, I had two that contributed to my event – stress and genes/heredity.

Another piece I’d like to share – just under two years before my heart attack, I lost my 58 year old mother of a heart attack. L Since all of this, I’ve been doing what I can to bring awareness to others on the seriousness of heart diseas,e and the importance of taking better care of ourselves by knowing our numbers (BP, cholesterol, etc.), eating right and being more active.


Suzie Flores – Heart Attack Survivor


suxie_flores-olson1My story starts on Dec. 18, 2012. On this day my Dad passed away due to a heart condition.   I decided it was time for me to get myself checked out, to see where my heart health was (my Mom passed away just before her 56th birthday). I had the family history and had just turned 50.  I went to the doctor and he ran some tests. On the treadmill, I went for 3.5 minutes and just couldn’t go any further. I was so sure it was just because I was overweight and out of shape.  The doctor then scheduled another test- the angiogram. During this test the doctor found that I had 3 clogged/blocked arteries.  He told me I was being admitted and transported to St. Pete's.  While there, waiting for my triple bypass surgery, I was watching the informational videos they have available in the rooms.  This is when I realized that I did actually have a heart attack on the day my Dad passed.  I felt pain in my chest, crushing pain, and I couldn't breathe. I kept trying to catch my breath all the while I felt like I was going to be sick.  The next couple of days I had a tingling kind of achiness in my neck and down my left arm, almost a numbness.  With all of these symptoms, I still thought it was due to the stress.  I was lucky I didn't have a massive heart attack- though my arteries were very clogged.


Veronica Gallardo- Heart Attack Survivor


veronica_gallardo1Veronica Gallardo is a mother, and when she was 33 she became a heart attack survivor. Born and raised in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, she attended Rainier Beach High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in Law, Societies, and Justice from the University of Washington in 2002. She began her career in human resources management with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. From there, her path lead her to Clipper Seafoods, Ltd., where she is currently a human resources manager, and is responsible for handling all personnel and human resources responsibilities for the company’s fishing fleet in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Veronica spends her free time as an alumna adviser to the Gamma Chapter of Gamma Alpha Omega Sorority Inc., and speaks to women on heart health and not ignoring the symptoms.

Since her heart attack, Veronica has joined the YMCA and regularly attends Zumba and Cardio Kickboxing classes. She is an advocate for a healthier lifestyle and, along with her 5 year old daughter, works toward a more vibrant and stronger heart.