Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Personal Connection in February

Yes, I know February is American Heart Month. You probably do, too. 

I know all that stuff about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeing a doctor regularly. I know the importance of learning CPR and have actually been certified multiple times because of my career in teaching.

I know about National Wear Red Day.  I know that women are less likely to perceive early symptoms as being those of a heart attack and that even medical professionals can be slow to take those symptoms seriously because they don’t mirror those of men. 

All of that background knowledge is largely due to how hard the American Heart Association works to get this message out. And that’s important. But this year American Heart Month means more to me.


This is Rebecca. She is important to me because knowing her made me stop and read her message about Heart Health Month and really think about it. I have to admit that I’ve mostly just scrolled by that kind of information in other years. But this year is different. I know Rebecca.

Here is her story:

I support the American Heart Association because I have coronary artery disease and I am a heart attack survivor. On July 10, 2020, 10 days after my 40th birthday I had a heart attack. My LAD was 95-99% blocked. Just a month earlier I had a complete physical, was said to be healthy and no need to worry about anything.

Wow. And this was during the darkest days of COVID. Rebecca went in to the hospital alone and could have no visitors. After successful surgery to place a stent in her in her left anterior descending artery she was finally cleared to go home and complete her recovery.

It was not an unhealthy lifestyle or a lack of regular medical care that felled Rebecca. It was a family history of coronary artery disease. 

From the American Heart Association:

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, claiming more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined. Cardiovascular disease continues to be a woman’s greatest health threat, taking the life of one in every three women.

Rebecca has been named a Woman of Impact in the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign in Greater Maryland. What does that mean?

Every year across the country, a select group of individuals are nominated to be a part of Woman of Impact because of their passion and drive to make a difference. This 9-week blind competition is relentlessly focused on women’s heart health. Launching on National Wear Red Day, nominees work to build campaign plans, recruit Impact teams, and inspire their networks to support the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission.

At the end of the campaign, this special group of changemakers will be celebrated for the overall impact they have on our mission and community. The nominee who makes the greatest impact and raises the most funds locally will be named a local 2023 Woman of Impact Winner. Additionally, the nominee who makes the greatest impact nationwide will be named the American Heart Association 2023 National Woman of Impact Winner.

Okay, that’s the official stuff. Here’s what it means to me. 

Rebecca is not just a nameless person smiling from a professionally crafted brochure. I know her. She lives in our community. She’s married, with a teen son, and is loving mom to dogs Nick, Frank, and Gracie. Rebecca has a full-time job that she genuinely likes and she also has a side passion: making and selling beautiful crocheted items such as animals and dolls. (and even crocheted cupcakes.) 

I made a donation to Rebecca’s Woman of Impact campaign. I’m encouraging you to learn more and, if you can, donate in honor of Rebecca at this link. I don’t know for sure, but I think she’s the only nominee from Howard County. Another reason to support her, in my opinion.

If you’re wondering how the AHA uses the funds that are raised from the Go Red for Women campaign, you can learn more here. The simple answer is that they’re used for awareness, research, education and community programs to benefit women.

One last thing: the American Heart Association has set up the donation page so that the lowest amount you can give is twenty-five dollars. If you want to support Rebecca - - but $25 is too much for you right now - - you may also donate by sending her a check. Reach out to her via email: rlptree@yahoo.com .

I’m going to close with a pitch from her husband Jim. These words which made me smile.

Let’s fight heart disease, and get my wife a win in this fundraising contest. She needs a win. I mean she has to live with me. I’m a lot to deal with. 

It’s the personal connection that finally got me to take this message to heart. 

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