You saved my life – a message from a volunteer

America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk Co-Director Jim Stasaitis has a new outlook on this year’s event.

Jim and board chairman Steve Gassner as the inaugural Have a Heart Half Marathon was dedicated to Jim
Jim and board chairman Steve Gassner as the inaugural Have a Heart Half Marathon was dedicated to Jim

I have an important message for everyone who has been part of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk: you saved my life. Thank you from the bottom of my mended heart.

I have been volunteering with the Heart Run & Walk for the past 30 years. This year, though, the walk means a little more for me. Five months ago, I had a heart attack!

I was on vacation with my wife Jan and a man some of you might remember – Dick Mattia, the former Executive Director of the Greater Utica American Heart Association – when I started feeling some chest pain. I might have just brushed it off, but both Jan and Dick wouldn’t let me. They told me that after all my years working with the American Heart Association, I knew better than to pretend it was nothing.

Jim always shaves part of the event logo into his head. This year, he included a bandage to show off his “mended heart.”

When I got home, I followed their advice. I went to the hospital, and it turned out I had a 99% blockage of my left anterior descending artery. It’s what they commonly call the widow-maker because it’s almost always fatal. While doctors were installing a stent, I had a heart attack on the table.

Now, just a few months later, I’m getting ready for another America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk. This time around, I will be among the survivors who are still around to celebrate their victory over heart disease and be part of the event because of the amazing work of everyone involved with it.

Jim on stage for Opening Ceremonies at last year’s America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk

I want to thank you all. You’re the reason I’m still here. I’m living proof that your donations can save lives. Money raised at events like the Heart Run & Walk have help fund medical breakthroughs like the stent doctors put inside my chest. Your fundraising has helped the American Heart Association work with doctors and hospitals to ensure patients like me are treated according to the most up-to-date guidelines.

Without America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, I probably would have gone home and mowed the lawn. I probably would have had that heart attack alone in my backyard. I wouldn’t be here now. You saved my life. Thank you.

1 thought on “You saved my life – a message from a volunteer”

  1. Thank you for sharing this Jim. I pray that our work has the same result in my family, I lost my husband to a heart attack at 52. His dad died of a sudden heart attack at 55, and his grandfather at 38. We have three sons, and their family history terrifies me. We have been Team Maneen for the last 9 years, and they bring high school friends, college friends, and it’s grown into a giant family/friend reunion every year. It’s a blast in itself, and a wonderful way for my boys to remember/honor their dad, but my prayer is that our contribution allows them to live long enough to actually watch their children grow up. I am happy to hear a happy story! And thank YOU for all of your hard work over the years!!


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