Telegram & Gazette: Massachusetts college honors local American Heart Association volunteer

A Massachusetts woman who has spent her life raising awareness of heart disease was recently inducted to the Worcester State College Athletics Hall of Fame.

The Telegram & Gazette profiled Chrissy (Mitchell) Gaffney ahead of the honor and highlighted her work as a volunteer spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

Gaffney, who grew up in Westborough, was 12, in 1978, when she had open-heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital to repair an atrial septal defect, which is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart.

“It was a very successful surgery, but the surgeon told my parents if (the heart defect) continued to go undetected, I would not have seen my 16th birthday,” Gaffney told T&G reporter Jennifer Toland. “That was pretty scary when you think about it.”

Doctors eventually gave Gaffney the OK to resume physical activities and she wore the 9-inch surgical scar on her chest as a badge of honor.

As an adult, Gaffney has used her story to raise awareness of disease. In 2019, she received the American Heart Association’s Heart Hero Award for her years of dedication.

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