Erica McIntyre is the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region’s Community Impact Director. Below she shares a heartfelt tribute to her friend, Tia.
Queen of Hearts: Shine on and Go RED forEVER
There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone
the light remains. ~ Author Unknown
On May 18, 2020, my friend Tia Barbour-Hale gained her wings. A beautiful wife, mother, daughter and friend whose light will shine on forever. As employees of the American Heart Association, we are often asked to reflect on our WHY, and my dear friend Tia has always been connected to my WHY commitment to the AHA’s mission to be a relentless force for longer, healthier lives. As a Community Impact Director working to improve health outcomes for all communities – I am inspired every day…When I think about our 2030 goal to give people more quality, happy, healthy years – I think of Tia and in tribute to her and the light that was her life and is her legacy, I write here today.
Tia Barbour-Hale, or as anyone blessed to know and love her calls her, our Queen of Hearts is more than a conqueror. A woman with strength, beauty, compassion, class, passion, style, faith and conviction. To know her is truly to love her. She’s the friend who consistently gives it to you straight with no chaser (translation – she will tell you what you want and don’t want to hear but need to hear, without sugarcoating the delivery). I am especially proud to have met Tia over 15 years ago at the illustrious Tennessee State University and to have bonded with her through our dynamic sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Alpha Chi chapter – 55 C.O.C.). Over the years our sisterhood with our line sisters, like fine wine only gets better with time.
We are a fierce group of women who have experienced a whole lot of life together – sorority anniversaries, service projects, girls’ trips, graduations, promotions, weddings, baby showers, parents’ and siblings’ funerals, divorces, and health issues. One of those life altering health issues being Tia’s heart disease diagnosis 5 years ago during her pregnancy. After delivering a healthy baby girl, Ever Grey, Tia eloquently and courageously shared her story to raise awareness and encourage the women in her life to not take matters of our heart-health lightly. Her testimony is truly what inspired me to begin volunteering with American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign in Washington, DC five years ago. And now with my position, I find myself immersed in all things heart and stroke.
Fast forward to spring 2019, our Queen of Hearts informed us that she was in need of a new heart. Due to having a rare antibody Tia was not sure if that would impact her chances for finding a match for a transplant. Our line sisters came together to pray and fast collectively. We were relieved when Tia got the call from the transplant team sharing that she had been matched with a donor and that her rare antibody would not negatively impact her heart transplant. Tia being the selfless, compassionate woman of faith that she was asked us not only to pray for her health and that her body would not reject the new heart; but Tia firmly requested prayers be extended to her donor’s family. A year ago, June 5, 2019 to be exact, Tia received a heart transplant. Therefore, this past February for American Heart Month, we celebrated our Queen of Hearts all month long starting with her birthday on February 3rd and Wear Red Day on February 7th.
Tia, her husband Courtney and daughter Ever are like The Incredibles, the family of superheroes who save lives and battle evil daily together. The incredible Hale family powerfully persevere trials by remaining committed to sharing their experiences and talents to help others. In March, the tornado that hit Nashville, TN destroyed the building where Courtney works. The Hale family pressed on and through Courtney’s business Knowledge Bank he teaches children financial literacy through virtual programs. The coronavirus presented extra cautions for Tia with her health being compromised due to her heart transplant. Again, however the Hale family charged to press on and dedicated Occupational Therapist Tia was making plans to visit with her patients (children with special needs) via Zoom. Ever has sickle cell anemia which causes her to have some tough days. Taking cue from her courageous parents, this 5-year-old affirms to press forward and push through any obstacle they face, together. This family lives bold on purpose…With purpose. To see it warms your soul and infectiously ignites a fire in others to live and not just exist, regardless of the circumstances. Tia passed away due to complications from her heart transplant on May 18th, and the world lost a bright light but Heaven gained an angel.
Not too long-ago Tia and I had a heart to heart conversation about how heart disease has impacted our lives and how me working for the American Heart Association now made her new heart smile. A conversation along with many wonderful memories I will cherish forever. Tia fought many brave battles and through it all – the health and well-being of her family and friends was a top priority for her. In closing, I would like to share her tips on how to Go Red – and know that her lasting legacy is love, light and inspiration. I hope her story inspires you as much as she inspires me.
Tia Hale, our Queen of Hearts’ tips on how to Go RED
G: GET YOUR NUMBERS – Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol
O: OWN YOUR LIFESTYLE – Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise, and eat healthy. It is up to you. No one can do it for you.
R: REALIZE YOUR RISK – We think it will not happen to us, but heart disease kills one of three women.
E: EDUCATE YOUR FAMILY – Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
D: DON’T BE SILENT – Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our number 1 killer.
Learn more about Tia and her life here.