We are excited to announce that Jill Hollander, a survivor ambassador for the American Heart Association, will be sharing her story of how she “Found Her YES!” at the Greater Northern NJ Heart Walk.
FROM BIRTH, JILL HAS BEEN SPENDING HER LIFE IN SEARCH OF YES! IN A SEA OF NOS.
Jill was born with a congenital heart defect, transposition of the great vessels, and the technology to treat it had only been invented a decade earlier. Fortunately, Jill was born at a time when there were advancements in research, science, and technology that made it possible for babies like her to be saved. Having amazing doctors, as well as parents that were determined to get her the best treatment were instrumental in her successful outcome. Additionally, Jill was born with the strong fighting spirit that enabled her to persevere through all the obstacles that came her way.
Jill had her first open-heart surgery at two years old, but her heart journey was far from over. At 15 years old Jill was diagnosed with a potentially serious bacterial infection of the heart valves and muscles called endocarditis. That same summer Jill was diagnosed with bradycardia, which is a slower than normal heartbeat, and she needed to have a pacemaker implanted. Over the next year, Jill’s heart slowly weakened, and at 16 Jill had her second open heart surgery.
Through all of these obstacles (“NOs,” as she calls them), Jill was a relentless advocate for herself and lived as fully as possible. “I was determined to continue to make my health a priority without allowing it to stop or define me,” Jill said. “I wanted to keep finding the opportunities to say YES! to my life as this gave me the motivation and courage to persevere through ALL the NOs.” Jill found her YES! time and time again by adopting the mindset of a healthy person and living accordingly, which included keeping connected with all of her friends through all her hospitalizations, living as typical a high school experience as possible which included going to parties, concerts, and proms. “Finding my YES! allowed me to create a life instead of merely surviving a diagnosis,” says Jill.
Jill’s second open-heart surgery did not go as planned and, after three years of managing to live the life of a “normal” high school student, as her heart was slowly failing, she found out that she would need a heart transplant. At the age of 18, Jill received her heart transplant. Jill continued to look for and find her YES! as she adjusted to her “new normal” of life with a transplanted heart.
Jill went on to college, then graduate school, and began her career as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Jill is also a Certified Health and Life Coach, using her own life experiences to help others through empowerment coaching and motivational speaking, Jill helps people to Find Their YES! Even in a sea of NOs.
Jill says, “Discovering how to FIND MY YES! has empowered me to find ways to take charge of my life and circumstances by creating my support squad, becoming my own advocate and speaking up for myself, shifting my mindset and attitude, using resiliency skills including problem solving and coping strategies to create my YES!, and to live fully through all the colors of my life! These are the Find Your YES! guiding principles that I created and use in my daily life and share with others. These principles also help me to apply the research that I read to continue to take the best possible care of my health. This research is made possible through generous donations made to the American Heart Association and other organizations. Through the work of the American Heart Association so much has been done to help the heart community, but there is more work to do.”
The Greater Northern NJ Heart Walk is one of over 300 signature community events throughout the country that helps fund breakthrough science that saves lives every day. Science such as the artificial heart valve, stroke prevention, guidelines for doctors and ways to save babies born with congenital heart defects. The advancements in science, research and technology that helped to save Jill are still at work today, getting better because of supporters like over 1 million Heart Walkers across the country.
Today, while about 40,000 infants are born with heart defects each year, only about 25 percent of those require invasive treatment in the first year of life. In August 2011, New Jersey became the first to require pulse oximetry screening for newborns. Thanks to advocacy efforts by the American Heart Association and other organizations across the state, every baby born in New Jersey must be screened for congenital heart disease within 24 hours of birth.
We can continue to fund science and advocate for heart and stroke patients throughout New Jersey, but we can’t do it alone. By joining the Greater Northern NJ Heart Walk, YOU are making a difference and saving lives. For more information and to register, visit www.GreaterNNJHeartWalk.org.
Senior communications director for the American Heart Association in New Jersey, Lehigh Valley and Northeast PA. Dedicated to being a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.