The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, welcomed 120 supporters back to the York Go Red for Women Luncheon on Thursday, June 16 at the Out Door County Club in York. It was the first time the event was held in-person since February 2020. The campaign, led by chair Mary Winand, assistant director of financial planning at The Financial Advisory Group, raised over $12,000 for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.
The event’s theme “Reclaim Your Rhythm” encouraged attendees to reprioritize their physical and mental health, which may have suffered during the pandemic.
“As a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and an aunt to 10 nieces and 12 nephews, I want to live a long and healthy life and want to see all of the women that I love do the same,” said Winand. “Heart disease remains women’s greatest health threat and there is still more that we can do to save women’s lives. I love the message that both the Go Red for Women movement and the American Heart Association continues to send to us – that we need to always make our health a priority and to listen to our bodies when they are trying to tell us something.”
Dr. Rhian Davies, interventional cardiologist at WellSpan Health, provided the keynote address about the importance of managing blood pressure for heart disease and stroke prevention. In addition to a silent and live auction, guests supported the cause through the Open Your Heart appeal featuring the stories of two local heart disease survivors – Connie Wolfe and Lacey Ziegler.
On November 8, 2020, Connie Wolfe of York spent her Sunday morning as she did many weekends – going on a bike ride with her husband and friends. It wasn’t until later that evening when Connie was home preparing dinner that she started to feel unwell. She initially brushed off her symptoms, attributing her nausea to the ice cream she ate earlier in the day and the tightness between her shoulder blades to being hunched over the handlebars of her bike all morning. As her symptoms grew to include aching in the back of her arms and a burning sensation in her throat, she began to suspect she had COVID-19 or even a panic attack, which she had experienced earlier that year. She tried unsuccessfully to sleep that night and by morning knew that she had to call her doctor.
Her primary care doctor saw her that morning and, after performing some initial tests, began to suspect that Connie had suffered a heart attack. She was taken from her doctor’s office to the hospital by ambulance. The next morning, Connie underwent a heart catheterization and doctors discovered he had a 100 percent blockage in her circumflex artery. She received two stents to reopen the artery and was released home a few days later. Since then, Connie has taken even more steps to improve her diet and underwent cardiac rehab to rebuild her strength so she can get back out on her bike.
“Of course, I always heard women’s symptoms were different than men’s, but I had no idea a heart attack felt like this and I never imagined that it would happen to me,” said Wolfe. “I exercised, I ate healthy, I never smoked and I didn’t take any medication, but my family history was my downfall. My father had his first heart attack at the age of 65 and one of his sisters died of a heart attack at the age of 61, the same age I was that November.”
Lacey Ziegler, a native of Franklin County, was already very aware of risk factors and signs of high blood pressure and heart disease when she became pregnant with her twin boys ten years ago because she works for a company that provides cardiac stress testing equipment for clinics and hospitals. Other than some swelling in her legs, she did not have any obvious signs of preeclampsia at her 31-week prenatal checkup, but her obstetrician was concerned enough about the swelling and her elevated blood pressure that she was sent for additional testing at the hospital. Results there showed that she had both preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, which stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. She was suddenly faced with the realization that her liver was failing, her twins were in distress and she would have to deliver prematurely at 31 weeks.
The first twin, Peyton, spent eight weeks in the NICU and the second twin, Dakota, spent nine weeks in the NICU in addition to undergoing surgery to correct a congenital heart defect called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). The surgery repairs and closes the ductus arteriosus vein, which normally closes on its own when a baby is born full term. Today, both twins are healthy and Dakota is an active supporter of the American Heart Association through his school’s participation in the Kids Heart Challenge program.
“Luckily I had an absolutely amazing doctor who knew exactly what he was looking for and sent me to the hospital,” said Ziegler. “Just make sure that you are always speaking up for yourself and telling your doctor what you notice about your body, especially when you’re pregnant.”
Since 2004, Go Red for Women has had a profound impact on women’s health. As the trusted, passionate, and relevant force to eradicate heart disease and stroke, through the Go Red for Women movement, the American Heart Association remains steadfast and committed to meeting the comprehensive health needs of women — at every life stage.
The dollars raised by the York Go Red for Women Luncheon fund the mission of the American Heart Association to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, as well as generate funds for lifesaving cardiovascular research for women.
The York Go Red for Women campaign is sponsored nationally by CVS Health and locally by WellSpan Health, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, M&T Bank, Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of York, Medtronic and other local companies.
For more information about supporting the American Heart Association in York County, contact Gail Frassetta at [email protected] or 717-730-1771.