Welcome to the The WSA Exchange, for healthy hearts and minds. Kathy Rogers, American Heart Association Western States Affiliate Executive Vice President will share stories from across the affiliate.
Kristyn King is a wife, mother and heart transplant recipient living in Southern California. She is also an American Heart Association volunteer, helping whenever she can to educate and empower women to take control of their health.
In August 19, 2014, I had two massive heart attacks followed by 20 more. This began my medical nightmare that resulted in a heart transplant, losing my right leg above the knee, and many months in the hospital that included sepsis and almost dying from pneumonia.
I had been feeling unwell for about two months, which I attributed to having just started taking birth control pills. During the week before the incident, I had no energy at all, and my hands were periodically going numb. I called my gynecologist twice but was told to wait and see if the symptoms improved. I knew that something was not right, but did as directed. I never considered that that my heart might be at serious risk.
I was at a kick boxing class, when after class I started feeling weak and dizzy with significant tunnel vision. I walked back into class to get a ride home, but I didn’t make it far before I had to lie down. An ambulance was called and on the way to the hospital I had two heart attacks. As they tried to reestablish my heart rhythm, I had 20 more heart attacks. I also had a stroke during this time, caused by the heart attacks. After being defibrillated 13 times my heart function was at 5%.
The doctors put me in a hypothermic state and helicoptered me to a hospital that could provide more advanced care, where I spent the next six months. Before I had been transferred, the doctors had tried to put me on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This is used in people who don’t have enough heart or lung function to get oxygen into the blood. In attempting this, a needle that was too large was used in my leg. This shredded the artery and the muscle, and I lost the blood flow to my foot. This resulted in gangrene in my foot, and by the time I was booked into an operating room, the gangrene had spread up to my knee. My leg had to be amputated above the knee.
While I was waiting for a heart transplant, I became septic. After surviving this, I became sick with hospital-acquired pneumonia, and once again, almost died. I survived, but was on a ventilator for two and a half months and had to learn how to breathe again.
I was so fortunate and thankful to eventually receive a heart transplant from a 19-year-old college girl named Chandler.
Before the heart attacks, I was living a normal life with my family. The week before, I was hiking with my husband, parents, and young son. The day of my episode, I had five other children at my house for a pool party. I am working hard to a new normal, enjoying my life and my family. I am thankful I am alive and able to share my message with others. My lesson is this – listen to your body. When you know something is wrong, seek help.
Saving Strokes is our popular rehabilitation through golf program, and has become a favorite among Tucson volunteers. Golf is a wonderful alternative therapy for stroke survivors. Local sponsors HealthSouth Rehab Hospital and HealthSouth Rehab Institute were thrilled with participant feedback and results – and are already looking forward to next year!
The event also had coverage from three media outlets, including KOLD Tucson News Now, KGUN and KVOA News 4. Thanks to our entire team of volunteers, staff and interns who made this special day possible!
Kathy Young (pictured on the left, below) is the Western States Affiliate Vice President of our Sun Coast Youth Market team. She is also the President of the American Heart Association’s “Hearts With Pride” LGBTQ employee resource group. Kathy recounts her recent experience representing the American Heart Association at a Phoenix Pride event.
Bringing together many voices is key to our mission. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is committed to ensuring that our mission impacts America’s diverse populations. We know that our continued progress with diversity is needed to achieve our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Recently, the Greater Phoenix Division embraced diversity by manning a booth at Phoenix Pride. During the two-day festival, American Heart Association staff and volunteers, wearing specially created t-shirts with the hashtag #HeartsWithPride, trained over 250 Pride attendees in hands-only CPR.
This new outreach is part of an initiative coordinated by the Association’s LGBTQ and Allies Employee Resource Group. The group was formed to actively work toward reducing health disparities; build alliances and support for the LBBTQ community by creating a safe and inclusive environment, and by engaging volunteers and staff in activities and discussions that will increase awareness and support mission success.
Heart disease and stroke do not discriminate, neither does the American Heart Association.
Gloria Gallardo is a California State University, Fullerton student. While working on a National Association of Hispanic Nurses program to reduce childhood and adolescent obesity, she met representatives from the American Heart Association. She soon became an intern and an integral part of the Association’s Legacy Leaders program.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an intern for the American Heart Association. My favorite part of the program was being able to bring Spanish speaking patients in high risk categories the heart tools they needed to be healthier in their own language and empower them to take better care of their heart health.
Most recently I helped plan the very first Go Red Por Tu Corozón Luncheon in Orange County. Por Tu Corozón is the Spanish-language branch of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Woman campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in women. I assisted in organizing the event, planning guest lists and coordinating eight other Legacy Leaders to register guests. My favorite part of the day was the entertainment, an all-woman Mariachi band, named the Mariachi Divas, who performed for an audience of over 300 women.
Working as an intern allowed myself and my peers to grow as leaders. One of the greatest development has been students taking initiative to create more of their own health events, flexing leadership muscles. In 2016, I was honored to receive a Community Engagement Award from California State University, Fullerton for my outstanding service as a student leader.
I recently completed a video interview with the American Heart Association’s National Center where I discussed my experience as a Legacy Leader. The video will be used as a part of the Empowered to Serve program which uses community organizations such as church groups as a channel to reach their members with heart healthy information and education.
I am excited to be in my final semester at school. After receiving my degree in Health Science I plan to take a gap year to gain more hands-on experience and investigate my next steps in advancing my education in global health. I am thankful to the American Heart Association internship program and the growth I experienced because of my participation!