Go Red for Women raises awareness of stroke, heart disease
WHITESBORO — On the morning of Friday, Feb. 3, the Hart’s Hill Inn was filled with people decked out in red — red dresses, red sweaters, red blouses, red jackets, red ties, red socks — to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke in women, whose health needs are often overlooked and dismissed.
The American Heart Association (AHA) hosted the Mohawk Valley Go Red for Women luncheon on Friday, which aimed to spread information and raise funds for the fight against cardiovascular disease in women. This year’s theme was “Be the Beat,” a reference to hands-only CPR. The AHA’s goal is for people to be confident in administering hands-only CPR, and for at least one person in every family to know how to administer hands-only CPR.
Jennifer Keida, president of Standard Insulating Co., member of the AHA Board of Directors and co-chair of the Circle of Red, said that events like the luncheon serve as a reminder for people that during their busy lives, it’s important to slow down and think about heart health.
“Women often spend a lot of time focusing on their families, their children, their husbands, their parents, their coworkers, and when you’re fatigued, and tired, and maybe achy, you tend to push that aside and not really focus on it,” Keida said. “So today is really about having women understand that they are important and they can’t take care of those people unless they take care of themselves.”
During the event, there were demonstrations on how to perform CPR, and an educational video was shown during the luncheon. The steps are:
• Call 911 or have someone else call 911 and to find an automated external defibrillator.
• Place the heel of one hand in the center of the victim’s chest and put the other hand on top of the first hand.
• Push hard and fast, giving 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
“You don’t need an M.D. to do it,” Dr. Cynthia Jones, member of the AHA Board of Directors, said.
Audrey Ventura, a stroke survivor, shared her story. In 2006, at age 29, she began experiencing strange, involuntary movements. She looked for medical help, but did not receive a diagnosis for a year, until she found a neurologist who was willing to help her. The doctor diagnosed her with partial seizures.
“In April of 2009, I was finally diagnosed with the cause of my seizures. I had a vascular tumor in my brain stem called cavernous hemangioma,” she said.
Cavernous hemangiomas are made up of tiny blood vessels, which make them prone to bleeding, which can lead to seizures or a stroke.
“If I hemorrhaged, a.k.a. had a stroke, my risk of death was extremely high. My hemangioma was already filled with blood and on the verge of a hemorrhage. In June of 2009, I had my first bleed,” Ventura said. “I woke up and was literally walking into walls. I knew I was going to have a stroke, but when I actually had one, I couldn’t think straight and had no idea what was happening.”
Ventura’s neurologist searched the nation for a doctor to help her, and found a vascular neurosurgeon in Buffalo.
“Not only did he take me on as a patient, but in a month, he went from not knowing how to help me, to creating a brand new surgical technique that saved my life and countless others,” she said.
Ventura said she wants other survivors to know that they’re not alone.
“It is extremely hard to get out of bed each morning, to do the exercises I have to do, every single day. This is never ending. The damage is permanent. But you’re not alone,” Ventura said. “There is a support system out there. There’s people like me, who made it my life mission to create a community that supports others like us. We want to get together, create a support system, for each other, saying ‘We can keep going, we can live normal lives, even though we have these deficits.’”
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