Back when I was in nursing school, heart disease was taught to appear as a number of signs and symptoms. None of which looked like my healthy, thirty-one-year-old, former athlete husband.
But the two leading causes of death in the world—heart disease and stroke—do not discriminate. And during the summer of 2016, I learned just that when I found my husband unresponsive on our floor. We suddenly went from a family in the middle of newborn baby bliss—having just welcomed our second child six weeks prior—to navigating our way around hospitals and cardiac care.
My husband was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an already rare condition of which he had an even rarer version. We spent weeks away from our children. There were surgeries and defibrillator placements; occupational therapy treatments for the broken back he incurred during his flatline.
And as my husband learned to walk and feed himself again, we all learned this news: his condition was chronic—and genetic. Our two young children had a 50% chance of having it as well. That summer, we barely survived.
But just three years later, on November 9th, we thrived. Dancing at a ball, surrounded by stories of familiarity and hope.
The Collin County Heart Ball, benefitting the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, is a night of celebration and unprecedented giving, highlighting Collin County’s support of healthy communities and families.
Spearheaded by head chef Aaron Staudenmaier from Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, more than 450 guests feasted on exquisite food and cocktail pairings from 10 of Collin County’s hottest restaurants.
Throughout the night guests took part in a silent and live auction, featuring the evening’s most luxurious packages and experiences, such as a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. The package, donated by CoSport and Toyota, raised $40,000, but the giving didn’t end there.
I watched (and cried) as paddle after paddle went up during the live Open Your Heart Campaign round of bidding. Two generous $25,000 donations kicked things off, with an ending amount of $225,000 raised, more than doubling last year’s donations. In total, the Collin County Heart Ball raised a record-breaking $670,000, an increase of nearly $200,000 from the previous year.
What impact do the funds make?
Funds raised from the Heart Ball go directly toward cardiovascular research and heart health educational programs both locally and nationwide, which is vitally important since a life is claimed every 80 seconds by cardiovascular diseases.
But nearly 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented.
Kathryn Allen, senior vice president of North Texas expressed the impact the Collin County Heart Ball has created.
Each and every year we continue to be touched by the generosity of our community and their support of the Collin County Heart Ball. We are thankful for their relentless pursuit of longer, healthier lives for all people across our community.
One couple we met at the Heart Ball who can attest to the importance of philanthropic fundraising for cardiac health were the event chairs, Chris and Lisa Gerrish. A longtime Frisco resident, Chris shared his personal heart story of going into cardiac arrest and how he was revived by bystanders using Hands-Only CPR and an AED.
A few months later, he saved the life of a stranger who collapsed by performing Hands-Only CPR. Two miracles within nine months. Chris Gerrish is a survivor—and now reviver.
My family and I now fall into a category of people who can say, “My entire life changed in an instant.” During the summer of 2016, belonging to that group felt incredibly isolating. I didn’t know a single person with the same experience and I just wanted my husband’s health back; the stability and security he offered our family.
But sitting in a room full of leaders in cardiac health, volunteers, sponsors, and simply people who understood, made me realize we have never been alone—and there’s great power in that.
The evening may have appeared to have been about good food and drinks, fabulous acoustic guitar playing, cupcakes and coffee, and confetti cannons, but to me, it was much more. It was a chance to raise hope. It was an opportunity to make sure my husband is around to watch our children grow.
I think Hercules said it best: “A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.”
I couldn’t be more grateful for the American Heart Association and the Collin County Heart Ball.
They are my miracle.
The 2019 Collin County Heart Ball was sponsored by Toyota, Wells Fargo, Medical City Healthcare, Crest Auto Group and Bank of America. Since its inception in 2015, the Collin County Heart Ball has raised nearly $2 million. For more information or to donate today visit www.collincountyheartball.heart.org.
The American Heart Association, based out of Dallas, is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To get involved call 1-800-AHA-USA1, or visit heart.org.