Gene Jensen was a non-smoker, avid runner and healthy eater but his right coronary artery was 95% blocked. After finishing the 2009 Columbus Marathon in just under eight minutes per mile, Gene thought he was “in pretty good shape.” Still, he went to his doctor for a check-up just in case. He sailed through his stress test without feeling fatigued, but his doctor noticed some depressed blood flow. Gene had a family history of heart disease, so he knew that he was at greater risk in spite of all his efforts to live a heart-healthy life. He opted to have the heart catheterization that was recommended, and on May 29, 2009 the blockage was found and Gene was immediately scheduled to have a stent placed in his heart. The procedure went well and five days later Gene was back to running. “You don’t notice decreased capability when it happens slowly over time,” he says. “After getting the stent, I noticed immediately that my level of vitality and mental clarity had significantly improved.” Gene has been an avid supporter for the American Heart Association for more than four years both as an individual and through his company, American Electric Power. In 2008 he served as the Start! Central Ohio Heart Walk Chair and led the event to a record-breaking turnout of 15,000 walkers raising over $800,000. “It is very motivating to see the mass of humanity get together for a real good cause,” he says. “When you turn around and see a wave of people for nearly a mile, it is truly inspiring.” Gene says his favorite part is, “Hearing the personal stories from folks who have quit smoking, or lost weight, or changed their diet – people who are proud of the changes they made.”
Abigail Ellis was born with several serious heart defects. After several procedures and two open-heart surgeries, Abigail is an active first grader who likes gymnastics, dancing and swimming. For the past seven years, Abigail’s family has organized a team in the Nashville Heart Walk called Abigail’s Angel’s, and with the support of their family members and friends they have raised over $15,000 for the American Heart Association. People like you make a difference in the lives of people like Abigail. Some of the procedures Abigail had are no longer necessary because of advances in medical technology funded by the American Heart Association. She is doing well but will probably need more heart surgery in the future. Continuing to fund research through the American Heart Association will help Abigail and others to live.
As a CPR instructor and secondary school health educator for more than 20 years, Lori Hewlett has taught lifesaving skills to thousands of children and adults on Long Island, N.Y. “Anyone can learn CPR, and everyone should know CPR,” she says. “I’ve taught eight-year-olds, and I’ve taught 80-year-olds.” Lori’s own CPR skills were put to the test when her mother went into cardiac arrest 15 years ago. Thanks to Lori’s quick actions, her mother survived the event. Now Lori is helping the American Heart Association as a spokesperson for Be the Beat, a program targeting teens and tweens to teach them the basics of CPR and how to use an AED. It’s a message she’s been sharing throughout her career. “I tell my students, ‘This is one lesson I hope you never forget, but also one that I hope you never have to use. You never want to be in the position of saying, ‘I should have taken that course.’ When you put your head on your pillow at night you want to know that you did everything you could to help that person.”