When asked to describe her passions in life, Cheryl Rauschenbach always has the same answer: family and faith. These are the pillars of Cheryl’s life, both before and after her life was turned upside down by illness and loss.
One night before bed, Cheryl told her husband, Rob, that she was not feeling well and might be coming down with a virus. The next morning, Rob asked Cheryl how she was feeling and when she replied, Rob told her to “stop talking gibberish”. This was the first hint that Cheryl might be having a stroke. After looking at her face drooping in the mirror, Cheryl’s suspicions were confirmed.
While Cheryl was recovering from her stroke, her 29-year-old daughter, Emily, was facing her own health issues. Born with a congenital heart defect called Loeys-Dietz aneurysm syndrome, Emily underwent numerous heart surgeries. Complications arose, including the loss of a lung.
To help them navigate the water of their daughter’s heart defect, the Rauschenbachs connected with the American Heart Association when Emily was born. As she grew, Emily volunteered with the Association, reaching out to other survivors and support the organization’s mission. Emily also volunteered at Camp Rhythm, a camp for children with heart conditions, where campers gravitated toward her positive attitude.
Despite the challenges both mother and daughter faced, Cheryl and Emily were hopeful and determined. Hopeful to help others suffering from similar issues by sharing their stories; determined to work toward their best selves and to not let their diagnoses define them.
Emily Rauschenbach lost her battle with heart disease at just 30 years old. Her parents and her brother and sister were devastated, but determined to carry on Emily’s legacy. For Cheryl, as Emily’s mother and a stroke survivor, the American Heart Association was a familiar and fitting outlet to do so. For themselves and for Emily, they are sharing their story through the #NoMOHeartDisease initiative to help all Missourians live longer, healthier lives.
Poetically, the Rauschenbach’s story ends the way it began--with family and faith--as they continue to have faith in the future after suffering unbelievable loss.