They call it the Big Easy, but it was far from easy when I met the other participants of "My Research Legacy" in New Orleans this week.
My emotions were all over the place. My heart was racing, palms sweating and all week I kept quietly thinking to myself please don't let me get a big zit on my forehead. You are probably laughing at me, but stress can do crazy things to your complexion!
As soon as I walked into the room, I could feel the amazing connection that I had with complete strangers. We all had one thing in common a life changing event. In this case, it was a heart attack or stroke. It's a club I never thought I would be apart of, but now I know that everything happens for a reason and this is my REASON!
The room was filled with survivors who covered every corner of the U.S. As we went around the room and introduced ourselves and discussed our stories you started to see all the connections we shared.
The emotional questions of Why me, Why did this happen, What can I do to prevent this in the future, Were questions that we all had asked ourselves at one point or another post heart attack/stroke. To say an instant bond occurred is an understatement. This relationship was cemented the minute each of us shared our stories and is one that I feel can never be broken. It was amazing to feel like I was surrounded by people who had walked the same crazy path as me and now we're trying to better others.
The similarities we share made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Many of us had been long distance runners in the past, and some are currently training to run marathons this year. I have to say I'm a little jealous since my cardiologist told me no running until my one year anniversary on Feb 10th, 2017 after he conducts a stress test. Ugh, frustrating but I'll wait. Don't want to stress the old ticker out too early. Three of us were nurses who had worked with heart attack and stroke patients., but when we had our event none of us wanted to believe it was happening.
As I sit in the airport in New Orleans waiting for my flight, it's hard to express in words what the last few days have meant to me as a heart attack survivor. I was asked to be part of a new research group for the American Heart Association called "My research legacy." This group is comprised of 11 inaugural patients, who like me, have been diagnosed with a heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, aortic dissection or systolic heart failure/cardiomyopathy between the ages of 21and before 50. The hope for this research is to get 1,000's of patients involved to share their personal data to drive next generation heart/stroke research. "Leave your Legacy" is our theme and defines why we have chosen to be members. I want to have my data used for good to prevent others from having to go through a life-altering event.
If you are a heart attack/stroke survivor between the ages of 21 to 50 when you had your event, I encourage you to sign up for #MYRESEARCHLEGACY
The American Heart Association's motto is "LIFE IS WHY" but for me my motto is "MY FAMILY IS WHY."