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Grant's Story

In February 1994, I swam the fastest time of my life. In March 1994, I went downhill skiing at over 12,000 feet. In April 1994, I clung to life in an emergency room.

Despite having a seemingly healthy body and no family history of heart disease, I had severe idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't work as well as it should. So doctors implanted a defibrillator to control my irregular heart beat.

Then, in 2002, my heart’s right ventricle had grown large, spreading the weakened tissue into my left ventricle. I was placed on a transplant list, but not willing to give up on my heart, I removed myself and drastically changed my lifestyle.
But I received a series of terrifying shocks from my defibrillator earlier this year. So a transplant was my only option.
I dealt with my fear by creating numerous paintings and illustrations. I drew my damaged heart crying with deep wounds and bruises. I painted a perfect, strong and healthy heart surrounded by glowing light. On that painting, I wrote: “I Look Forward to Meeting You.” That painting hung above my hospital bed as I slept.

In February 2005, my new heart found me. Now, when I awake each day with my new, strong beat inside, the first thing I do is say, “Thank you, New Heart, I’m glad you’re here.”


Dina Pagnotta, Stroke Survivor

At the age of 30 I suffered a stroke possibly due to a congenital heart defect I was unaware of; there are theories as to the cause but no definitive answer. Youth and stroke are not typically associated with each other by the average person, including me. I quickly discovered that stroke does not discriminate. I’ve had my heart repaired through a procedure that would have required open heart surgery if not for the current research and advances in medical technology. A titanium disc now sits between the chambers of my heart. Without the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and the support of companies and individuals like you, this procedure would not have been possible. Through your financial contributions, we can fund the research and education that save the lives of people like me. With your support, we can discover why young people have strokes and hopefully one day determine how to prevent them from ever occurring.


Alice Bugman, Heart Disease Survivor

I began having symptoms when I was only 16: when I laughed a certain way, my heart would start racing to almost 200 beats per minute. I went to the emergency room six times in two years before I was diagnosed with paroxysmal superventricular tachycardia. At age 19, when medication couldn't control the arrhythmic episodes, I underwent successful heart surgery and have been arrhythmia-free ever since. As a result of my own personal experience--and knowing my family's history of heart disease--I know how important it is to live a heart healthy lifestyle. I make sure to exercise regularly, eat right, and have annual conversations with my doctor about my health.


A Story of Hope told by Ramon Chapa Jr.

I should have known better. In fact, I did, but I was a hypocrite.

Even though I had worked as an outreach volunteer for the American Heart Association for several years, my aversion to exercise and fondness for potato chips had helped push my weight to nearly 300 pounds.

Reality eventually hit like a sledgehammer a few years ago when I began having chest pains and shortness of breath. I was convinced I was having a heart attack.

A checkup with my doctor revealed good and bad news. The good news was that I had not had a heart attack. The bad news was that my blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure were out of control.

I was shocked when my doctor said I was pre-diabetic and a prime candidate for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Me? As an AHA volunteer, I knew all the statistics about heart disease and increased risks for Latinos, but I was in denial about my own risk. Fortunately, as I was leaving his office, Dr. Lopez's wife said something that changed my life - she suggested I get on a treadmill.

That was the best decision that I ever made. I am convinced it saved my life.

I started slowly. At first, I walked on the treadmill only while watching football on TV. A little later, I incorporated better eating habits. Encouraged by my initial weight loss, I started walking every day. I added muscle-strengthening sit ups a couple days a week to my routine and pretty soon I could jog. Now I can run!

Not quite a year later, I went back to my doctor. This time, tests showed my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were normal and I was out of the diabetes danger zone. I was thrilled when the doctor took me off all medications. Today, I'm in the best condition of my life and comfortably maintain my weight at around 198 pounds - a weight I hadn't seen in almost 20 years.

People ask me, 'Did you have lap-band surgery?'"  I just smile and tell them the truth - all I do is eat right and exercise for my health. 

Donate today to help people like Ramon, or get involved with one of our many causes, like Go Red For WomenStart! Heart Walk or Power To End Stroke.