Andrea Engfer. Six days after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, 34-year-old Andrea suffered a stroke. The cause? High blood pressure during pregnancy. Recovery has been a challenging journey as Andrea has had to re-learn how to walk, read and write. After spending over 43 hours in the hospital and many weeks in rehab, she celebrated by running her first 5K post stroke in October 2020. “I’ve come so far,” she said. “I’ve made such a big progress.”
Shree Saini. The reigning Miss World America Washington is also a heart disease survivor and advocate. She was born with a complete heart block, which causes irregular heartbeats, and had surgery at just age 12 to implant a pacemaker in her chest. Shree has volunteered at over 100 non-profits and leverages her platform to advocate for many causes, including heart health. She has been invited to speak about her service work in over 100 cities, 30 states and 8 countries where she shares her story to raise awareness of heart health and provides messages of encouragement and gratitude.
Stephanie Gerding. In 2017 Stephanie returned from back-to-back work trips and went to bed with exhaustion. “I woke up in the middle of the night and realized the world was seriously tilted and I told my husband to call 911.” When she arrived at the emergency room, doctors realized a tear in her vertebral artery had stopped the oxygen supply to her brain causing two strokes. “Learning to walk again was the hardest thing I've ever done. My leg felt like a heavy log that I couldn't control,” she said. In 2019, Stephanie set a goal to complete a 5K and crossed the finish line at the Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk. “I went from using a walker to finally walking on my own in time for the walk.”
Melissa Jeng. Melissa was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot but grew up to become a marathon runner, defying the odds. Overcoming setbacks is something she continues to do. In 2019 Melissa went into congestive heart failure and needed surgery to replace her pulmonary valve and patch her pulmonary artery in her heart to provide more blood flow to the lungs. In that same hospital visit, Melissa got the news that she had stage one liver cancer. “There is a unique mindset that develops with people who live with a congenital heart defect, a kind of invincibility.” Melissa’s message to other CHD patients, “Act on your heart symptoms with equal urgency as those experiencing symptoms related to acute heart emergencies.”
Ashley Mohoric. As an athlete, 32-year-old Ashley was surprised when she began to experience shortness of breath and chest pain following a procedure for an ankle injury. To her disbelief, Ashley woke up in the hospital after suffering from a bilateral pulmonary embolism (blood clots blocking both lungs), pneumonia in the right lung and three additional clots in her right leg. Thanks to the quick thinking of her boyfriend, who administered CPR until help arrived, Ashley made it to the hospital to receive care. “We’ve all heard the statistic that 1 in 3 women will die of heart disease, but I never thought that could apply to me.” Four days after being discharged, she interviewed with the American Heart Association and is now a Business Development Director focused on Go Red for Women. She advocates for heart health by raising funds for gender-focused research and increasing awareness in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
Madison Jemes. Madison’s family history of high blood pressure and aortic aneurism drove her passion to seek a career in cardiology and to educate others in her community about the warning signs and risk factors of heart disease, especially in women. At twenty-two, she is now a nurse on the Cardiac Care Transplant floor at a Spokane hospital where she cares for heart patients like her mom.
Monique Shields. Monique developed a condition called pre-eclampsia while pregnant with her first son and her journey with high blood pressure began. Hypertension and heart disease run in Monique’s family; her father died suddenly after a heart attack right before his 60th birthday and her mom lives with heart disease. After 15 years, her goal is to reduce her risk and maintain healthy blood pressure numbers by exercising at least 30 minutes daily, eating healthfully and consistently taking her blood pressure medication. She is especially passionate about increasing awareness, education and representation in research for Black women who are disproportionately affected by heart attack and stroke.
Jill Karon-Ross. In 2019, Jill collapsed in her bathroom and awoke to her husband on the phone with 911. She was diagnosed with severe atrial fibrillation which required two procedures (ablations) to repair heart tissue causing abnormal heart rhythm. After her episode with tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate) and other warning signs, doctors determined she was in heart failure and required a pacemaker followed by a third ablation procedure. With a family history of heart disease and stroke, Jill urges other women to pay attention to their warning signs and to manage their stress. “Don’t take the little signs for granted. There were times I felt off but they passed and I convinced myself I didn’t need to go to the doctor. I was under tremendous stress at work and believe this was a contributing factor. This isn’t okay, we have to pay attention and put ourselves first.”
Karleen Eads. On the weekend of September 9, 2017, Karleen was helping her son move in to his first apartment after college graduation when she experienced flu-like symptoms of indigestion, vomiting, heartburn and chills. “Like most women do, I ignored the pain. I have always had a problem with acid reflux and I felt like it was just a bad flare up." On September 11th , her symptoms had not subsided and she realized it was time to get checked out. When she arrived at the urgent care, an EKG instantly detected that she was having a heart attack and she was transferred to a hospital where she had surgery to place a stent in a large artery followed by a second procedure to place two smaller stents. Doctors discovered that her lupus, diagnosed at age 20, attacked her left ventricle and clogged an artery, causing a heart attack. “The thought of a heart attack never crossed my mind. I did not realize lupus attacked the heart.” Karleen is now retired and has found that a combination of exercise, stress management and family support are key to the management of lupus and heart health. “I just want people to not be so scared. The best way to go about this is with eyes wide open and to face your challenges straight on.”
Meet the 2021 Go Red Real Women
National ambassadors sharing their stories, including Dani, Jane and Jennifer from Washington state! Click here to learn more!
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
11:30am - 1:00pm PST
American Heart Association
Attn: Puget Sound Go Red
710 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98104