The American Heart Association – Connecticut, held their 10th annual Greater Hartford Go Red For Women Luncheon on Wednesday, March 18 at the Connecticut Convention Center. With over 750 attending, representing hundreds of local businesses, the luncheon raised an impressive $400K through corporate sponsors and individual contributors. New to the event this year was the Women’s Wellness Showcase with exhibitors presenting different aspects of wellness, ranging from educational materials, health screenings, chair massages, an invigorating Zumba demonstration and even a selfie station to pose for a photo and share a “Life is Why” moment.
A common theme throughout the event was the importance of advocating for your health by taking steps toward living healthier lives today. One of the many highlights was Leigh Pechillo, who shared her story beginning with her infant son, Robby, who required open-heart surgery to repair a valve when a murmur had been detected. Her experience with heart disease continued as her father battled several cardiovascular complications. These experiences prompted Leigh and her family to become involved as volunteers and give back to the AHA, helping raise awareness and funds for an organization that had benefitted
their family personally. Little did she know that her personal experience was about to take a direct hit on her heart. As she recalled a typical Mother’s Day morning with her husband, son and daughter, she was treated to breakfast and smiles from her children. It was a good day, but she felt a little “off”, heartburn, she thought. After a call to the doctor who suggested it could be heartburn or possibly angina, he advised starting with an antacid and if the discomfort remained, it would be necessary to go to the hospital. Leigh had a variety of thoughts: “angina? Not possible,” “I’m a mom and have too much to do,” “I’m too young for a heart attack.” Continuing through the morning, Leigh still didn’t feel well and went to the bathroom to see if they had any antacid. At that point she dropped to the floor in full cardiac arrest and does not recall anything until waking up four days later at Hartford Hospital.
Doctors found a 70% blockage in the left anterior descending artery, also known as the “widow maker” because a blockage in this location often results in death. When asked why she thinks she is alive today, Leigh credits “prayers from family and friends, CPR administered by her husband and EMTs, the doctors and nurses who cared for her, and the American Heart Association” for its dedication to wiping out this disease.
Rhonda Hall, National Go Red Spokesperson, also shared her inspirational story of change, leading to a healthier life through diet and exercise. Ms. Hall asked attendees to make the simple but important pledge to reduce sodium intake. Her small but sustained changes resulted in significant weight loss and reduced need for diabetic insulin. In agreement with all of the presenters of the day, Rhonda reminded everyone to be their own advocate. “Know your numbers and use them as a baseline to make small changes toward better health,” she said. As a special education teacher in Springfield, MA, Ms. Hall also addressed teaching children, both at home and in schools, about the importance of healthy choices and advocating for themselves.
The American Heart Association puts emphasis on teaching our youth about healthy living as well as what to do in an emergency. Leigh Pechillo and her family are strong supporters in the local efforts to engage school children with “Jump Rope for Heart” events that engage elementary and middle school students with jumping rope as a fund-raising event while empowering them to improve their own health and help other kids with heart-health issues. Additionally, there is a nationwide effort to have CPR training in all high schools, ensuring more people are properly trained and ready to save a life in those critical first moments.
Hoffman Audi has been proud to support the American Heart Association and continues partnership to ensure lives are saved through increased awareness of the risks, education to improve the health of our lives and an overall decrease in heart disease and stroke in women. Bradley Hoffman, Co-chair of Hoffman Auto Group and American Heart Association Board Member, emphasized the importance of supporting the AHA to make a difference in the lives of people like Leigh. “Open your heart and dig deep whether it is $25, $100 or $1000,” Bradley stated, “because your donation helps save lives of people like Leigh, and perhaps your own, by supporting the programs and education provided by the AHA.” Get informed today by visiting Heart.org and learn how you, too, can join the efforts to wipe out cardiovascular disease.