PLATTSBURGH Just because youve had a heart attack doesnt mean you have to sit at home in a chair and be afraid to do things. Why sit at home and think, Oh, poor me, when you can be with a group of active people like this?
Those words spoken by city resident William M. Cogan summed up the sentiment of many people who turned out Saturday for the American Heart Associations annual Start! Heart Walk.
Mr. Cogan was one of many heart attack survivors who turned out for the walk at the Parc Oval. One of many donning a red cap with the words Fighting Back, Mr. Cogan was easily recognized among others who survived heart attacks, strokes, heart disease or other heart-related ailments.
More than a thousand people registered at the event, either walking, volunteering or both. It was a number very impressive to Faith Osborne-Long, regional director for the Northeast affiliate of the American Heart Association.
Our 2007 Heart Walk staff and our volunteers have all worked hard with all of our walk teams you see around you, as well as the community, to get the word out about this years walk, said Osborne-Long. And seeing you all here today is truly inspiring.
People such as William Cogan and his wife, Erma, were eager to participate in the noncompetitive, three-mile walk in order to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke and promote physical activity.
Mr. Cogan, who has suffered two heart attacks in the past two years, felt it necessary to do what he could to become an advocate for those who may have had a heart attack but not even know it.
Though this is his first Heart Walk, being an advocate is nothing new for Cogan. Twenty-five years ago, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer a form of the disease which made headlines when affecting cyclist Lance Armstrong. The ability to speak to groups and get information to the uninformed started for Cogan many years ago, and that ability remains with him when he speaks passionately about the perils of heart attacks and strokes today.
If you think youre having a heart attack, youre not being a sissy because you get checked out, Mr. Cogan said bluntly. Theres no reason not to.
Most people go along and dont even realize whats happening until its way too late, said Mrs. Cogan. I know someone who thought they were having indigestion for two days and wound up dying, because by the time they got to the hospital, it was just too late.
Jill H. Collins, a computer department researcher with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, one of the several companies which sponsored a Heart Walk team, knows the effects of too late. Her father, the late Gilbert Hopkins, suffered a fatal stroke 12 years ago.
Thats why I walk. For him, Ms. Collins said of her father.
Her determination to honor her fathers memory led to the creation of the Wyeth team eight years ago. In that time, she has joined forces with many others affected by heart conditions, including co-worker Laurel J. Genier.
Ms. Geniers son, Mark, has suffered from tachycardia, a rapid beating of the heart, since a very young age.
We brought him home and thought he was a healthy baby, recalled Ms. Genier. At seven months old, we had to rush him off to California to have open heart surgery.
Since then, Mark, now 20 years old, has had four more open heart surgeries, though you would never know it, she said. Today, a student at Clinton Community College, he goes about his daily routine, not showing signs of his condition, she said. In fact, likely influenced to some degree by his condition, Mark is considering a career in medicine.
Inspirational stories were found all across Parc Oval field, with enthusiasm beaming from faces of those ready to do their part.
During the days events, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals was recognized for doing its part by achieving Fit-Friendly Gold Status through the American Heart Associations Start! movement. The program challenges corporations and their workforces to promote physical fitness and create a culture of physical activity in the workplace. Gold-level recognition is awarded to companies that offer employees physical activity support, increase healthy eating options at work, promote a wellness culture or implement a required number of physical, nutrition and culture activities.
According to information provided by Ms. Osborne-Long, Wyeth celebrated the grand opening of its Wellness and Fitness Center in October 2006. Since that time, Wyeths Wellness and Fitness Committee and the Employee Health Service Department have hosted five fitness challenges. The Wyeth Recreation Association also offers membership in activities such as golf, bowling and adult volleyball leagues. Fit Friendly menu options are also offered by the Wyeth cafeteria, locally managed by Sodexho.
Other honorable mention went to the Best Western Inn at Smithfield team, which was the first to raise $500 in a competition with a team from Ground Round. In their friendly wager, the two teams decided the first to raise that amount would host the other as guest employees of their business for the day. With that, Ground Round employees will soon be fluffing pillows and turning down beds at the local Best Western, all in good fun and for a good cause.
While totals are still being calculated, Ms. Osborne-Long estimates the walk has raised more than $132,000 between corporate and individual donations. The fund-raising goal for this years event was $150,000.
Funds will still be collected by the local Heart Association chapter and may be mailed in care of the American Heart Association to 434 Hurricane Lane, Williston, Vt. 05495.
Donations will fund research and education to reduce the risks and incidence of cardiovascular diseases. American Heart Association-funded research has contributed to many important discoveries such as CPR, life-extending drugs, pacemakers, bypass surgery, the heart-lung machine and surgical techniques to repair heart defects. In New York State alone, the American Heart Association is currently investing more than $14.3 million in research.
Dr. Russell Hartung, a Heart Association instructor of almost 15 years, credited the Heart Walk for not only helping with the purchasing of life-saving equipment such as automatic defibrillators, but in research to bring that equipment to existence as well.
It used to be that if a person had a cardiac arrest outside a hospital, it was about a 95 percent chance they would not survive. Now, in places where automatic defibrillators are available, the chances of survival can be 10 times as high, said Dr. Hartung, who added the walk benefits the educational arm of the Heart Association. Fundraisers like this help raise money for that research.
According to the American Heart Association, each year, Americans suffer 1.2 million heart attacks. Cardiovascular disease and stroke continue to be the nations No. 1 and No. 3 killers, claiming 870,000 lives each year and costing the nation more than $403 billion in direct and indirect costs.
For more information about cardiovascular disease, heart attack or stroke or the annual Heart Walk, call the local chapter of the American Heart Association at 643-9760 or visit www.plattsburghheartwalk.org .