Monday, November 4, 2013

Raising Awareness: Horseback Riding for a Reason

Dear Heart Friends:

Imagine 1200 horses and riders all coming together for a cause -- heart disease. Imagine you are amongst those 1200 riders, but you are only 12 months old and the reason you are there is not to support Grandpa, but rather yourself. You are there because twelve months prior you were in a surgical operating room and your parents and grandparents were waiting for a miracle to happen. They were waiting for a surgeon to operate on your walnut-sized heart to save your life.

This was the case for little Noah (Riding Horses to Support Heart Disease). The title of the article I read was a bit misleading:  Riding Horse to Support Heart Disease -- they aren't really supporting heart disease, but rather riding horses to raise money for the American Heart Association which does a great deal to fund research related to heart disease.

What surprised me a good deal about this article was that it was the 32nd Annual American Heart Association Beach Ride. This ride probably started out to help people with acquired heart disease, but I found it heartwarming to read about how a family with congenital heart disease took part (and over a dozen of their friends) to raise awareness of how heart disease does not only affect the elderly -- but even tiny, newborn infants.

There are some members of the congenital heart defect community who don't support the American Heart Association because only pennies of every dollar they raise actually goes toward congenital heart defect research; however, they raise so much money per year (the fundraiser described above raised more than $250,000 alone!) that the amount of money they contribute to research regarding congenital heart defects is significant and shouldn't be taken for granted. In an article in the monthly publication Circulation (Circulation October 29, 2013) the new President of the AHA, Jan Breslow, MD, addresses why everyone should support the AHA.

He talks about the underfunding by the United States government of research related to heart disease and stroke. He also specifically addresses congenital heart disease because the AHA is addressing the development, biologically, of the heart. While that research may not help people like my son, who is a young adult with congenital heart disease, they are right to try to determine the cause of congenital heart defects so we can prevent people from being born with defective hearts. If we could prevent hearts from developing problems in utero, or discover means to help a developing heart to grow correctly, many of us "heart parents" would be relieved of ever having to hand our babies, like Noah, off to a surgeon just days after birth.

I encourage all of us in the heart world to work together to raise awareness of heart disease -- whether it's acquired or congenital, to fund research for answers to the many questions we have to be united. We will gain so much more by being united!

Please visit Baby Hearts Press at for resources for the congenital heart defect community.

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