Heart Walk, Heart Hero 5K raise nearly $50K
Wyomissing family shares story of twin sisters living with heart failure
More than 400 walkers and 100 runners turned out for the 2018 Berks County Heart Walk and first ever Heart Hero 5K at Gring’s Mill Recreation Area in Reading on Saturday, Sept. 29, raising nearly $50,000 for the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The fundraising total is expected to climb as additional donations are accepted until Oct. 29.
Participants in the 5K race took off at 10 a.m. while the rest of the walkers took time to enjoy other festivities including HandsOnly CPR demonstrations, healthy snacks, health information and activities for kids. After the runners returned, the official Heart Walk opening ceremonies began led by chair Amy Teal, CEO of HealthSouth Reading Rehabilitation Hospital. She introduced the story of two young twin sisters, Katarina and Cecilia of Wyomissing, who are living with heart failure.
Their story began in the summer of 2016 when Katarina woke up with a terrible cold. Over the next few hours, she was in and out of consciousness and rushed to hospital where staff performed CPR, put in a breathing tube and gave her epinephrine. She was then flown to Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital where her parents, Ed and Krista, found out that Katarina was in severe heart failure.
While they were there, the hospital gave her twin sister, Cecilia, a chest x-ray as a precaution. Despite not having any symptoms, the test revealed that Cecilia was also in severe heart failure and was immediately admitted. Six days later, both girls underwent open heart surgery to receive special pacemakers. They were diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning that their hearts were enlarged and weakened by an unknown cause.
Two years later, the girls continue having regular visits with heart failure specialists and take a variety of medications. While they can life relatively normal lives, their journey is far from over; nearly a quarter of all children diagnosed with cardiomyopathy will one day require a heart transplant. Their parents’ goal is to keep them off the transplant list for as long as possible and hope that better treatments are found.
Katarina, Cecilia and their family helped kick off the walk from the starting line, followed by hundreds of other supporters of the cause.
The Berks County Heart Walk and 5K is supported locally by HealthSouth Reading Rehabilitation Hospital and Stevens and Lee. The Heart Walk is part of the American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good movement to encourage sustainable healthy lifestyle changes. For more information about the Heart Walk, visit www.heart.org/ berkspawalk or call 484245-6262.
Heart Walk steps off at the Grings Mill Recreation Area.
The Heart Hero 5K takes off at Grings Mill Recreation Area.