Monica (top left) with her mom and friends at the Heart Walk finish line.
When I was just seven years old, my mom had a stroke. Although I was young, the day still lives vividly in my memory. I remember my dad picking my younger sister, Carmen, and me up from daycare and driving us to my mom’s place of work. Her colleagues gave my sister and me crayons and paper to color, hoping that they would distract us from my mom being wheeled out of her office on a stretcher. Next thing I knew we were at the hospital. After a few hours, they said my mom had been cleared to come home with us, ignoring the fact she couldn’t move her left arm and leg or walk by herself. It was not until a week later that she was correctly diagnosed and put in the hospital. A couple of weeks later she got to come home, but was put on bed rest until she could have heart surgery a couple of months later, as heart disease had been the cause of her stroke. I remember coming home after school to close friends and family surrounding her bed.
This time was the most difficult for me. I barely saw my mom because she was always being visited, tested, or I “had to let her rest”. During this time, my mom had trouble walking and doing other normal activities, and I had to fend for myself a lot and take care of my little sister, who was only three. But I was still very young, myself, and really needed my mom.
It was the 2003 Heart Walk that changed everything. My mom’s friend, Delilah, convinced my mom to go on the AHA Heart Walk. So around 8:00am on that morning, my mom and I went with Delilah and her daughter (who is a close friend of mine) and began the Walk. It took us over two hours to complete the walk, but we did it. This was a huge turning point for my mom because getting through that three miles made her realize that she could recover from her stroke. At the end, someone from the AHA gave my mom a big hug and put a red dress pin on her. Thanks to the Heart Walk, my mom didn’t give in to the stroke. After that, she had a heart operation and we got busy teaching her to walk, run, ride bikes, and ski again. She mostly made her way back to her old self and has started living again.
Today, I talk at AHA luncheons, campaigns, and volunteer for the AHA because they help people like my mom in so many ways. They fund studies, and provide information and outreach programs so that people can stay healthy or get better if they are sick. I really appreciate how the AHA helped in my mom’s recovery, and I am glad that today I can give back to them.