Heart to Heart

Heart to Heart
By: Amanda Rose Ewertz

Heart health has become increasingly more important to me over the past few years. My grandfather got a pacemaker almost ten years ago at the age of 79. He is now 89 and will need to have the pacemaker battery replaced soon. For an 89-year-old who has smoked most of his life, he is in remarkable health. However, the procedure to remove his current pacemaker could be dangerous. The device has been embedded in the tissue for ten years meaning that he will probably need anesthesia during the procedure. Anesthesia can be dangerous at any age, but at 89, my grandpa’s risks are much higher. Heart disease does not run in my family. My grandpa is the only person in my family who has had any sort of heart complications. His heart problems are almost certainly a result of his years of tobacco use. He started smoking as a child – back when that was socially acceptable – but with each puff, his heart became increasingly weaker. After watching my grandpa go from a tough-as-nails, 200-pound World War II veteran to a 130-pound, shadow of his former self, I have begun to take my heart health seriously. I do not smoke, drink, or do drugs because I know that prolonged use of any of these can weaken my heart. I want to have a long life like my grandpa, but I do not want to be miserable for half of it because my health limits me.

I joined the Alpha Phi Women’s Fraternity in the fall of 2011. I was originally opposed to Greek life because I thought that the stereotype portrayed in every college move was correct. A month before I entered college, I received an email from a girl who graduated from my high school the year before I did. I knew that she was nothing like a “typical sorority girl.” I asked a plethora of questions about what Greek life was like at Wichita State. After establishing that it was nothing like the stereotype, I decided to go through rush week with an open mind. I ended up choosing Alpha Phi because their philanthropy helped fund heart health research and I wanted to help. Our sorority helps raise money for the Alpha Phi Foundation which distributes money to different heart health research facilities every year. Alpha Phi International adopted heart health as their philanthropy because heart disease is the number one killer of young women, but the money goes to help people of all ages. The 2012 Heart to Heart Grant was given to the University of Washington’s Division of Cardiology in Seattle, Washington. They received $50,000 to go towards a research project to study the gender differences in Atherosclerosis-related plaque buildup.

After joining Alpha Phi, I kept finding more and more connections between myself and heart health. Many of the other girls in my chapter picked Alpha Phi because of its dedication to heart health and heart health awareness. Heart health was an important philanthropy to me because of my grandpa and his pacemaker, but many of the other girls joined for reasons that hit much closer to home. One of my sorority sisters was born with a heart defect and was not expected to live more than a few days. She had multiple open heart surgeries within her first few weeks of life. She had her last surgery in elementary school. That girl, who was not expected to live more than a few days, just graduated from Wichita State University in December of 2012. She majored in dance: an activity that works the heart muscle. When I think about how heart health has impacted my life, I not only think about my grandpa, I think about my sister who, had it not been for experienced cardiologists, I may never have met. I attend each of our philanthropy events with her in mind. The money we raise for heart health research could help to help another person like her defy expectations and live. I like to think that every dollar we give to fund research helps save another wonderful person like my sorority sister.