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Start Heart Smart

As a baby born eight weeks premature, I was born with two holes in my heart, known as atrial septal defect & ventricular septal defect, which closed on their own by the time I was 5. But then, at the age of 13, I was diagnosed with a heart murmur in addition to leaky valves and mitral insufficiency, the most common form of valvular heart disease. I remember being so scared knowing that I had issues with my heart. However, I chose to become educated about my disease and take as much control as possible to make sure that I can live the healthy lifestyle I desire – now and in the future.

Unfortunately, many children and teens do not understand how their everyday choices may affect their heart, often because no one has explained to them how important their choices are. Since creating Start Heart Smart, I have had the opportunity to:

  •  Travel to over 20 counties and 140 classrooms in Michigan as well as virtually visit elementary schools in two states, including Indiana and Florida, to speak to students about my story with heart disease and to educate them on how our choices directly affect the way our heart functions

  • Work with Hurley Medical Center’s Teen Heart Check program, Thomas Smith Memorial Foundation, and the London Strong Foundation to help promote teen heart checks and CPR training

  • Create a subsection of Start Heart Smart titled “Care for Cardiac: Care Packages.” Through this program, I have been able to donate over 250 cardiac care packages to pediatric cardiovascular patients being treated at hospitals including Hurley Children’s Center, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and Sparrow Hospital in Michigan as well as Children's of Alabama in Alabama, 

  • Speak to Michigan leaders such as Former Representative Sheryl Kennedy, Representative Tim Sneller, Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer in regards to Start Heart Smart and increasing the curriculum surrounding heart health in our education system.

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