By Jennifer L. Warren
CORNWALL – Kattya Fernandez absolutely refuses to keep still.
Fifteen years ago, at the age of 35, the New Windsor resident, Fernandez, could have easily chosen that slower, more conservative path.
At this time, the active and healthy Fernandez was delivered the surprising diagnosis that she had two holes in her heart valve. Recognizing few, if any symptoms, Fernandez, like many women, was taken completely unawares by the news, even making light of its reality.
“I told my doctor, why don’t you just put a Band-aid on it,” recalled Fernandez. “He laughed, but then told me to really monitor it, exercise as much as I could and eat healthy, and only if I got really tired, would he have to possibly replace the valve.”
Diligently following orders, Fernandez ramped up her already active lifestyle, adding hiking, Boot Camp and Zumba to her regime as well as ate an even healthier diet, one chock full of fruits and vegetables, than her pre-diagnosis days. She also agreed to see her doctor every six months to monitor the condition.
The results resonated volumes. Now, close to her 50th birthday, Fernandez continues to celebrate being in the best shape of her life, more energetic, positive and happier than ever before. The veteran Zumba instructor is so grateful to her passion of movement, she now spreads that love each February when women’s heart health is at the forefront. The creator of the “Go Red for Women Red Zumba” event, Fernandez once again was at the helm Saturday, pumping her fists on Cornwall Elementary School’s gymnasium stage, clad in red, and of course smiling, as she got the Annual popular event jump started.
“Today you are going to dance hard, have fun and make a difference,” Fernandez exclaimed to a room full of excited women, ready to take on the challenging two hour workout that confronted them.
Some were there because they had lost someone to heart disease. Others were there to lend support. And still others simply loved to dance and wanted to help out in any way they could. The statistics alone were enough for some to be concerned and get involved. 35.3 percent of deaths in American women over age 20, that’s 432,000 are credited to heart disease. More than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks; that’s five times as much as breast cancer.
Leaving no questions about the dire need for financial help, those numbers once again brought out huge support for the event. A total of 16 local Zumba instructors, donated their time. Additionally a host of area vendors were on hand as well as DJ Claudio providing musical accompaniment and motivating commentary. 50-50 raffles, other giveaways and a brief talk by representatives from the American Heart Association rounded out the afternoon’s offerings, which left a lasting mark on many.
“This event was amazing; the love for what these instructors are doing is written all over their faces, a beautiful thing,” said participant Melanie Fauci of Highland Falls.
“You could just feel the positive energy everywhere, and it was incredibly inspirational to be a part of; I have known Kattya for two years, and just seeing what she does for herself and to help others is so motivating.”
That intensity is also contagious; so many people came out to Cornwall Elementary due to the magnetic appeal of Fernandez and her mission to improve people’s lives.
“All the local instructors are here together, dancing from our heart for women’s healthy hearts,” said one of the instructors, Dawny Zumba of Washingtonville, taking part in the event for the fourth year. “Love this event and dancing in general; just so, so important to be here and lend support.”
That unwavering level of assistance and dedication resulted in close to $3,000 of raised monies, all going directly to The American Heart Association (AHA.) That number is expected to rise even more, as contributions are still coming in on a daily basis. No amount of help can be too small, as the need is just too big and the loss of lives way too unnecessary and oftentimes avoidable. No one knows that better perhaps than Fernandez herself.
“As a person living with heart disease, it is extremely important to me to bring awareness to it. I have been blessed to become friends with so many beautiful people that have supported me every year to do this event.” Looking around at all of that love that surrounded her Saturday, she added, “Knowledge about heart disease is extremely important; learn how to make your heart healthier, as women need to know their bodies and really pay attention to the symptoms.”
If you missed Saturday’s event, fear not. Fernandez already has another Zumbathon on the calendar to raise money for the AHA. This one will be at Marlboro High School on February 21 from 6-7pm, and and will be hosted by the School’s National Honor Society. For more details, call Fernandez at: (845) 857-7286.