POUGHKEEPSIE – By the time the rain cleared, shortly before 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 29, nearly 500 people had gathered to cross The Walkway Over the Hudson to fight the No. 1 and No. 5 killers in our nation, heart disease and stroke, in the 2023 Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk.
Walkers gathered in both Highland and Poughkeepsie, picking up heart healthy information from Heart Walk sponsors, and enjoying the time with their teammates before crossing the bridge.
Survivors Jeanette Rodriguez, whose pregnancy brought on blood pressure so high she had to have an emergency C-Section; and Judy Seals, who attributed the pain in her chest to a ham sandwich she thought had gone bad, shared their stories with the walkers.
Donna Kosack, system adoption manager at Laerdal Medical, discovered in her 40s that she had been born with a congenital heart defect, bicuspid aortic valve, and it had created an aortic aneurysm. Kosack chaired the Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk for the second year in a row, and said her aneurysm is monitored.
“Seeing the number of people who still came to the Heart Walk, in spite of the rain, was really impressive,” Kosack said. “I was honored to chair for a second year. Heart disease has been something I grew up knowing, with three men in my family having heart issues. Then it became personal to me after I told my doctor at a regular checkup that I had symptoms I was uneasy about. They were symptoms I’d learned about by volunteering at the Heart Walk over the past 16 years. It turned out I had a congenital heart defect, and I also had an aortic aneurysm. The mission of the American Heart Association is so important and by supporting them, we can change the statistic that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans.”
Survivors at the walk were easily identified by their red caps if they were heart disease survivors; white caps if they were stroke survivors; and capes if they were children living with congenital heart defects or other kinds of heart disease.
“Our communities really came together today for the Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk,” said Alex DiCicco of Johnson & Wales University and chair of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association in the Hudson Valley. “We can be proud that so many people came together to fight heart disease and stroke – even when the day started with a heavy downpour. Events like the Heart Walk mean we can continue to fund the research and science that will improve health in our community and beyond.”
Donations to the Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk will be accepted until June 30 at DutchessUlsterHeartWalk.org. As of the Heart Walk on Saturday, $160,000 was raised. The financial goal of the Walk is $250,000.
“I want to thank everyone who came out and donated,” Kosack said. “It’s not too late to help fight heart disease and stroke. Donations are still very welcome!”