PHOTO BY Hillary Ehlen
Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s (AHA) nationwide movement encouraging women to band together to fight heart disease. This year’s local event is at 11 a.m. on Feb. 15 at the Radisson Hotel in Fargo. Attendees will hear from survivors and experts on how to identify their risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as tips for prevention.
AHA Regional Director Jessica Lundgren, whose region includes the Fargo-Moorhead area, volunteered to share her story and thoughts on the impact the AHA and Go Red for Women event has for those battling heart disease.
American Heart Association
Fargo Go Red for Women Luncheon
February 15 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Radisson Hotel Fargo
201 5th St. N, Fargo
If you would like to be involved with events like the Fargo Go Red for Women Luncheon, Heart Walk or a local Jumprope for Heart event, reach out to Jessica at Jessica.Lundgren@Heart.org.
“On October 11, 2015, I was out golfing with my husband, Aaron. I felt great all day and had no signs or symptoms. While at a golf course, I teed off on the first hole. I had a great shot and hopped in the cart with Aaron. We drove to our balls, which were now close to the green. As I got out, I went to reach for my wedge and couldn’t find it. I was next to the cart feeling my way around when Aaron asked what I was doing. I told him I couldn’t see my clubs. He replied that they were directly in front of me. How could I not see them?
“At that point, I realized I had lost my vision. I suddenly became very confused. I was extremely calm because I was very much in denial that it could be anything major. Two elderly women on a cart drove by and asked if we were okay since I was sitting down in the middle of the fairway. In true denial form, I smiled and waved and said, ‘Yes, we’re fine,’ even though I had suddenly gone blind and was very confused.
“Within minutes, my vision completely came back along with an increasingly bad headache. Aaron asked multiple times if I wanted to go to the emergency room. I refused because I was determined to make the most of this beautiful day. I continued to be in denial as he golfed five more holes and I rode along in the golf cart.
“I was in hardly any pain, so I thought, it can’t be that bad.”
“Once we were on hole six, my mother called. We talked for a few minutes and she finally asked, ‘Why are you riding in the cart and not golfing?’ I told her what had happened. She convinced me to immediately get back to our vehicle and have Aaron drive me an hour to the emergency room.
“Once we were in the emergency room, the doctor looked at my risk factors and was convinced it was a migraine. I was young, very active and a non-smoker. At that point, no one even mentioned the word, ‘stroke.’ He decided to take the safe route and do an MRI and CT scan.
“When the doctor came back, he stared at me with this kind of empty, confused look on his face. The only words I remember him saying were, ‘You’ve had a stroke.’ I could tell that my mother, father and husband understood the severity of the words this man has just spoken. I, however, didn’t. As a human, I think we tend to associate pain with severity. I was in hardly any pain, so I thought, it can’t be that bad. My first reaction was, ‘Okay, so what do we do now?’
“They discovered that by that time, I had already had two Ischemic Strokes that affected my Occipital Lobe in my brain. After months of tests and treatment, the final diagnosis was that as I swung my golf club on the first hole that day, I tore open my left vertebral artery in my neck. As the artery was trying to close the tear, it was clotting just like a cut on your hand would. The tear was so large that the clots were breaking off and traveling to my brain. As time went on, my neurologist discovered that the tear had not only caused a total of four Ischemic Strokes, but also a pseudo-aneurysm on my brain.
“After months of treatment and procedures, I am lucky to say that I am fully recovered with no major lasting effects. If it weren’t initially for the stroke warning signs that my mother had known, I would never have gone to the emergency room. If it weren’t for the research that has been done and the funds that have been raised, I would not have been treated with newer technology such as Cerebral Angiograms that helped diagnose the root cause of my strokes. The nurses, doctors and surgeons at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo and Altru Medical Center in Grand Forks were remarkable.”
Q&A With Jessica
How did you get involved with the AHA?
“As I was lying in my hospital bed after my initial stroke, I realized the company that I was currently working for was great, but I needed to be involved in something bigger. This technology, these doctors, they had just saved my life. I needed to give back. My husband was sitting in a chair next to my hospital bed and found a job opening with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. I instantly knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of. After applying, the process went quickly and I instantly felt at home with this amazing organization.”
What does the AHA do exactly and how does it help people?
“When I am presenting to a group of people, kids and/or adults, I always say, ‘We are working to build lives free of cardiovascular (heart) disease and stroke.’
“Our organization’s mission is to improve the lives of all Americans and we provide public health education in a variety of ways. We’re the nation’s leader in CPR education training. We help people understand the importance of healthy lifestyle choices. We provide science-based treatment guidelines to healthcare professionals to help them provide quality care to their patients. We educate lawmakers, policymakers and the public as we advocate for changes to protect and improve the health of our communities.”
What does your job consist of on a day-to-day basis?
“My job consists of giving schools the opportunity to participate in an amazing heart health program that directly correlates with the curriculum they are already providing their students. The Jumprope for Heart and Hoops for Heart programs are widely spread throughout this area. Students, parents, teaching staff and families have fun learning how to take care of their hearts while raising money to help us further the work we can do towards heart and stroke research.”
Tell us about the upcoming Fargo Go Red for Women Luncheon:
“The Go Red For Women Luncheon is our largest fundraiser of the year for the Go Red For Women Movement in North Dakota. But it’s also more than a fundraiser — it’s an opportunity to spread the word about Go Red For Women and share the message that heart diseases and stroke are the number one cause of death for women. Attendees at the event can expect a lot of fun, with a social hour and silent auction, but they can also expect to be educated and inspired with information on how they can help minimize their risk of heart disease and an inspiring keynote speaker.”
How does something like this event help women who utilize the AHA?
“Back in 2004, when the Go Red For Women Movement began, we had a problem: more women than men were dying of heart disease and stroke, yet only 1 in 5 women knew that heart disease was her greatest health risk. This event and hundreds like it that take place across the country have helped to raise critical funds to help educate women about their risk and fund women-centered research. The results are astounding. Today, 293 fewer women die every day from heart diseases and stroke thanks to the efforts of Go Red.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
“Most people will be affected by heart disease and/or stroke at some point in their lives, whether it’s yourself or a loved one, and I encourage everyone to know the warning signs and symptoms. To find the signs and symptoms to look for, or to give back, visit our website at heart.org.”
Jessica Lundgren is a Regional Director for the American Heart Association. Currently living in a small town north of East Grand Forks (Alvarado), Minnesota, with her husband, she grew up in St. Thomas, North Dakota, and is a University of North Dakota alumna. Her hobbies include riding horses, golfing, camping and kayaking. She has one brother who resides in Fargo and her parents live in Manvel, North Dakota.