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After proclaiming Friday to be “Wear Red Day,” Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty glanced around at the sea of red, pink and mauve-clad women at a luncheon.
“Wow, I thought the Cardinals were playing today when I first came in here,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
The event, Go Red for Women, was held at the Shelby County Extension Office in recognition of American Heart month in February.
More than 130 attended, and in addition to healthy food provided by McKinley’s Bread Shop and Deli and the All The Way Shoppe, a mini-health fair was set up, providing information about heart disease and related topics, such as cholesterol, exercise, and stroke and heart attack symptoms.
As the first speaker, Hardesty urged the audience not to hesitate to call 911 if they experience any of the warning signs of a heart attack, which include discomfort in the chest and upper body, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, light-headedness and back or jaw pain.
“Don’t wait until you run an errand or until the game’s over,” he said. “Minutes count, and calling a trained professional immediately can save your life.”
Two women who spoke both said, when they had heart episodes, they thought they were coming down with the flu.
Breneda Merchant said she had known for years that she had a defective heart valve and was told she would have to have it repaired someday.
“But to me, someday meant never,” she said. “So one day at work I got sick all of a sudden.”
Merchant described her symptoms as flu-like. And as luck would have it, she said, when she called her husband and told him about it, he insisted she go to the doctor right away, and it was only because he was so adamant about it that she agreed.
The doctor found her valves had fused together, and she had surgery to correct it right away.
“And then the doctor said, ‘By the way, while I was in there, I fixed your aneurism, too,’” she said, as the audience gasped in horror.
“I didn’t know I had anything that wrong with me,” she said. “I felt fine. That’s why it’s a silent killer.”
Donna Preston, a former educator, told the group about the day in 2007 when she was getting ready to go to the dentist and starting feeling ill.
“I had just retired two years before that, and I was only fifty-three,” she said. “I had my life all planned out, but I didn’t plan to have a stroke.”
She talked about how busy she had always been and had never taken the time to have regular check-ups, to eat right or to exercise.
“If I’m scaring you, good,” she said. “Don’t be too busy to take care of yourself.”
Shelby County Emergency Medical Services Director Todd Early, who had personnel in attendance to give free blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, said he was glad to take part.
“It’s a great thing, and I’m glad to see so many people here becoming more heart healthy and learning more information about heart disease, because it is such a killer of both men and women,” he said.