DOVER — For the 13th consecutive year, men and women gathered from across central and southern Delaware to promote women’s heart health at the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon.
In Dover Downs Hotel & Casino’s ballroom, hundreds heard the very personal story of Krista Williams-Savino, a 30-year-old heart disease survivor.
Ms. Williams-Savino was born with the rare heart condition Ebstein’s Anomaly, leaving her with a hole in her oversized heart and one non-functioning valve.
“The doctors told my parents it was highly unlikely I’d make it out of the hospital,” she said. “Doctors told them once I left the hospital, I probably wouldn’t make it past 2.”
And after defying that prediction, she went on to reach all the usual age milestones and surpassed her life expectancy of 19 years.
But every day she must be careful to not put too much stress on her body whether it be physical or emotional.
“Heart disease is something that will touch everyone in this room,” Ms. Williams-Savino said. “For me, I thought my journey was just that I had a congenital heart defect I had to live with but three years ago I found out I was in heart failure and had to have a rare open-heart surgery.”
After surviving the surgery, she continued to work hard to strengthen her body and spirit without regard for her heart’s health and in a little more than a year wound up back in the hospital to be treated for a mini stroke.
“For 13 hours I was paralyzed down one side of my body,” she said. “It was a moment I realized I am a survivor of heart disease and that comes along with consideration and lifelong care.”
So for Ms. Williams-Savino, heart health has been a daily priority — first caring for her heart defect and later caring for heart disease.
“Your body is your temple and you only get one so you need to do your best to keep it healthy but at the same time make sure you live your life with happiness,” she said.
Her remarks were followed by an upbeat fashion show with women from across downstate Delaware modeling fashions from local retailers.
Each model supported Go Red for a specific reason, most having been affected directly by a close family member struggling with heart disease or stroke.
“I am modeling in the fashion show on behalf of my grandfather, Willis Rose Sr.,” model Michaela Rose said. “My grandfather battled with coronary artery disease and had to have coronary bypass surgery at the age of 40. The surgery saved his life and he lived to be 73. I’m grateful he lived long enough to meet and love his two grandchildren — my sister and me.”
Before the luncheon and fashion show got underway, those attending had the opportunity to bid on a wide variety of silent auction items and to get free health screenings.
Delaware State University junior nursing majors offered blood pressure screenings.
“Any preventative measures are important, even something as small as getting your blood pressure checked,” said nursing student Earlisha Webb. “It’s a good opportunity to help people in the community because a lot of people don’t go to the doctor regularly and we can offer them some information they might not know.”
Amanda Bowie of Dover is one of the many people who don’t regularly visit her general practitioner.
“I usually only go to my family doctor when I’m really sick, so probably once every two years or so,” she said.
Because of that, she took advantage of the free screenings from the DSU students.
“It’s important to be aware of your risk and I found out my blood pressure is a little high, so it’s something I should be looking after,” she said.
“It’s not just about getting your blood pressure checked,” DSU junior Susan Spicher said. “A lot of people don’t know that blood pressure is an important aspect of health. And if we find out theirs is high, we can advise them to look at their family history because not everyone knows their family history which can be an indicator of their risk of heart disease.”
Attendees also had the chance could get an ultrasound of their carotid arteries from Delaware Heart and Vascular.
“The carotid artery pumps blood to the face and brain so we measure how fast the blood is moving,” said Kirstin Owens, an ultrasound technician. “We can also see if there’s plaque in the artery and plaque build up and slow-moving blood means there’s a higher risk of stroke.”
For more information about heart disease, stroke and how to reduce your risk, visit goredforwomen.org.