Shauna Czarnick of Silver Creek didn't believe anything was wrong with her at first.
But she was in for the shock of her life in 2016 when doctors discovered one of her arteries was 99 percent blocked. Despite regularly exercising and eating right, doctors had to operate in order to save Czarnick's life.
It stories like Czarnick’s that were on full display on Thursday at the American Heart Association's ninth annual Columbus Go Red For Women banquet held at the Ramada Columbus and River’s Edge Convention Center. The dinner and silent auction were in support of the organization's efforts in raising awareness for women's heart health.
“It’s something that can sneak up on you pretty fast," Czarnick said about heart-related illnesses. "Probably takes a long time to develop, but it’s something that can happen so quickly that people don’t realize they're having a heart episode. It’s something we all need to be aware of.”
Brianna Georgeson is the senior director of the American Heart Association in Nebraska. She said heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. About 80 percent of all heart incidents are preventable, so it's important to inform people on the signs of a heart attack or stroke.
“The reason we started this event was to educate women on heart disease and stroke. And the reason being is a woman having a heart attack does not look like a man having a heart attack," Georgeson said. "It’s not clutching of the chest and, 'oh my gosh I’m in all this pain.' It sadly looks a lot like what being a mom looks like. It’s back pain, fatigue. A lot of times it comes on slowly. And it's these other symptoms that are happening before a full-on heart incident. So, we’re educating women on how to be preventative.”
Amber Citta was this year’s event chairperson and planned for about 400 people to be in attendance. The goal was to raise $60,000 for the organization and to raise awareness. One way to accomplish this was through a presentation from the event's featured survivor, Jodi Dobbs.
Since she was unable to attend the event, a video telling her story was played for the crowd and Czarnick spoke afterward. Czarnick was the event's featured survivor in 2017. Citta said it's important to share the stories of those affected by heart-related health incidents to illustrate that it really can happen to anyone.
“The whole point of our featured survivor," Citta said, "is to share their story and to share that this truly can happen to anyone at anytime. I think it’s important we share those specific stories, as it can literally happen to anyone.”
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.