Chances are you also know someone who has been affected by heart disease or stroke. Did you know: one in three Americans has some form of cardiovascular disease, and stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States (Source: American Heart Association)
I’m Sabrina O., a Senior Consultant on the Talent Acquisition team at UnitedHealth Group. Here is my story about why I walk in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. Read on to hear why I’m passionate about raising awareness about heart health, promoting healthy living and helping to raise funds to help those impacted by heart disease and stroke, and why I’m proud that UnitedHealth Group supports organizations like this, that help improve the lives of others.
As a little girl, my dad was my world. He came to every sporting and school event, picked me up from the bus stop every day and showed me the simple joys in life. He taught me how to fish and hunt, be kind to others, make amazing Mickey Mouse chocolate chip pancakes, enjoy life’s adventures (big or small) and how to be a good person. The following quote sums up my dad: “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad” - Anne Geddes.
In 2006, my dad was on a hunting trip in Canada where the unimaginable happened; he suffered from the “widow maker” heart attack. The “widow maker” occurs when the left anterior artery, the most important artery in the front of the heart, is totally blocked. When this happens, the whole front wall of the heart isn’t getting any blood or oxygen. It’s called a “widow maker”, because it typically kills you if the artery doesn’t get opened fast enough. My dad was swiftly transported by ambulance to a hospital in Minot, ND where surgery was performed.
Seeing someone you love and admire in such a vulnerable state is a ground shaking experience. My rock, the man I looked up to my whole life, was lying in a hospital bed, stubbornly arguing with the nurse about taking medication. Here I was, still processing the fact that I almost lost my father (or that I still could!), and I had to quickly switch gears and give my dad a pep talk about listening to the nurses and heeding their instructions. I had selfish reasons for my dad to get better, because unbeknownst to him I had BIG plans for him. I needed my dad to be alive, to be around to walk me down the aisle for my wedding, I needed him to be here to play with his unborn grandchildren, I needed him here to continue to help guide me through life and be that rock for me to lean on and shoulder to cry on. I needed my dad! Thankfully my pep talk worked, and my dad became a much better patient for those poor nurses. The month following my dad’s heart attack, he successfully had two stents put in at Mayo and I helped him research ways to live a healthier lifestyle.
Fast forward 12 years to current day and my dad is still with us and incredibly healthy (thankfully!). He leads an active and healthy lifestyle, is the biggest kid I know, and is running a non-profit he founded that leads fishing retreats for youth and individuals coming out of recovery programs. My dad was here to walk me down the aisle and is truly the best grandpa in the world to my children (I may be slightly biased). It is so incredibly rewarding seeing my dad do what he loves and embrace life to the fullest capacity. He is truly doing his life’s best work and it fills my heart with pride and joy!
I participate in the annual Heart Walk in Minneapolis in support of my dad. I know we are truly blessed and lucky to have him still here with us today, and unfortunately others impacted by heart disease are not always as fortunate. My thoughts and warm wishes go out to each of you impacted.
I am honored to work for a company that is passionate about social responsibility, and am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work for a company that not only values its employees and their passions, but that also gives back to the community and promotes healthy living. Did you know that UnitedHealth Group was #1 in fundraising and walkers for the Twin Cities Heart Walk six times in the last ten years? Isn't that incredible? UnitedHealth Group goes above and beyond to support the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. It is amazing to see all of the participation and leadership engagement, both in volunteers/walkers and fundraising. Having my company’s encouragement and support makes me proud to work for our organization.
I am humbled by all of the support I receive from my colleagues. Participating in the Heart Walk, or one of the many other initiatives that UnitedHealth Group supports, allows us to connect on a personal level and brings the human element to the forefront. Life happens, and our support structures are crucial to our individual success and wellbeing. Everyone has a story to share on how an illness has impacted their lives. Sharing in this event together brings us closer and fosters a spirit of community. The Heart Walk allows employees to gather outside of the office to support a great cause and interact with our colleague’s friends and family as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read my family’s story. To learn more about the Heart Walk, click here.
(Left) Sabrina O. and her dad, (Right) Sabrina, her dad and kids.