Pharmasave Heart Heroes ride for heart health
By Sue Tiffin
Besides organizing Minden’s Big Bike ride supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation on May 16, Sandra Heywood raised almost $1,000 herself toward heart and stroke research, bringing this year’s total of the Pharmasave Heart Heroes to $5,702 and the team’s six-year total to $22,319.
“But I have a good story to tell to get people to donate,” said Heywood.
She has been organizing the event for several years, but it was in 2017 that the event took on a whole new meaning for her. Her grandson, Sebastian, was found in utero to have a severe form of transposition of the great arteries (TGA), a rare disease where the two arteries that connect to a heart are switched. Before he was born, he received possibly the world’s first balloon atrial septoplasty surgery, performed in utero, to treat the defect, and just five days after his birth, he had open heart surgery to correct the heart condition. Now, he’s doing well, but Heywood continues to plan and support the Big Bike event.
“This way there’s money for research and funding to help other little heart warriors,” she said, proudly showing off a shirt that read “I ride for Sebastian,” on the back of it.
Pharmasave staff and other community members including Lynda Litwin, Walt Griffin and Max Ward pedalled the 29-seat bike up Bobcaygeon Road in the rain, cheering and waving at passersby as they honked their car horns in support.
This year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation launched a #TimeToSeeRed campaign, drawing attention to a gap in women’s heart and brain health.
“Women are underrepresented, underresearched, underdiagnosed and undertreated,” said Katie Wilson, community co-ordinator, community fundraising, while at the Minden event. “We are caregivers first and foremost, the majority of women, so we oftentimes put ourselves last when worried about our heart health and our health overall.”
Wilson said that heart disease and stroke together are the number one cause of premature death in women in Canada, causing the loss of one life every five minutes.
“The statistic is that right now over two-thirds of clinical studies are geared towards men, so it’s time for us to get expertise in women’s heart and brain health in order to protect, and ensure we understand what affects us, how it affects us, sort of the genetic makeup of women vs. men [to ensure women are] not dying unnecessarily.”
Wilson acknowledged the “heavy statistics,” but also said that in terms of research and innovative treatments, “we’ve come a long way in 20 years.”