The American Heart Association of Maine raised $400,000 at the 10th annual Go Red for Women Luncheon on March 21 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. More than 600 supporters were served a heart-healthy lunch while hearing stories that could possibly be life-saving.

“I’ve heard from people who have attended the luncheon and, because they learned the symptoms, went to the emergency room and, in fact, they were having a heart attack,” said Go Red director Katie Rook. “Our mission is to educate women about their No. 1 killer, which is cardiovascular disease. In Maine, it’s tied with cancer, but nationally heart disease is the No. 1 killer. The stories are heartfelt, and we make this a fun event with a luncheon, silent auction and breakout sessions on topics like work-life balance and mindfulness for stress reduction.”

The luncheon program introduced three 2019 Go Red spokeswomen from Maine: Faith Brackett of Stillwater, Amy Bergeron of Biddeford and Angie Bryan of Portland.

“Education is key,” said Brackett, who was born with congenital heart defects and has had eight major open heart surgeries. “My dad died at the age of 38 from a heart attack. He didn’t know the symptoms he was having. He thought that his shortness of breath was caused by his asthma and his shoulder pain he was having was due to his hard job.”

Bergeron survived a stroke when she was 19 and a sophomore in college. “I woke up drooling, with my arm numb and my face dropping,” she said. “I had a headache the night before, and I didn’t think anything was wrong. I didn’t think it was a stroke. I texted my friend and told her I couldn’t talk, and she urged me to get help and took me immediately to the nurse’s office. The doctors don’t know why I had a stroke, but they think it was a blood clot caused by birth control.”

Bryan was walking on a date (with a guy she now calls “the heart breaker”) when she struggled to get enough air in her lungs and got a ride to the emergency room. Her mitral valve had ruptured, filling her lungs with blood.

“Without the kind of research the American Heart Association supports, and the talented medical staff that saved my life, literally, at the last minute, I wouldn’t be here,” Bryan said. “If you feel something, don’t sit around debating it. Go to the ER, not in an Uber like I did.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected].

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