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Michaela Gagne: Heroes and Heart Health Advocacy

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We all have our definition of heroes. To some, it’s those superhuman fictional beings with outrageous strength and fantastic skills. I’ll be honest…I certainly felt like a hero when I was four and used to wear my Wonder Woman underwear. It was my tip-top secret that on those days I could tear off my pants and save the world if requested …luckily Spindle City pre-school was never attacked by nuclear missiles or assaulted by an evil villain.

My mom might not have been too proud with that phone call.

To other people heroes may be those in the military, warriors who sacrifice their lives to defend ours and show courage in the face of death because they hold the utmost values. A hero may be a family member who has simply given all of his heart and soul to the people he loves. Maybe a hero is a historical figure, a person who has made her mark on the foundation of our society.


A couple of weeks ago I was an honoree at Simon’s Soiree, a heart screening fundraiser for Simon’s Fund. This non-profit organization is in memory of an infant whose life was claimed by LongQT Syndrome, the same underlying and life-threatening cardiac condition found in as many as 1 in 4,000 people…Most are unaware of its existence. The auctioneer at the event, a local sportscaster personality, unexpectedly posed the question to all of us: “What does being a hero mean to you?”

In his line of work, professional athletes are often credited with this term. There is an incredible amount of courage attributed to the competitor who parts the seas and leads the way to a World Series championship or a Super Bowl victory.

Luckily, our auctioneer friend disagreed with the way athletes are portrayed. He assured us that none of us would turn down the $30 million a year to lead the “difficult” and “valiant” life of a professional athlete. Where was the heroism in that?

He explained that heroes are the parents of Simon, people who fight through their own pain to prevent others from experiencing grief and loss. Heroes selflessly push to create change, no matter the personal obstacles, no matter the struggle. Heroes help other people, whether they personally know those people or not.

His question stuck with me. I’ve met so many heroes in my heart health advocacy: the man who was saved with an Automated External Defibrillator and now pledges to place them in every school and public facility; the doctors who volunteer to organize a free camping trip for children with congenital heart defects; the 10-year-old girl who had a stroke as an infant and talks to adults about their heart health; the hundreds of parents of Parent Heart Watch who have lost children like Simon and aim to create national awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

I guess I’ve come a long way from my Wonder Woman underwear. Heroes has been re-defined. It’s not about our names being in the headlines, and it certainly isn’t about our bi-weekly paycheck. We all have the capacity to be heroes. We all have personal stories that can touch others. We all have the ability to create change.
Define what being a hero means to you, and then become one.

For more information, visit www.HeartScreenAmerica.com/michaela

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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