It was a comment made at a round table discussion this past Friday hosted by the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario's (HSFO) OCAG. (I will offer advance apologies for not knowing exactly what the initials for OCAG represent exactly, suffice it to say that they are volunteer representatives from across Ontario who meet and provide feedback to HSFO on ways to improve their outreach. My best guess therefore will be that OCAG stands for Ontario Communities Advisory Group.)
HSFO, like most other not-for-profits (NPOs) and charitable organizations are looking at ways to ensure that contributions received are not significantly impacted in a negative way during the current economical climate. While each of us present at the event were there due to our own personal connections with persons with heart disease or who suffered a stroke, the larger element was that we were there not for us, but for others. It's an interesting paradigm (if you'll pardon the 80s term), wherein a group of assembled individuals gathered to not better our own circumstances, but rather to ensure that those not present do not have to endure the anguish and struggles of dealing with coronary disease or symptoms of a stroke. It was through this, that someone at the table where I was seated asked the question, and I'll paraphrase, "How do you sort through all the clutter? How do I prioritize where to give?"
There's a good chance everyone who reads this knows someone, or is someone who has been affected by heart disease or stroke. The same applies to cancer, poverty, and other unfair events to the human race. A key indicator that separates heart and stroke sufferers from most of the others is the altering of one's life in an instant. Often dubbed the 'silent killer', heart attacks and stroke often occur without warning. So the race is on, and in certain circles, we are winning the race towards providing the right education and tools to help those who may be close to, or on their way to, suffering a heart attack or stroke. For those that survive, it's a wake-up call…for those that don't, it becomes one of the saddest moments in a family's life due to the suddenness of the event.
Through the support of donations and volunteers, HSFO has been able to build on the importance of healthy living, as they continue to provide the much needed research funding required to ascertain the appropriate measures to ensure a long and healthy life. One of the largest examples of this focus would be the implementing of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in various public buildings. A young Chase McEachern recognized the need for AEDs in schools and hockey arenas after watching Jiri Fischer of the Detroit Red Wings suffer cardiac arrest during a game against the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately, Chase himself suffered cardiac arrest while at school and passed away a few days later as a result of the event. Through the efforts of HSFO and the support of Chase's family, AEDs have been placed in 70 municipalities and communities across Ontario. More importantly, the result has seen several lives…including one here in Hamilton, being directly saved by the use of an AED.
Interestingly enough, there are two different types of heart disease: coronary or acquired heart disease, and congenital heart disease. The first develops over time in a person's body either due to lifestyle or genetics. The latter develops either in utero or shortly after birth, and affects approximately 1 in 120 births. As medical expertise advances, continued research and development is required not only to minimize the invasive corrective surgeries of young children and adults, but to also recognize the specialized care of those who survive open heart surgeries. Regardless of which type of heart disease one is affected by, or the level of a suffered stroke – the first goal is to return to a normalized lifestyle. The second is to know not only that ongoing care and treatment is required to maintain that lifestyle, but also what type of care is required.
In the end, it's not easy sorting through the clutter. It comes down to what's important to you and your family. If you can't give your money, look at giving some time…someone, or even yourself might enjoy a longer life as a result of your support.
To look at options available to you, visit www.heartandstroke.on.ca for more information.