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Walkers at Pa. event show they have heart

September 24, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Billie Jo Reed got teary-eyed when looking over the crowd gathered for the 14th annual Heart Walk for Franklin and Fulton counties.

"They're doing this for me," Reed said.

The three-time stroke survivor said a lot of people don't realize the Heart Walk benefits both the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

About 500 people gathered Sunday on the Greencastle-Antrim schools campus for the event. By Thursday, $90,000 in contributions had been submitted, officials said.

"Survivors are one of the most important reasons we are here today," said John Boozer, who served as event chairman.

Reed was 37 when she suffered her first stroke in January 2005.

"I woke up one morning and my life was turned upside down," she said.

The Upper Strasburg, Pa., resident never knew she had cavernous angioma, a hereditary condition of malformed blood vessels. Hers leaked into the brain stem.

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"They said, 'There's no way to guarantee it won't happen again. There's no way to prevent it,'" Reed said.

Six months later, Reed was leaving the hospital in a wheelchair courtesy of another stroke. A third occurred in October 2006 and left her with swallowing difficulties.

"Now we're praying to God it won't happen again," she said.

She has spoken publicly about her trials several times in connection to the Heart Walk.

"It's almost like the old you died and there's a new you, so there's a grieving process," Reed said.

About 10 people gathered to again walk in memory of Debbie Pryor, who suffered a massive heart attack at age 42. The group raised $1,000 by talking to family and friends.

"I think it's a good way to get together, and it's more important when you walk in memory of someone," said Karen Ford of Waynesboro, Pa.

Lavinah Sanders, also of Waynesboro, said Pryor might be surprised to find out a team was walking for her, but it was a good testament to her memory.

"She always wanted to do something for somebody else," Sanders said.

The national organization's increased focus on fitness and lifelong health prompted the local event to feature several professionals for consultation, said Rochelle Wagaman, president of the Franklin-Fulton division.

"We've done a good job (before) of talking about high blood pressure, cholesterol and that kind of thing," said Sharon Strike, event organizer.

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