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Woman told five years ago she might have five years to live

Heart-and-Stroke-2017Five years ago, Francesca Blanck was told that without surgery, she might have five years to live.

She didn’t know she was born with a heart defect and didn’t know there was anything wrong – until she had reason to visit her doctor.

Francesca Blanck

Francesca Blanck

“I was doing aerobics and when I was working out, my heart rate got stuck at 180 beats per minute. And it happened again. I thought it was a panic attack but a friend said I should get it checked out and I decided I should go to a doctor.”

Blanck found out it was a congenital heart defect that was never discovered when she was a child. Her heart was deformed, had holes between the chambers and extra pulmonary veins that had her lungs full of blood. If it got to the point where she couldn’t breathe, surgery would not have been possible.

“If I hadn’t asked my doctor about the high heart beat, and if it wasn’t for heart and stroke research and development, I don’t think I would be here today,” said Blanck, visiting Picton on the weekend for the Heart & Stroke’s rally to launch its February fundraising campaign. “I am a heart survivor and for that, I thank all of you here today and everybody who supports Heart & Stroke. The money does help people, like me. I am so grateful.”

Blanck is on tour with the local chapter of the foundation at area rallies, as a result of re-connecting with area manager Jackie St. Pierre, years after Blanck had worked with her in Kingston as a co-op student.

“She didn’t know I’d had open heart surgery until we re-connected and asked if I would like to be involved with the foundation,” said Blanck. “Absolutely. People need to know that without fundraising and research, without that money available, people like me wouldn’t be here today.”

“Every seven minutes we lose another Canadian to heart and stroke disease. It shows us our work is not done,” said St. Pierre. “So many people have a story, about themselves, family members or friends and that is why these volunteers are here today. Heart and stroke disease is still the leading cause of death and hospitalization in Canada… Advances like stroke-busting drugs are all because of the work of heart research.”

Heart rallies are being attended by more than 2,100 volunteers in the region who will take heart and stroke messages door-to-door, and to other fundraising initiatives, to seek donations for research and patient resources.

Established in 1952 as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Heart & Stroke, as it's now named, has a new logo and website. Its new logo features two bright red graphic icons - a heart and stroke symbol to focus on the body's most vital organs, the heart and the brain.

Established in 1952 as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Heart & Stroke, as it’s now named, has a new logo and website. Its new logo features two bright red graphic icons – a heart and stroke symbol to focus on the body’s most vital organs, the heart and the brain.

Messages like:
– If you have a family member that has heart or stroke disease, your chances of having it are 50 per cent greater.
– Eighty per cent of all heart and stroke disease is preventable.
– Get up and get moving!

“It is about making decisions about our diet and getting active,” said St. Pierre. “New research also tells us that a sedentary lifestyle – sitting alot – is being equated to smoking.

“Get up and get moving is the best message we have to offer right now,” she said. “It’s the most important part.”

Canvassers will also be sharing information about Heart and Stroke’s Risk Assessment Tool located online at https://ehealth.heartandstroke.ca/ 
(and below). It takes about seven minutes to complete.

“One of the staggering things I have learned is that people don’t know their risk,” said St. Pierre. “The other is that even when people do the risk assessment, only about one-third of them will talk to their doctor. People have to see their doctor to talk about it, to do something about it.”

“During the fundraising our canvassers will also get the chance thank people face-to-face for giving, and for helping people they know, family members and people like Francesca.”
Jackie St. Pierre and Francesca Blanck (second and third from left) with the Heart & Stroke volunteers at the rally for canvassers in Picton on Saturday.Jackie St. Pierre and Francesca Blanck (second and third from left) with the Heart & Stroke volunteers at the rally for canvassers in Picton on Saturday.

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