By: Kula Koenig, Government Relations Director, California
Ivan is why. Simply put, stories like my friend Ivan’s motivates me to work at the AHA because I know that the work we do continues to save lives.
One of the most special people I know is my friend Ivan -- or Ivanator as I sometimes call him. Ivan and his girlfriend Gerri (my close friend and old college roommate) came to celebrate my 25th birthday. We had a grand ole time, dancing, laughing and simply enjoying life.
They were planning to fly back the next day but as I was getting ready to take Ivan and Gerri to the airport, Ivan suffered a stroke. He was 25.
The stroke left him speechless and he could not move. I wondered how a healthy, 25 year old (he was vegetarian!) could suffer a stroke?
The doctors later found he had a previously undetected heart defect. After surgery, medication and lots of prayer, I am happy to share that Ivan recovered 100 percent!
The picture is 6 years later, of Ivan, Gerri (now his wife) and I (from right to left) at my cousin’s wedding. Thanks to breakthroughs in research and medicine and a strong will to recover, Ivan is back to enjoying life, riding his fancy scooter around Los Angeles, and quoting Carl Jung.
I am proud that the AHA has invested more than $57 million in research projects throughout the Western States Affiliate to fund life-saving research so our loved ones, like Ivan, can continue to be here with us. The AHA’s work touches all areas that contribute cardiovascular health ranging from improved systems of care with the Get With the Guidelines programs, advocating for heart healthy policies, to community based programs like Teaching Gardens and Simple Cooking with Heart.
Simply put, saving lives is what motivates me to work at the AHA. What motivates you?! Share your story with us here.
Outside of my Advocacy duties, I am excited to join more than 1 million walkers in over 290 Heart Walks across the nation to take a stand against heart disease and help save lives! All with the goal of raising funds for continued research and medication to benefit all those who have suffered from heart disease or stroke, the country's No. 1 and No. 5 killers! If you want to find your local Heart Walk, please visit heartwalk.org.