When the local chapter of the Heart and Stroke Foundation put out a call to residents of Brant, Haldimand-Norfolk and Tillsonburg to canvass during Heart Month, 1,200 people signed up.
“We cold-call in the fall and say ‘can you help?’ and 1,200 people said 'yes.' That gives me goose bumps,” Heart and Stroke Foundation area manager Pam Brown said. “So when you hear something bad just remember that. All of these people have volunteered to come out and do something good.”
About 150 of those volunteers filled a theatre at Galaxy Cinemas on Saturday morning to pick up their canvassing kits, listen to inspirational stories by survivors and learn some fundraising tips while enjoying coffee and muffins donated by William’s Fresh Café.
Volunteers from all walks of life and all age groups are affected by heart disease or stroke in one way or another, Brantford chapter council president Greg Grummett said.
“Nine in every 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” he told volunteers. "It affects all of us."
Paris resident Bea Lee never thought she would be one of those affected. She is lucky to be alive after suffering two heart attacks. The first one hit Lee as she was walking home after attending Springtime in Paris.
“I was walking up the hill and felt like what I thought was indigestion,” she recalled. “It went away after about 15 minute and I passed it off and forgot about it.”
Six weeks later, Lee was working out at the gym when she had the same experience.
“It does feel like indigestion. It was like a tightening in my chest and then the pain started to go down my arm,” she said. “It wouldn’t go away and then I started feeling nauseated and started getting the sweats.”
Lee again tried to pass it off as indigestion, but this time the pain wouldn’t go away.
When she went to the emergency room at Brantford General Hospital, Lee was told she was having a heart attack. Further tests revealed she had another one six weeks before.
Today, Lee has five stints in her heart to alleviate numerous blockages. And she is volunteering her time as a canvass captain to educate other women about heart disease and stroke.
“We tend to, as women, fluff things off and say it will pass,” Lee said. “Don’t put it off. If you know you have a history of heart disease in the family, take care of yourself. Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked out and start going to a gym.”
Lee, 54, lost her brother to a heart attack when he was 54. Her mother died of a heart attack at the same age.
“I want to do whatever I can to get the word out there," she said. "I want to tell women, please take care of yourself, because they tend to look after everyone else first.”
Grummett said there are far too many people with stories like Lee’s. He thanked volunteers for helping to raise awareness and funds for life-giving research.
“One life every seven minutes is lost to heart disease and stroke,” Grummett said. “Somebody in Canada with heart disease and stroke will have a better chance to survive and thrive because of you.”
Volunteers will fan out across the city to canvass for the Heart and Stroke Foundation during Heart Month beginning on Feb. 1. For more information or to volunteer, call the local chapter at 519-752-1301.