Gala guests to raise money for AHA, cardiovascular research

Sixth Annual Sneaker Ball set for Saturday, Feb. 17

Rockford resident Richard Peterson was born with a hole in his heart, and even something as simple as walking across a room required tremendous effort. A few years ago, Richard was told he would eventually have to have his chest cracked open to repair it. Peterson, a traffic investigator with the Rockford Police Department, wasn’t too keen on that idea.

“I would have rather been on the street facing a gun than have my chest split open,” he said. “A few years later, he learned about a new, less invasive procedure similar to an angiogram that used veins instead of arteries. Peterson was deemed a good candidate and had the procedure done. Today, he feels like a new man, and he and his wife, Jackie, are able to enjoy life as never before.

'Don't ignore the symptoms'

Former flight attendant Pam Phillips is a Roscoe resident who knows firsthand the devastating impact of heart disease. She was born with a bicuspid valve, but was always an avid runner, participating in numerous amateur competitive running events. However, three years ago, Phillips experienced heaviness on one side of her body, but ignored it and ran as usual the next morning. Over the next few days, the pain became more intense and moved under her breastbone. Phillips finally went to the hospital and discovered she had an aortic aneurysm. She underwent open heart surgery and had a valve replacement. Phillips made a rapid recovery and began running again six weeks later. Thirteen weeks following the surgery, she ran the Rockford Half Marathon. Phillips feels fortunate that her aneurysm was discovered in time and urges others to listen to their bodies.

“Your body will tell you when something is wrong; it’s up to us to hear what it has to say,” Phillips said. “Don’t ignore any symptoms; if you don’t feel right, get it checked out before it’s too late.”

Richard Peterson and Pam Phillips are just two of many Rockford residents with heart disease who have benefited from new strides in cardiovascular research. They will both be in attendance at the American Heart Association’s Sixth Annual Learn, Live &Laugh Sneaker Gala at 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, at Giovanni’s, 610 N. Bell School Rd., Rockford. Proceeds benefit the American Heart Association, which provides research, training, advocacy and education for Rockford residents for heart disease and stroke. Guests will dine on heart-healthy gourmet fare, bid on silent auction items, and enjoy entertainment from pianist Jim Rollins and comedian Tommy Drake. As an added twist, guests can decorate sneakers with fun designs to show off at the Gala.

The American Heart Association’s Sixth Annual Learn, Live & Laugh Sneaker Gala is sponsored locally by Midwest Heart Specialists, Rockford Health System, Pfizer, OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, AMCORE Bank, the Rockford Surgical Service, SwedishAmerican Health System and WREX-TV.

From the Feb. 14-20, 2007, issue

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