DECATUR -- Just over a year ago, Mia Jarrett was lying in bed with a back ache that just wouldn’t go away.
“I turned to my husband and said, ‘I think I need to go to the hospital,’” Jarrett said.
Jarrett, 51, was having a heart attack. But on Saturday, less than 14 months after, she stood on a stage in the Fairview Park pavilion and announced to the crowd gathered for the American Heart Association’s Macon County Heart Walk, “It’s good to be alive.”
Jarrett and her family were among the hundreds gathered to check out the offerings in the pavilion, listen to the survivors program and take an either one- or three-mile walk through Fairview Park on a sunny, cool, fall morning.
The event raised nearly $46,000 for the American Heart Association, which is the second-largest contributor to heart disease research behind only the U.S. government. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States and in Macon County.
Jarrett said she got involved in the heart walk to help raise awareness for a disease, she admitted she didn’t know much about before Sept. 3, 2015 -- the night of her heart attack.
Jarrett said she’d been feeling back pain for two or three months, and had also been noticing she was often tired and out of breath.
“I thought I was just getting old,” Jarrett said.
But on the night she went to the hospital, an artery with 99 percent blockage was discovered. A stent was placed in the artery, and Jarrett said she’s, “feeling great.” A large group wearing red T-shirts that said “Sole Survivor” on the back cheered Jarrett on while she was on stage.
Earlier that morning, Jarrett wrote down a healthy pledge on a piece of paper that was tacked to a board with other’s healthy pledges.
Pledges on the board included: “Walk more,” “Eat healthy and run a 5K,” and “Stop smoking and eat better.” Jarrett’s was: “Exercise more and eat healthier.”
Cerro Gordo-Bement cheerleaders Ellie Shonkwiler, 14, of Bement and Aaliyah Ballard, 16, of Cerro Gordo also made healthy pledges.
“I pledged to eat healthier,” Aaliyah said. “I eat a lot of junk food.”
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“I’m going to work out more,” Ellie said. “I work out with the team, but I don’t do it on my own and I need to start.”
Minutes later, they were on stage leading the crowd in stretches. Aaliyah and Ellie were at the event in support of Team O’Neill. Fellow CGB student Seth O’Neill suffered a heart condition in eighth grade and is now a sophomore.
Macon County Heart Walk Chairman Marcus Brown of Richland Community College took the stage in a blue T-shirt with a superman logo on the front, except a “K” replaced the “S.” The back said “Kristoffer’s Crew,” in honor of his son, 11-year-old Kristoffer Brown, who had a heart attack at 6½-months-old because of Kawasaki disease.
“We’re here because heart disease has affected us all in some way,” Brown said. “I’m thankful for the research and advances that have been made. It’s because of those advances that my son is doing great today.”
After some applause, Brown said: “That was my chance to embarrass him.”
As a result of Kawasaki as an infant, Kristoffer was left with two coronary artery aneurysms and blood clots. He spent 17 days in a coma and 21 days in the pediatric intensive care unit.
“It was a pretty heavy month, and there was an entire year of recovery,” Brown said.
Kristoffer was successfully treated with a drug that hadn’t previously been used for infants, and he became a case study in how to treat infants with cardiac complications from Kawasaki.
Kristoffer still has limitations because of his health -- he can’t play impact sports, and if he has any chest pain, it means a trip to the emergency room.
“He fatigues easily when he’s out in the heat and the school is on notice that any time there’s a fall, he needs to be checked out by the nurse,” said Kevin Collins-Brown, Marcus’ partner.
But, otherwise, Kristoffer lives a life like any other 11-year-old.
“He’s been able to develop a normal routine: He plays soccer, dances and does other things that kids do,” Marcus said. “It was scary to watch when he was an infant.
"Now we do everything we can to make sure we maintain his heart health, and the heart health of all of our children.”