Program targets heart disease

Although Valentine’s Day is still a week away, residents of Lawrence were sporting red Friday in honor of Go Red Day.

The American Heart Association created the Go Red program in 2004 to educate women about heart disease. According to the AHA, cardiovascular disease kills about 450,000 women each year. To raise awareness, the AHA was encouraging people to wear red Friday.

“I’d never experienced heart disease symptoms before,” said Kathy Barr, 56. “On the evening of November 3, 2008, I experienced what I thought was acid reflux — which, I have indigestion — but that evening it was different than normal. I had pain going across my chest from shoulder to shoulder. It was a heavy feeling and some tightness.”

Barr’s husband, a doctor, recognized the symptoms and drove her to the Lawrence Memorial Hospital emergency room, where she learned she had suffered a heart attack.

Many, who don’t make it to the hospital, are not so lucky as Barr.

“On the drive to town, my pain subsided, so I told (my husband) I would like to go back home,” Barr said. “Every time I suggested we go back home, he told me ‘no,’ he was going to have me checked out.”

Since then, Barr has changed her lifestyle, working out twice a week and participating in a weight-loss program.

She has been asked to speak at a Go Red luncheon on Thursday at the Lawrence Holidome, sponsored by the Douglas County Go Red committee.

She hopes the story she tells will encourage others to get their hearts checked before it’s too late.

Debbie Toms, a registered nurse at LMH, who has been on the Go Red committee in Douglas County for two years, said the best thing women can do is to pay heed to warning signs.

“We are nurturers and caregivers. We are busy with raising our children, taking care of our home and maybe working in a job outside the home … I think we have a tendency to ignore some of these symptoms, and I think it’s very important to listen to our bodies.”