Canvassers raising money, awareness for Heart Health month

By Vanessa Ybarra
February 16, 2017 - 5:56pm

KAMLOOPS — According to the National Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease or stroke takes one life in Canada every seven minutes.

While genetics play a large part in the risk of a heart attack, lifestyle is also a big piece of the puzzle.

Some people can be at risk for heart attack or stroke without even knowing it.

February is heart month, a time to raise awareness about how to prevent heart attacks and remind people they can happen to anyone at anytime.

With his grandfather and father dying of a stroke, as well his two uncles suffering a heart attack, 54-year-old John Petri knows the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.

"Our family eats really healthy, with the kids we all try to stay active," said Petri.

And yet it was eight years ago while playing soccer that the father of two suddenly felt a tightness in his chest.

"I grabbed onto a tree and it was like somebody dropped a bucket of water over me, I was pouring wet with sweat," said Petri.

Petri was suffering a major heart attack.

The Kamloops resident was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital where he underwent a quadruple bypass six weeks later.

"Fortunately, the surgery went off ok," said Petri.

Petri is now using his second chance at life to bring awareness to heart disease.

He is one of 900 volunteers canvassing the Kamloops-Cariboo region as part of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's 60th annual February 'heart health' campaign.

"Our canvassers are going out in the neighborhoods and not only are they collecting funds but they're also sharing life-saving information," said Teresa Moore, Area Manager with the Kamloops Heart and Stroke Foundation.

"This year they're going to be sharing the heart and stroke online risk assessment so people know the risk," added Moore. 

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, people with a history of stroke or heart attacks in their family are 50% more likely to suffer one themselves.

It's this statistic that Petri hopes to change by passing along preventative measures to the public.

"Take a low dose aspirin once a day," said Petri. "Something as simple as that can save your life."

Another one of this year's canvassers is 15-year-old Abby Farnsworth.

Unlike Petri, Farnsworth was born wth a heart condition called Hypo-Plastic Left Heart Syndrome where not enough blood is pumped through the left side of the heart making simple activities a struggle."

"I'd pick up the pencil and then draw and be like 'I'm tired can you help me'," said Farnsworth.

Farnsworth underwent four open-heart surgeries before the age of five.

With last year's heart month campaign donating more than $120,000 toward heart disease research and medicine, Farnsworth says signing up was the least she could do.

"I wanted to give back to the people like me who need surgeries," added Farnsworth. "Canvass to get money for people to use that money for inventing newer medicines or cures."

While life for many heart attack and stroke survivors may never be the same, For Peti every step is worth celebrating.

"Waking up every day is a good thing," said Petri. 


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