We are excited to introduce someone new to the American Heart Association You're The Cure blog this month! Hannah Walker will be bringing a fresh perspective on the advocacy work of the American Heart Association. Through her lens, you will learn about her personal heart story, public policy, volunteer opportunities, fun recipes, heart healthy tips and so much more!
And now Hannah's first blog...
Hello everyone! I’m Hannah Walker, and I’m so excited to be a new guest blogger for the AHA. I’m a senior at an extremely small high school in rural Arkansas where I will graduate with a class of 48 students. Yep, that kind of small!
For my first blog, I would love to introduce you to my hero, my little sister. At birth, Maddie was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot—a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects present at birth. Three months later, Maddie underwent open heart surgery and we were told she would be an extremely lethargic kid. Despite the odds, she was, and still is, able to do all the activities of a perfectly healthy child. Maddie has taken dance lessons, played numerous sports, and competed in pageants.
Maddie and Hannah at Miss Arkansas 2019
Although she will have to endure several more surgeries, Maddie is determined to overcome the odds against her. Even though it will be hard for me to watch her go through more surgeries, I am ecstatic to see how she improves her quality of life. Throughout her life, I have seen Maddie struggle with exhaustion, dizziness, high blood pressure and an accelerated heart rate. But she always faces them head on with strength and courage, which is why she inspires me everyday. I am completely convinced that I wouldn't be the person I am today, without her.
As Maddie gets older, she continues to inspire me with her strength and resilience - Gosh, I have learned so much from her. Although she may only be ten, she has had to endure much more than the average person. One thing I want everyone to take from Maddie’s story is to own your setbacks, but don't let them define you and most importantly, overcome them, just like she has. I’m going to leave you with a quote I believe truly describes her life:
“The beautiful thing about setbacks is they introduce us to our strengths.”
- Robin Sharma
Maddie on National Wear Red Day
Over the last several years, I have had a first hand look at heart health in my own family and community beyond Maddie's condition. Almost every man in my family has experienced heart problems in their lifetime. Also, being a high school student, I have become quite passionate about heart health among my peers. I'd like to keep my friends around for a long time! I see my peers experimenting with vaping and cigarettes - it's an epidemic we need to be shouting about from the rooftops!! In fact, I was so passionate about the issue I testified at the Arkansas State Capitol this past legislative session in support of Tobacco 21 (raising the age of sale from 18 to 21) - And it passed into law! After that victory, I had the bug to do more!
Hannah testifying on Tobacco 21 at the Arkansas State Capitol
Today, I challenge each of you to join me and get involved with the lifesaving advocacy work of the American Heart Association. Add your voice by simply texting HEART to 46839 right now or CLICK HERE. It only takes a few moments, and you will be a part of a powerful movement to save lives. Already involved? Share this blog with a friend and invite them to join us!
I know that the work I am doing with the AHA is in honor of my sister, and everything I do is to make a difference in my community and yours! I look forward to sharing more with you about the amazing advocacy work of the AHA and update you on my little sis as I bring my blog to you each month!
Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for reading my very first guest blog! It’s truly an honor to share my sister’s story and be an advocate for the AHA!
Until next time,
Hannah Walker, AHA Advocate and Maddie's Big Sis