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Share your story: Chris Neff

I am an American Heart Association volunteer and advocate! Growing up, my parents
taught me the importance of helping others.

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My mother, an Elementary School Guidance Counselor and my Dad, a Chiropractor. I wanted to be like my Dad, and help people lead healthy lives. Unfortunately, that path did not work out for me, however, I found another path to help people and businesses, that I continue to pursue in my technology career; customer service. A career involving customer service, specifically in the Information Technology industry, has been rewarding in many aspects. While in that career, I found and married the love of my life, Christine, and she too serves the public as an Early Childhood Special Education Severe Disabilities teacher. We grew strong together and were blessed with our first child, Colsen, in June of 2011. But, God’s plan to guide us in helping people did not stop with our careers. You see, Colsen was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (diagnosed before birth).

Our faith remained strong, we knew we were never given challenges we couldn’t handle. And though as heart wrenching the diagnosis of our unborn baby was, we knew it was meant to be and we would be Colsen’s guides, mentors and parents through his life. He has taught us so much; what it’s meant to be a heart warrior, survivor, my hero, patient, patience, how to have fun, and to be a parent to name a few. After the first year, where Colsen endured two open-heart surgeries and eight heart catheterization procedures, we started engaging with the local Heart Walks. Through these events I started my advocacy and volunteering with the American Heart Association.

Colsen turned six this year; has had a total of three open heart surgeries, and ten heart catheterization procedures. He is watched by two children’s hospitals and continues to beat the odds. He has a four-year-old sister, who he loves dearly and loves to play, indoor and out. He has been involved in swimming, dance, soccer, T-ball, and piano. We have been told he has no physical restrictions, only to watch his stamina as he tries new things. Over time he will know what he can and can’t do, but for now we guide him. He thrives in academics, and is developing normally. Without the support of what the AHA does, American’s affected by cardiovascular disease and stroke may not have the advancements we are able to make use of today. Children with life-threatening defects and disease may not have lived. But today, they do!

Spreading awareness about the AHA’s missions is important to me. There are so many things going on in today’s world it is hard for everyone to keep up with everything. Making sure I’m connected to social media and having the support of family and friends really helps spread the word. Sometimes I think I don’t do enough, but receiving the honor to submit my story as an Iowa volunteer for the AHA is encouraging and humbling to say the least. I will continue to do what I can for the AHA because not only is it important to me, but it’s important that my son and millions of others affected by cardiovascular disease and stroke get the support they need, from the people and organizations of the United States of America.

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