Peter Kennedy's Story

Many people have a common misconception that only those 60 years and older experience heart and stroke events. I found out through firsthand experience that this is not the case.

In school I was extremely active in sports. I loved football, swimming and hiking. After sporting events and at random times I would experience transient ischemic attacks (TIA), or mini-stroke type symptoms. The right side of my body including my tongue, fingers, and face would go numb.

I would experience times when I would try to say one thing and something totally different would be spoken. I even experienced throat issues that would eliminate my ability to swallow.

After every event, the diagnosis would come back negative and the symptoms would be chalked-up to "a-symptomatic migraine."

Despite discouraging diagnosis, I was determined not to let these issues stop me from living my life to the fullest.

As a 27-year-old father of then two children, providing the sole income for our family, this was a stressful time. During one of my final TIA events, I remember lying on an ED stretcher at an HCA facility in Utah, my entire body numb, my extremities posturing, unable to speak, looking at my wife wondering what was going to happen to my family.

Research regarding non-infant Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), a hole between the two atrial chambers of the heart, their detection, and treatment, until just recently, has been extremely limited.

In late 2005, I took a job in cardiovascular research. One of my clinical trials was focused on PFOs and their effect on migraines. As my colleges described symptoms associated with PFOs, I shared my experiences, and after a quick test discovered that I had one of the largest grades of PFO possible. I was able to have a closure device placed and underwent a speedy recovery. It is because of research funded by organizations like the American Heart Association that I have been able to not only eliminate my TIAs but virtually remove my future risk of stroke.

Every year Richmond-area companies and individuals have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of real people, people like me. The American Heart Association in 2008 alone gave over $106.4 million in research dollars, funding advancements in heart and stroke issues that currently have little known about them. This funding comes directly from donations given by employees like you and me.

Support the American Heart Association this year through donations and participation in this year's Heart Walk on October 24th! It made a difference to me and my family; who else could you help?