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North Country Heart Walk to honor survivors

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Donna Kinney and Melissa K. Beckwith were connected more than they thought, or wanted to be.

Ms. Kinney had talked with a relative of Mrs. Beckwith’s and learned her son, Brody S., 3, had problems when he was born.

Brody and Ms. Kinney have since been bonded as heart disease survivors, and in recognition of their successes they have been named honorees of the 2013 North Country Heart Walk, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 27 in the Watertown Municipal Arena at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The honorees learned of their conditions in very different ways. Ms. Kinney had participated in the heart walk for more than a decade to raise money for the American Heart Association. Last year at the walk, she turned in donations despite not feeling well earlier that morning. Someone suggested she have her blood pressure checked there.

“I’d said it’s been running high lately,” she said.

The number, which was in triple digits on top and bottom, alarmed walk volunteers.

Later that day, she went to urgent care and, although she thought she was having an asthma attack, Ms. Kinney got startling news after being taken to a Syracuse hospital.

“The doctor came back in and said, ‘You’re going to be admitted because you’re in congestive heart failure,’” Ms. Kinney said.

That shock was the same reaction Mrs. Beckwith said she had when she and her husband, Jeremy J., learned of Brody’s condition.

Because heart disease ran in Mrs. Beckwith’s family, she had several tests done during her pregnancy to regularly check the fetus. Everything appeared to be fine.

At 2 months old, Brody was diagnosed with a heart murmur. An echocardiogram was done a week later, and 30 minutes after the appointment, Mrs. Beckwith said, she was told by Brody’s doctor to rush back to the office.

An ambulance was waiting to take Brody to Upstate Medical University, Syracuse.

Brody was in congestive heart failure.

Mr. Beckwith said there was “no time to process it; you just go with it.”

After his arrival at the hospital, more tests showed Brody suffered from pulmonary valve stenosis.

According to the American Heart Association, the condition is “a thickened or fused heart valve that does not fully open.

The pulmonary valve allows blood to flow out of the heart, into the pulmonary artery and then to the lungs.”

He had surgery to rectify the problem, but Brody will need another surgery before he starts kindergarten because the valve is closing again. Mrs. Beckwith said Brody might even have his pulmonary valve replaced.

For Ms. Kinney, who resides in Theresa, a pacemaker/defibrillator seems to have resolved some of her heart troubles.

She said she and physicians are unsure what caused a virus, and what virus exactly, to attack her heart, causing her to go into congestive heart failure.

She said she’s working toward becoming healthier, which includes shedding some pounds, but that struggle has been a battle she’s faced since childhood.

She and Mr. and Mrs. Beckwith said they are honored to be recognized for their efforts and are happy to help create awareness for the American Heart Association. Ms. Kinney will walk with a team, as will the Beckwiths, including Brody.

The Beckwith family will host several fundraisers throughout April and May to raise money for the large nonprofit organization.

Kristy Smorol, American Heart Association communications director, said the fundraising goal for the North Country Heart Walk is $220,000.

Last year, 1,100 participants and sponsors raised a little more than $200,000. All proceeds will be used to fund research and local advocacy and training programs.

As of Thursday, slightly more than $92,000 had been pledged.

Teams that don’t preregister may still participate in the walk and a minimum donation of $25 is requested.

Before the walk, people may get free health screenings, participate in the children’s fun zone and receive information from various vendors.

For more information, call the American Heart Association at 783-4116 or visit the local walk’s website at www.northcountryheartwalk.org.

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