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August 22, 2011 06:10 PM

A Heartfelt Walk

SIOUX FALLS, SD


People in Sioux Falls will fight a disease that's the nation's number one killer this weekend one step at a time.

The American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk will raise money for cardiovascular disease and stroke research and the event is extremely heartfelt for some.

Golfing hits a soft spot in Tom Hildebrand's life.

"I started to play golf when I was 12 years old," Hildebrand said.

But he thought he might never get to play the game he loved again after he suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture in 2009.

"When the helicopter arrived here, I still had a pulse, but I didn't have any blood pressure at all," Hildebrand said.

In fact, few people in Hildebrand's circumstance live; about 35 percent survive if the rupture happens when they're already in the hospital. But if they're not, such as with Hildebrand, the survival rate is only about 10 percent.

"I ended up losing my lower left leg, which frequently happens, evidently, when you have massive blood loss. The blood has to go some place, and in my instance it went to my lower left leg," Hildebrand said.

Still, Hildebrand is aiming high. He's back playing golf, and he'll also be walking to raise money this weekend for cardiovascular disease and stroke research. He's a team captain in The American Heart Association's Heart Walk.

"If by my efforts I can help one other person not have to go through pain and suffering, that's a big dream for me," said Hildebrand.

Because Hildebrand is already living his dream back at the golf course.

"My goal, my dream, was to go golfing again, and today we're out here where you can golf. This is like heaven to me," Hildebrand said.

The Heart Walk starts at 9:15 a.m. Saturday at Falls Park. For more information, visit Avera's Heart Walk website.
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