SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The Eastern South Dakota Virtual Heart Walk and the American Heart Association invited people to walk one to three miles, send them a picture and then donate to the heart association.
An annual event turned virtual to raise money.
“It goes into research,” Chrissy Meyer, the communications director for the American Heart Association, said. “We are the largest funder of heart and stroke research outside of the federal government. In addition, it goes to quality programs ensuring that our hospitals here locally are treating you with the very latest science and the very best medicine. It goes to public health education and all those kinds of things to help people live their heart-healthiest life.”
The impact of donations is something Lisa Esser has seen first-hand.
“The Heart Association and the Go Red Walk couldn’t come at a better time for us,” Esser said. “We participate in these kinds of things every year just because we had a son born with a congenital heart defect. So, he requires surgeries, and will for the rest of his life.”
Esser, owner of Papa Woody’s Wood-Fire Pizza in Sioux Falls, says her son, Aiden, had his last open-heart surgery six years ago today.
“At that time, the only option was open-heart surgery for what he needed,” Esser said. “Now, here we are six years later and most of what he needs now for the exact same thing, they can do through a cath procedure. So they may or may not have to open him up, but the chances of them not having to open him up are tremendously greater.”
Esser says that new knowledge and technology is possible because of donations to the American Heart Association.
“Twenty years ago, kids with Tetralogy of Fallot, which is what Aiden was born with, their survival rate was pretty minimal. Most kids didn’t make it past 18 or 20,” Esser said.
Aiden is only 13 years old, but he’ll need surgeries for the rest of his life. Esser says he’s currently at Sanford Hospital while his family waits for a call from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he needs to go for another open-heart surgery.
“Kids like Aiden depend on this research and the only way they can do research is with funding,” Esser said.