LANCASTER, Pa. — The American Heart Association is getting ready for their "Heart of Lancaster" virtual event on June 24.
Although it's virtual, it allows them to continue their mission to ensure everyone lives a longer and healthier life. The goal of the virtual event is to raise funds for the organization so that they can continue to help those who suffer from cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease and stroke continue to be leading causes of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Which is why it's important to hear local stories of survivors, like Heather Elliot.
A mom of two young boys and 33 at the time, Heather Elliot said it was like any other day: getting ready for work and trying to get the boys off to school.
"I started feeling some chest pain, brushed it off as heart burn figured I'll take medication and call it a day," Elliot said. "I mentioned it to my husband on the way out, no big deal, we went about our business."
Working in the medical field, Elliot figured she'd get an EKG once she got to work. But as she started her drive, things escalated.
"Finally, I got to the point where I was sweaty and having a lot of tingling so I pulled over and ended up calling the ambulance," she said. "I ended up staying in the hospital for four days so they could work me up and try and figure out what caused it because at 33-years-old, they didn't know why that was happening."
After tests and process of elimination, she was diagnosed with a coronary artery spasm, which experts say tightens muscles within arteries that send blood to your heart.
At the time of the incident, Elliot didn't think too much into it because of her young age and being relatively healthy.
"I was at a point where I couldn't bend my fingers. My arms felt like they weighed a ridiculous amount," she said. "So, I am more scared looking back now. But I was still in the mindset that I can't be having anything wrong with my heart right now."
"Sharing stories like Heather's and so many other survivors we have in our community really helps drive home the point of why it’s so important to support the mission of the American Heart Association," Communications Director for the American Heart Association Larissa Bedrick said.
Bedrick said they've recently seen new data that shows cardiovascular events have actually increased over the past year so research and support is critical.
At Thursday's event, Women of Impact nominees, which include local leaders and survivors, will share their stories.
Elliot said she was hesitant at first to talk about her event, because she didn't fit what she called the "mold."
"But then on the flipside, I want to talk about it because I don't fit that mold. You can't just think you're invincible," Elliot said.
The "Heart of Lancaster" event begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday. You can sign up for the virtual event here.
If you'd like to make a donation you can do so by texting LANCASTERHEART to 41444.