Palmetto Heart Walk raising funds to save lives

Palmetto Heart Walk

One person dies of cardiovascular disease every 39 seconds. That’s 2,200 people each day in the U.S.  

To raise funds and awareness to fight cardiovascular disease, the Charleston & Coastal South Carolina Chapter of the American Heart Association will hold the Palmetto Heart Walk on April 29 at Shelter Cove Community Park on Hilton Head Island. The event has a 1-mile loop and a 5K option. More than 800 attendees are expected this year, said Jennifer Waites, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.  

“We’re not only raising funds, we are saving lives,” she said. “It’s funneling right back into the community and will raise heartbeats to help diseases right in our backyard.”

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, and is prevalent among firefighters. According to a 2015 study by National Fire Protection Association, “…heart disease has been recognized as a serious health issue for the fire service for quite some time now. Sudden cardiac death has consistently accounted for the largest share of on-duty firefighter deaths since the NFPA began this study in 1977.” 

Mike MayersA group from the Hilton Head Firefighters Association will form a team to participate in the Palmetto Heart Walk for the first time to raise awareness about heart disease among firefighters. Wearing gear that is hot and heavy, lifting tools and carrying equipment, and making critical decisions in seconds is strenuous on firefighters, both physically and mentally, said Mike Mayers, the Hilton Head Fire Rescue deputy chief of operations.

“It puts a lot of stress on the heart. Not everyone is challenged as physically and mentally as a firefighter,” he said. “As much as we preach to people to live lives of moderation, we have to do an even better job. We got to put our money where our mouth is. We can’t tell people they should do these things and not do it ourselves.” 

The Hilton Head Island community is blessed to have an extraordinary cardiac care system, Mayers said. Not only was Hilton Head recognized by the International Association of Fire Chiefs as a heart-safe community in 2012, Hilton Head Fire Rescue is certified gold standard with the AHA’s Mission: Lifeline. The program was developed to care for patients who are suffering from high-risk, time-sensitive emergencies including heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrest, according to the AHA website. Mission: Lifeline helps regions form a coalition within the community to make an effective, efficient system of care that saves and improves lives.

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Recognizing the signs of a heart attack, better access to AEDs, CPR training, speedy response by EMS and providing quick transportation to heart-friendly hospitals, “that’s the difference between people having a heart attack that could kill them to walking out a hospital intact,” Mayers said. 

Hilton Head firefighters will also judge a CPR contest among local high school students. The dummies that are provided are computerized so the judges have an objective way to measure if CPR is being administered correctly. 

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A year ago, South Carolina became the 30th state in the U.S. to require that high school students learn hands-on CPR. The AHA worked with legislators that bill. 

CPR doubles or triples survival rates for those suffering from cardiac arrest when it is administered right away. Teaching high school students CPR adds thousands of potential lifesavers to the state’s rosters.

As for this month’s Palmetto Heart Walk, Mayers said he hopes a big crowd comes out to support awareness and research for cardiovascular disease. 

“We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of people there,” he said. “As firefighters, our interest is in making sure that (people) are healthy and happy, and we want to set a good example and walk right alongside them.”

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If You Go: AHA Palmetto Heart Walk 2017

Date: April 29 
Time: Check in at 8:30 a.m.; walk starts at 9:30 a.m.
Place: Shelter Cove Community Park
Registration: Participants can register for free, but donations are welcome. Groups can register as a team, people can join as individuals.