“Because women don’t expect to have heart disease, a lot of times they don’t seek help if they have early symptoms of a heart attack.”–Laura Bush
I wasn’t supposed to still be there, but there was a pair of ladies 20+ years my senior with whom I spoke each time I passed them on the short local walking loop. This was my third time to see them walking at this location, and I had already learned that one of the ladies had COPD and was also recovering from lung cancer. I had already completed my goal for the morning, but after realizing something the two ladies had told me, I added one more lap. I wanted those ladies to know that they were actually completing two miles per walk, not one mile, as they had thought!
Focused on the sense of accomplishment I was fairly certain those ladies would feel, I decided to jog back to them, and tell them the good news. Lung cancer and COPD be danged, these ladies were unstoppable together. Little did I know that these women were the start of the morning’s theme–people supporting one another for the betterment of overall health. I exchanged a few final pleasantries with them and went on my way.
“Most women do not realize that heart disease is the #1 killer of American women.”–Monica Potter
Moving on, lost in thought, it occurred to me that I was still jogging, albeit not very quickly.
Well, Steph, why not jog the rest of the loop as an extra bonus since it is Saturday?
That is when I encountered two adorable kids, clearly brother and sister. It was obvious, the sister did not want to continue moving around the path, but the brother wanted to keep going. In fact, he began jogging as his sister began walking in the opposite direction. Saying good morning to both kids, the boy began to talk to me, and within one minute, I could tell he wanted to run the rest of the loop, but he was filled with self-doubt. I kept my pace slightly ahead of his, and offered words of encouragement. Together, but at a socially appropriate distance, we crossed his perceived finish line, the entry point onto the path.
I introduced myself to the adults waiting for the boy and then walked away to allow them to return to their group conversation as well as focus on the boy’s accomplishment. Stretching and reflecting on the encounters of the morning, I overheard a conversation that led me to determine who the boy’s mother was.
Do I introduce myself?
Gathering my courage, I introduced myself to the mother of the boy, and I was immediately put at ease with her enthusiasm and graciousness. She told me that her name was Angel Schneider. Soon enough, I was lost in conversation with Angel as I learned that at age 43, she suffered a heart attack in front of her two kids, Col and Madeline, along with her husband, Tom on September 11, 2018. She was at the walking path to meet up with friends and family for the Huntington Virtual Heart Walk for the American Heart Association. Those who gathered, or who walked virtually, were acting in support of heart attack survivors, heart disease, and memory of loved ones lost to this disease.
As Angel I spoke, I noticed that she was wearing the same shirt as her two children and husband with the words, “Angel’s Heart and Sole.” Angel explained that this was the name of her fundraising team for the AHA. She added that two of her closest friends proposed the name after learning she was selected as the “heart hero” to promote the 2019 AHA Huntington Heart Walk as suggested by the staff at the St. Mary’s Hospital cardiac rehab program. This led to AHA asking Angel to speak at the rally before the event, and as her team began forming for the walk, Angel felt led to create the Angel’s Heart and Sole Facebook page/blog.
Through her Facebook page and word-of-mouth, Angel began fundraising for the AHA through the sale of t-shirts. In fact, her first fundraising team for AHA Heart Walk, sponsored by St. Mary’s Regional Heart Institute, raised nearly $2,800 earning the award for top community fundraising team as well as top individual fundraiser. This past Saturday, she was right back out there doing it again for the 2020 event–only with a virtual twist to it.
“Women die sitting at home.”–Dr. Jean McSweeney
However, despite Angel’s recovery from her 2018 heart attack, life has dished up some additional challenges. In March of 2019, Angel returned to St. Mary’s Hospital for what she later learned were coronary artery spasms. Then, during the fall of 2019, she contracted a rare case of pneumonia caused by a bacteria called chlamydia pneumoniae. It took Angel about six weeks to fully recover, and she had to endure not only three rounds of steroids, but also a steroid injection.
Angel’s life was also further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the crisis, like many of us, she was working from home, trying to juggle her health, work, and personal life, while still trying to help her two kids complete school virtually. It was during this time period that she learned the job she had loved doing for over 11 years was coming to an end. A new company took over her place of employment, and Angel was cut in the first round.
Regardless of the bumpy ride of the past two years, Angel holds fast to her faith. She states that God has, and continues to, open doors for her.
“I don’t understand why some things in life happen the way they do, but what I do know is you can either use it for good, or let it consume you. I choose to use what has happened to me for the good, for the glory of God, and to shine a light on women’s health.”
Angel is unsure what her next career step will be. She would like to do more with her “Heart and Sole” page and continue to support AHA–perhaps even become more active at the national level. However, no matter what direction Angel’s life takes, her husband will continue to be her greatest source of support, and her children will continue to be her greatest source of motivation as they were only ages eight and ten when she had her heart attack.
“No young child should see his or her parent have a heart attack.”
One thing is for certain, whatever life-path Angel ultimately traverses, she is sure to put her heart and soul into it.
For more information about Angel’s Heart and Sole, women’s heart health, Huntington Heart Walk, St. Mary’s Go Red luncheon, and/or the AHA, please visit Angel’s Heart and Sole page on Facebook.