Tri-county walks for heart health
The Lowcountry Heart Walk, hosted by the American Heart Association, will take place in Charleston at Liberty Square this Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 a.m.
This is the 16th year of the walk and it’s the largest fundraiser for the American Heart Association in the Charleston area according to Katie Schumacher, the Heart Walk director.
“The Heart Walk is really our mission in action because it’s an awareness event as well as an opportunity for people to come out and exercise. One thing we promote is taking responsibility for your own health and participating in the walk is a great way to do that,” she said.
Schumacher said the association is expecting around 5,000 walkers in this year’s event. Although they aren’t required to fundraise in order to participate, many do.
“Last year was our largest year ever, we raised $680,000. This year our goal is $775,000,” she said.
The American Heart Association uses the money raised to fund heart disease research. For example, the Medical University of South Carolina currently receives $2.1 million in grants from the association.
Walkers come from across the tri-county area to participate, including many survivors.
Brayden Pfuntner, 2, of Summerville, is one of them and will participate in the Little Hearts portion of the event with his family for the second year.
Six hours after he was born, the doctors at Summerville Medical Center noticed Brayden’s limbs were turning blue. After a variety of tests and a trip to the Medical University of South Carolina, Brayden’s doctors determined he had a congenital heart defect called pulmonary atresia, which prevented getting blood from the heart to the lungs.
“I didn’t know anything about it all night,” said Christy Pfuntner, Brayden’s mom. “It wasn’t until they came in at 7 a.m. the next morning and told me that Brayden was being transported to MUSC that I knew anything was wrong.”
Brayden’s doctor, Dr. Geoffrey Forbus of the MUSC pediatric intensive care unit, explained it’s not surprising doctors didn’t know Brayden had a defect until after he was born.
“In utero before birth [a defect] doesn’t really matter much because the placenta does all of the work, but once the baby is born he needs blood flow to the lungs to make everything work.”
He said 8 out of 1000 live births can result in a congenital heart defect and while some medications can be linked to defects in children, the cause is mostly unknown.
At just 5 days old, doctors performed open-heart surgery on Brayden, adding a shunt, or tube, to his heart to facilitate blood flow.
“He’s 2 now and the doctors said he would need a second surgery within the first year but he hasn’t yet. We went to the doctor last month and his heart is actually growing and showing progress,” Pfuntner said.
Dr. Forbus continued.
“Brayden has only had one surgery so far and we hope that, by allowing him to outgrow the shunt that’s in place, he proves to us that he doesn’t need an additional source of blood flow. At that point, he will be a true, complete biventricular repair,” he said.
The Little Hearts portion of the Heart Walk is specifically designed for pediatric patients who were at MUSC, said Schumacher.
The adult walkers will kick off the event at 9 a.m. as they begin the three-mile route around the Battery and East Bay Street. The Little Hearts will follow with their own festivities and begin their one-mile route at 9:15 a.m.
Pfuntner said her family enjoys participating in the walk because they know the money they raise will directly benefit the Charleston community.
“So little of the funds raised for heart research go to help pediatric CHD. MUSC is a great hospital, they have a great team of doctors,” she said. “To know that so much of this event and the money we raise is staying local is amazing.”