By Allison Horton|
Gagen, RN, clinical nurse manager of the Medical Center's
electrophysiology lab, first learned of her son's heart condition five
"He had an episode on the baseball field where he
got really sick and it kind of mimicked a heart attack," said Gagen, an
employee of the Medical Center for seven years. "He turned gray and
couldn't breathe. They found out it was a congenital defect we were
never aware of."
Medical Center doctors diagnosed Gagen's son
with a medical anomaly when he was 15
years old. Her son's affliction and her own struggles with heart
disease and high blood pressure have motivated her to participate for
several years in the American Heart Association Heart Walk, which was
held on September 25, 2009 in Grant Park. More than 270 Medical Center
employees and patients participated in the one- and three-mile
designated walks around the city's lakefront to promote physical
activity and healthy living to fight heart disease.
credits the Medical Center for recognizing her son's condition. He
didn't need medication or surgery but the Medical Center still monitors
his condition with frequent non-stress tests. She said she believes in
the Medical Center's research which is funded, in part, by money raised
by the walk.
"His coronary blood flow is adequate now," she
said. "We are a lucky story. It could have gone a whole different way
if the doctors hadn't recognized it. There's just a great staff at the
University of Chicago that recognized it."
Also at the walk was
Dee Hayes, a Medical Center compliance health information management
analyst for more than a year. Hayes walked in memory of her
77-year-old uncle, McKenzie Grice, who died from heart disease last
year. Her uncle's death was unexpected because he led a healthy
lifestyle, Hayes said. Grice was a marathon runner and did not smoke or
"It was a quick death," said Hayes, a second-year walk
participant. "He died from heart disease, but it was compared to
stage-four cancer because it ravaged his system."
enjoyed participating in the walk each year because of the connection
she feels with other walkers. "I like the camaraderie," she said. "I
like to hear the survivor stories and about the movement on heart
disease. I am a young mother of two children [ages 11 and 12]. I want
to be around and it is going to encourage me to walk and eat a little
This year, Hayes encouraged Sandy Sanders, a health
care integrity program audit analyst for two and half years at the
Office of Medical Center Compliance, to become involved with the event.
Sanders said she was walking for both her grandmothers who have heart
"One has been impacted greatly, where she needs oxygen
on a daily basis and isn't doing so well," she said. "My other one, my
maternal grandmother, does take better care of herself. She's actually
a successful survivor, where she's lost weight and decreased her
Sanders raised $130 from family donations for the event.
"Once I told them, everybody was on board for the walk because of the impact that it has had on our family."