RA-sponsored program teaches students about heart disease risks

By on April 20, 2005

Many of the residents of both Larson and Troup had the opportunity to hear some hard-hitting, real life experiences from members of the Quinnipiac Residential Life staff last week in a program given by two resident assistants.

The sophomores were required to attend a program that discussed the reality and effects of very serious health conditions.

Jackie Trojanowski and Kelli Wallace, both resident assistants believed their stories were important enough to share with their residents in order to teach the students about prevention and warning signs of both strokes and heart disease. Throughout the program, the students in attendance listened to stories read by Trojanowski, Wallace, JoLynn Hamilton, the residence hall director for all suites and Complex, and Frances Silva, also an RA.

None of the residents knew the theme of the program before it started. It began with a video about a 32-year-old woman who suffered from a stroke, and because of the stroke, also suffered from depression. The video discussed how those afflicted with serious medical conditions sometimes fight long battles of depression as well. The video relayed warning signs of depression and also explained how to cope when a person realizes they are depressed.

Trojanowski then explained that each staff member had their own story to share. Hamilton was the first to read her story and she began by explaining how sometimes students believe that by being young, it makes them invincible from any serious medical conditions. She spoke about how her mother suffered from a stroke and because of it she had to relearn how to write and walk.

“My mom spent over a year in physical, occupational and speech therapy. Eight years later, the right side of her body is still paralyzed but she manages,” Hamilton said. “She has short term memory loss. She retired from her job as a 5th grade school teacher, but her outlook on life is amazing. The point of this story is to make you aware. My message is to take care of yourselves; spread the word.” Hamilton also explained how her mother would again be taking part in a walk this year to raise money for the American Heart Association as she has in previous years.

“The idea of the program was mainly inspired through the story of the recent death of Kelli’s mom,” Trojanowski said. “We collaborated our personal stories and Kelli and I thought that it would be a great program to educate our residents about the risks of heart disease and how ‘close to home’ it can actually hit.”

Trojanowski also read her story to the students. Her brother was born with congenital heart disease with a hole in his heart and an atrial-ceptal defect. He was born with his heart on the wrong side of his chest and at times his heart would beat up to three times the normal rate.

“Despite all of the problems and complications, I couldn’t name anyone with a bigger or more open heart than my brother. Perhaps it has only strengthened him as a person and made him proud to be living today,” Trojanowski read. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Wallace also wanted to share her story. Her mother suddenly passed away four days after Christmas this past year. Although it was the hardest thing she ever had to go through, she believed that by sharing her experience she may be able to help others.

“It’s funny how things stick in your mind. I will never forget 8:07 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004, as long as I live,” Wallace said. “It was without a doubt the absolute worst moment of my life; the one solitary moment where my life was turned completely upside down and everything I had ever achieved or hoped for was no longer important to me.”

Wallace’s mother, who was a healthy and active woman at 49, suffered from a massive heart attack. “I knew something was very wrong when several of my mom’s doctors and nurses, people that face tragedy like this day in and day out, were crying at her bedside. At about 4:15 that afternoon I lost my mom and my life as I knew it.”

The students were encouraged to take the experiences relayed to them and use the information given to make smarter decisions in their lives. Each student was given a red American Heart Association bracelet to remind them that the choices they make everyday can ultimately determine the type of life they lead.

Red paper hearts with each student’s name written on it will also be hung in the cafeteria to show support for the American Heart Association. For each heart, $1.00 will be donated to the association.

“From my story, I want people to realize that they should seize the day because like they say, ‘you never know,'” Wallace said. “Three months ago I would have agreed that a statement like that is so clich


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