As hundreds of people gathered for the annual Miami Dade Heart Walk, a few dozen stand out.
Wearing life green T-shirts that included their company logo, associates from Regions Bank took an active part in making the American Heart Association’s fundraiser a success.
After all, it was personal.
Just a few years ago, Lajuana Bradford was volunteering with co-workers to build a new playground for a local church devastated by recent tornadoes, when she began feeling uncomfortable.
“I started feeling a heavy weight in my chest,” remembered Bradford, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for the bank. “I started to perspire, I couldn’t get my breath. My left arm started to ache.”
With no family history of heart disease, Bradford didn’t initially think she was in immediate danger. But the next day, the feeling grew more intense, and she knew she had to seek medical attention. The physician treating her didn’t mince words or waste time.
“So my doctor said, ‘You’re having a heart attack.’ I ended up getting six stents.”
After recovering, Bradford decided to participate in the American Heart Association’s Red Couch campaign, where heart attack survivors and their families share their stories. The message from Bradford, who will chair Birmingham’s Go Red for Women Campaign in 2017 is that women often suffer heart attacks without experiencing chest pressure. Instead, symptoms can include shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat and nausea or vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Bradford’s story resonated with Area Marketing Manager Gail Adams in Miami.
“The one thing that stuck out for me is that she would say is, ‘You know when something’s not right with your body,’” Adams said.
A short time later, something was definitely wrong with Adams’ body.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with shortness of breath. Really severe,” Adams said.
Remembering Bradford’s story, Adams drove herself to the hospital. As they began doing tests, “the nurse said, ‘Thank God you came. You’re having a heart attack.’ I’m not sure I would have gone on to the hospital if I didn’t have Lajuana’s words sort of ringing in my ears.”
Two close calls helped cement an ongoing bond between Regions and the American Heart Association. The recent Miami Dade Heart Walk is but one example of collaboration.
In fact, it is an annual event for many Regions’ associates, including South Florida Area President Steve Nivet. He chaired the Heart Walk in 2013 and now serves as the Chair of the American Heart Association Board of Directors for South Florida.
“I’m so proud to work for a company that supports the efforts of those who get involved in the community and are making a difference in lives, in things that matter,” Nivet said. “Personally, it means a lot to me. My dad has suffered with heart issues. I know what the American Heart has done and can do.”
Julie Sharpe, Senior Vice President of the South Florida American Heart Association, is well aware of Regions’ commitment.
“Thanks to Regions’ corporate support and engagement, we have the opportunity to do some great work,” Sharpe said. “So when I see the masses of people walking, it touches me.”
Sharpe said Regions leadership encourages other companies to participate. “That gives us an opportunity in the community to take a Regions leader, connect them with another community leader, and let them share why that’s meaningful to their employees.”
For the walk, leadership was provided by team captains, including Regions’ own Julio Llanes, a Heart Walk Team Leader. For Llanes and his co-workers, participating was an example of doing more for the community.
“Doing More is giving all that we have to really invest in our community,” Llanes said. “Giving all of our efforts, bringing our smiles and enthusiasm and our engagement to the community, makes an impact in someone’s life so they can say at the end of the day, ‘What was truly impactful was Regions associates being there and helping grow our community.’ That, to me, is the reward.”
Nivet pointed out that Regions’ association with the American Heart Association is three-fold, with contributions in terms of leadership, participation and fundraising.
“It makes it real, because it’s the people you know, the people you work with, and they all live in our communities,” Nivet said.
Knowing the American Heart Association’s work in research and in defeating heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, Nivet realizes the ties that bind the organizations will continue for years to come.
“There couldn’t be a better partnership than the one we have,” Nivet said. “We are ever so fortunate to be making an impact in the communities we serve.”