It was a sea of red at the Omni Dallas Hotel on the morning of Friday, February 23. No, it was a continuation of the St. Valentine’s Day Luncheon and Fashion Show that had taken place a couple of weeks before at NorthPark Center for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas. The ladies had regrouped in red for the American Heart Association – Dallas’ Go Red for Women’s Luncheon.
One of the day’s speakers, AHA President/UT Southwestern cardiologist Dr. John Warner, was there thanks to his 17-old daughter Lauren Warner and the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive.” But more about that later.
Preceding the luncheon, there had been health screenings for guests to check their wellbeing as well as a silent auction and a VIP reception. In the red crowd were Shelle Sills was with Linda and Tim McNulty and Avery Allday, Sawyer Allday and Stuart Allday. Of course, Tim and the boys were sporting red ties in honor of the McNulty matriarch, Diane McNulty, who was to receive the Sandi Haddock Impact Award… 2017 Crystal Charity Ball Chair Pam Perella preparing for her final duty as chair — the presentation of the checks to the 2017 beneficiaries… Caren Kline was considering a cruise to Chile in the near future… Millie Cooper, who received the Sandi Haddock Impact Award in 2016 with her husband Dr. Ken Cooper… and Claire Emanuelson, Christie Carter, Dona Janes, the Cooley clan (Clay Cooley, Ciara Cooley and Bela Cooley) Tracy Lange, Tiffany Divis, Venise Stuart, Luane McWhorter, Kristen Hinton, Candace Winslow, Tanya Foster and Ann and Bob Dyer, who had hosted the patron party the night before.
Once the luncheon started, the message was as constant as a drum beat — one in three women live with heart disease and it is the number one killer of women today.
The program started off with Luncheon Co-Chairs Lisa Cooley and Janelle Walker thanking the crowd and the sponsors for their support and to celebrate the success of the American Heart Association has had in fighting heart disease especially for women. It kills more than that forms of cancer combined.
It was time for the major sponsors to talk to the audience. First up was Macy’s District Manager Cori Prager, who stuck straight to the three- minute script as it rolled on the floor screen. She recognized Mercedes Crew for her contributions and told guests that they would receive a $25-gift card. Next up was CVS Health Director of Account Management Kimberly Knott. It was during her talk that the rolling script came to a stop, as it appeared she decided to go off script. When she returned to the script, the roll carried on resulting in a six-minute talk. She ended by announcing that one lucky guest would get a $250 gift card from CVS thanks to a red dress sticker on the back of a menu card. After a brief check for the sticker by the 1,000+ guests, no excited shout of discovery was heard. Kimberly said if anyone did find the sticker, they should redeem it after the luncheon at the silent auction check-out table. The final sponsor was Texas Health Resources’ Dr. Jeff Canose, who announced that they had renewed their sponsorship for another year, during his two-and-half minute talk.
Following the invocation, luncheon was served. It started off with a healthy “Chopped Colorful Veggie Salad” that was only 156 calories per serving with 1.1grams of saturated fat and 16 mg of sodium. The recipe was even included on the back of the menu card. However, the entrée’s creamy mushroom sauce atop the breast of chicken may have countered the healthiness of the salad. To top off the meal, dessert was chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. One guest, who obviously was in need of a caffeine kick, wondered aloud, “Where’s the coffee?” Yes, there were coffee cups and saucers at the place settings at many tables, but no coffee appeared. Another guest suggested, “Perhaps that’s a way to reduce stress?”
Following lunch, American Heart Association Dallas Executive Director Melissa Cameron told how the group was in for a special treat soon hearing from American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown and AHA President/UT Southwestern cardiologist Dr. John Warner. It would be the first time that the AMA CEO would be on stage for the luncheon. She then introduced a video on Diane McNulty, who had been born with a congenital heart defect and given less than five years to live. At that time they were not doing surgery on infants. Thanks to her father’s efforts to save his daughter and the research and development in the battle of heart disease, Diane underwent lifesaving surgeries. She attributed her accomplishments — a successful career, children and grandchildren — to pioneering doctors like “a young maverick” Dr. John Kirkland, who performed the initial surgery when she was just 11.
Following the video, Diane and her daughter Brynn Bagot Allday arrived on stage. After Diane spoke briefly, the stage was filled with women of all ages who had survived heart disease like Nancy Gopez, Mary Parker and Millie Cooper. Diane then asked the guests to make a donation in the name of someone they knew with heart disease.
Melissa also invited women to join the Circle of Red for $5,000, adding that thanks to a generous donor, there was a $35,000 match being offered for seven women to sign up.
While making out donation cards, Millie Cooper spoke to the group retelling her story how despite being married to a doctor, she thought she had lived a heart-healthy life —wasn’t overweight, no smoking, no drinking, exercising. Still her husband kept telling her that her cholesterol was too high. Despite not having a pain her chest, her arms felt heavy one morning as she was walking at the gym. The result was her undergoing quadruple bypass surgery with “Dr. Cool.” She stressed that women have different risk factors regarding heart disease than men adding that more men have heart attacks, but more women die from heart attacks.
Millie then presented the Sandi Haddock Impact Award to Diane.
As the group left the stage, a video was shown introducing TV personality Leeza Gibbons,who in addition to having co-hosted PM Magazine in Dallas years ago, had recently “passed the $1B mark for in sales in the world of infomercials.”
Arriving on stage at the podium and looking fabulous, Leeza described “Charity is a blood sport in Dallas.” She recalled how her father had had heart surgery and her mother had Alzheimer’s.
- “We are connected to each other. We’re holding each other accountable.”
- “One in three women live with heart disease.”
- Quoting Gloria Steinem, “The truth is going to set you free, but first it’s going to piss you off.”
- “Do you know your risk factors?”
- “It’s about making changes instead of excuses.”
- “Red is not a passive color.
- “Go Red stands for Get your numbers; Own your lifestyle; Raise your voice; Educate your family; Donate.”
- “80% of heart disease can be prevented.”
- “What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”
- “Women’s hearts are different than men’s.”
An old hand at interviewing, Leeza was then joined on stage for a chart by Nancy Brown and Dr. Warner. John started things off by suggesting that guests should Google My Research Legacy in the valet line to share their health information (i.e. family history, activity level, etc.) thereby providing greater material for cardiovascular research. Through the Legacy program, researchers will better be able to move beyond having just the averages of heart disease and fine tune the symptoms and treatments of heart disease.
Nancy told of the AHA’s partnership in One Brave Idea program that has the goal of ending coronary heart disease using today’s technology.
Regarding Go Red, Nancy said, “We were outraged that back in 2004, women weren’t aware of heart disease.” Thus, a movement was created resulting in a community of women —Go Red that is now in 84 countries today.
John added that such activities as Go Red not only builds awareness among women, but also the healthcare community as well. He encouraged physicians to listen to women differently than men, due to the differences in symptoms.
Nancy surprised some of the guests by reporting that the newest mechanical heart approved in clinical trials does not fit into a woman’s body. “We need to raise our voices to have equal representation in clinical trials.”
In conclusion, Nancy said to take and treasure your health; know the warning signs; work with your doctor; inspire others to join Go Red; and philanthropy.
John added for guests to know the risks and symptoms and to learn CPR. That first couple of minutes can make a difference in a person’s life. It certainly did in John’s life when his heart literally stopped beating in December at the AHA’s annual conference in Southern California. Luckily, his 17-year-old daughter Lauren recalled an AHA Hands-Only CPR training video and went into action. Ironically, she also “remembered learning that the beat of the song ‘Stayin’ Alive’ was the right speed for those compressions.”