From My Heart to Yours: An Introduction

When you envision your senior year of high school, heart disease doesn’t exactly come to mind. It isn’t supposed to happen when you’re 16, co-captain of your tennis team, and have never spent a night in the hospital. It shouldn’t happen when you don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or have high cholesterol.  But even without the typical risk factors, heart disease knows no rules, and it happened to me when I least expected it.

While out at dinner with my parents, the world suddenly started spinning and I thought I would pass out. There were pressure pains in my chest and neck and it felt like my arms were made of lead. When the dizziness subsided, I assumed it was an allergic reaction to the food, a minor passing episode. Until an ambulance took me to a local hospital and a cardiologist said the dreaded words:

“Massive heart attack.”

A blood clot had lodged in the artery leading to the left side of my heart was completely blocking blood flow. I had a 20-30% chance of dying right then. At a second hospital, I was crashing. My lungs were filling up with fluid, and the Last Rites were said for me because I wasn’t expected to live through the night.

Doctors managed to stabilize me in time to take me to a third hospital in hopes of having a heart transplant as a last resort. With a critical shortage of organs and tens of thousands of people waiting, no hearts could save me. They implanted a then-experimental Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to pump the left side of my heart via battery power while I waited in hope for a transplant. Additional complications forced doctors to amputate my left leg in order to save my life.

Jessica Hospital Post Transplant

It was time to reclaim my life and face a new reality. After six weeks in the hospital, I returned to school and kept myself as busy as possible with classes, friends, and school activities. Nine months later, just days before my graduation ceremony, I received my second chance at life: a heart from an 18 year old named Shannon. Three months later, I was able to start Princeton University on time, and I went on to work in the organ donation field to help the many others still in need of a life-saving organ.

When Michelle and Yuki were co-founding Harboring Hearts, I became an original founding member and now serve on the Board of Directors. Harboring Hearts’ mission resonated deeply with me, thinking back to the many sleepless nights my parents spent by my side. They didn’t miss one night, often sleeping in my hospital room, and their support made such a huge difference in my recovery.  There are so many other families in need of the emotional and financial assistance that Harboring Hearts provides. I’m honored to share my story in an ongoing blog series to help give voice to the patient experience and address different topics that we often face. I look forward to getting to know you in the coming months!

Lopez Family NYP

Find me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter:   @jessicamelore

SPOTLIGHT ON: MIKELLE KENNEDY

What is your current role at Harboring Hearts?

I handle all the office administration, manage our social media platforms and website development, and I am also in charge of HR.  Needless to say, I wear many hats here at Harboring Hearts, but that is one of the reasons why I love working here!
  • Favorite food:  steak and au gratin potatoes
  • Favorite travel destination: Maldives
  • Favorite book: Harry Potter Series
  • Favorite music: instrumental movie soundtracks
  • Favorite movie: Pride and Prejudice
  • Favorite way to relax: shopping, a hot bath and watching a movie…in that order

Recap of Recent Community Events, & How You Can Get Involved!

Harboring Hearts was able to help make February a little sweeter for over 450 pediatric patients and their families at two New York City hospitals through our Community Events initiative. These events create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, solidarity, and network of support for pediatric cardiac patients and their families.

On February 14th, Harboring Hearts participated in a community event at Montefiore Medical Center. The Grand Hall of the Bronx facility was home to shiny red heart balloons, Valentine’s cards, toys and board games, an information booth about Harboring Hearts, and more. Fun music played as children danced, had their faces painted, and ate a warm meal sponsored by Harboring Hearts. Many doctors, former patients, social workers, and caregivers attended as well.

 

Pediatric heart patients and families gathering together at Montefiore.

 

Parachute Fun!

 

Shayla Frandsen, Gacia Tachejian, and Michelle Javian at Montefiore Community Event

 

On February 19th, Harboring Hearts was at Mount Sinai Hospital participating in our second community event of the month. It was called a community event, but it was more like a party! Pediatric cardiothoracic surgery and interventional patients and their families enjoyed a variety of activities, booths, decorations, games, and music. Harboring Hearts donated and served delicious food to attendees, and we were even able to meet up with former beloved patients and friends!

 

Michelle Javian with a cute heart patient.

 

Gacia Techejian, Shayla Frandsen, and Michelle Javian at Montefiore.

 

Co-founders Michelle Javian and Yuki Kotani reunite with a family Harboring Hearts has recently helped.

 

Shayla Frandsen & Mikelle Kennedy at Mount Sinai Hospital community event.

 

Ira Parness, MD, and Chief of Division of Pediatric Cardiology said of the Mount Sinai event, “We had a huge and HAPPY crowd of children and families today . . . It was heartwarming that so many patients took out time from their busy lives to attend this party. There was a sense of joy and gratitude as the patients and their parents embraced their caregivers at Sinai.”

Many thanks to all of you for joining with us to help give back and make a difference in the lives of these families! We would not be able to participate in events like these without your continued contributions and support. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can volunteer at our next community event, please email us at info@harboringhearts.org.

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Fabulous Fish Recipe!

This recipe is heart-friendly and very easy to prepare!

Lemon Salmon with Rosemary

  • Wild salmon fillet
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh rosemary leaves
  • Lemon
  • Capers
  • Brown rice
  • Broccoli
  • Aluminum Foil

Brush your salmon fillet with olive oil. Sprinkle the fillet with salt, pepper and rosemary. Put your salmon on a piece of foil long enough to cover the entire fish. Top the salmon with 2 lemon slices, 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of capers. Enclose the salmon in the foil with some holes. Place the fillet (and foil) in the oven and bake at 350 for around 15-20 minutes or until it will flake easily with a fork.

Serve with brown rice and broccoli.

Important note: Be sure that the salmon is wild. Farm-raised fish do not have the same health benefits of wild fish.

Nutrition Facts:

Salmon contains more omega-3 fatty acids than most fish, thereby being extremely beneficial for the heart. Omega-3 fatty acids may lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and boost immunity. Eating one to two servings per week of fish, especially one that is so rich in omega-3, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death.

Broccoli and brown rice have also been found to be advantageous for the health of the heart. Eating broccoli leads to better blood-pumping ability and less heart damage during oxygen deprivation. Brown rice is a good source of fiber, which can lower your heart disease risk in other ways besides lowering your cholesterol.

Heart health info:

Cardiovascular disease is the number one preventable killer globally. Over one-third of Americans suffer from it. This is why it is of the utmost importance for people to eat foods that will nourish the heart. Remember, it is never too early to start thinking about prevention!

Surgery only treats a small area of your body. With drugs, you may lower cholesterol, but if you do not take lifestyle habits such as nutrition into account, you are still at risk for a stroke or heart attack. Cutting out red meat and eating plenty of grains are not enough. An excellent diet is important to ensure the health of your heart- not just slightly cutting down on fat.

However, it is true that a low fat diet is necessary. This means keeping animal products to a minimum as well as added sugars and processed foods. You can crowd out the bad foods by simply eating more whole plants, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. These changes can prevent and even reverse heart disease.

In addition, it is crucial to exercise regularly and engage in stress-relieving hobbies such as meditation, listening to calming music, gardening, painting or spending time in nature.

Guest Blogger Bio:

Kristy Rao is a Holistic Health Coach and received her training from
the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied over 100
dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and
innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and
wellness experts. Her education has equipped her with extensive
knowledge in holistic nutrition and preventive health. Please visit
her website at www.kristyraohealth.com. She is also a writer for Miss
A, an online women’s magazine. You can view more of her articles at
http://askmissa.com/author/krao/ and follow her on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/kristyrao.

Heart Healthy and Delicious Fall Recipe!

“Oil-Optional” Vegetable Chili with Hemp Seeds

by Rebecca Johnson, Certified Plant-Based Nutrition & Wellness Expert, The Plant Rich Life

 

There’s nothing like a great chili to kick-off the Fall season as the temperatures begin to cool. Although beans grow best in the winter, easily storing them for later in the year is one of their great appeals for meal budgeting and planning. Beans are a filling, comforting option for a heart healthy meal. This recipe includes the nuttiness of hemp seeds, which lower “bad” cholesterol and provide more Omega 6. Hemp seeds can be eaten as a snack, and they make a great topping for salads and stir frys.

1 quart low sodium vegetable broth

½ cup onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbls tomato paste

1 cup tomato sauce

3 tbls agave nectar

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 tbls oregano, fresh and dried

1tbls thyme, fresh or dried

½ tsp Himalayan sea salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp black pepper

1 small celery stalk, chopped fine

7 sun dried tomato halves, chopped fine (optional)

¼ cup bell pepper, red or green

2 cups red beans

½ tsp jalapeno pepper, minced

Additional Vegetable Broth as needed

1 tsp coconut oil (optional) can be added to onion, garlic mixture if no health concerns exist.

Soak beans overnight. Rinse beans and boil in low sodium vegetable broth. Sautee onions and garlic in ½ cup vegetable broth. After five minutes, sprinkle with a dash of salt. Cook for another five minutes. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, agave and spices, stir well. Add vegetables, then beans and simmer for 45 minutes. Add vegetable broth as needed.

After your meal masterpiece is complete, scoop the warm chili into your favorite bowl served over brown rice, quinoa or millet.  You can also add chopped Swiss Chard or any dark green to balance the look and flavor. (Did you know you can roast the ribs and add them too?)  Yum!

Nutrition Facts

 Beans have B-complex vitamins niacin and folate, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber and help to decrease inflammation.

 Hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids and 3 tablespoons have 11 grams of protein! Plus they have a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (healthy) fat. In addition, hemp seeds contain GLA (gamma linolenic acid), an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat that helps lower LDL cholesterol and improve cholesterol ratio.

Ingredients like hemp seeds are becoming much more available in neighborhood markets. Otherwise, they can be found at any health food store and most specialty food markets.

 About Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca started cooking with her chef Dad when she was 6 years old. But it wasn’t until he fell at 63 to a heart attack and she was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition that she discovered the connection between nutrition and health. After decades in restaurants, catering and health-related roles, she received a Certification in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University and became a Certified Health Minister at Hallelujah Acres.

Now, Rebecca teaches nutrition education and culinary classes in NYC public and charter schools through Plant Rich Life and plans healthy cooking classes and cooking demonstrations for Fortune 500 clients and non-profits through the event company, Celebrevents, LLC.

Plant Rich Life provides creative wellness solutions to help people transition from a low-nutrient Sad American Diet (SAD) rich in fat, sugar and animal protein to a nutrient-dense, low fat, plant protein HAPPY diet that restores and maintains health. Find recipes, nutrition information and more on Rebecca’s blog at www.phytalitycoach.com, on the Web at www.plantrichlife.com and on Facebook at The Plant Rich Life.

SPOTLIGHT ON: GACIA TACHEJIAN

Name – Gacia Tachejian- Social Work Intern

Current role at Harboring Hearts :  As a second year Management Fellow graduate student at Columbia University, my role at Harboring Hearts is to assess the needs of patients and their families Also, as Harboring Hearts grows I will be working on the administrative and developmental tasks of the grant program. I work collaboratively with the CEO and one of the board members to ensure the success of the grant program and help as many families in need as possible.

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? I was introduced to Harboring Hearts through Columbia University Social Enterprise Administration Graduate Program. I was looking to complete my second year internship at a startup nonprofit agency that provides assistance for people of all ethnicities and age groups. I also wanted to work for an organization that provides assistance for those who are suffering from health disparities. It seemed like Harboring Hearts was the perfect fit.

I wanted to be a part of an organization that provides this type of support for personal reasons as well. Within the past 10 years I have lost three family
members to cancer and heart disease. I have learned first-hand the emotional and financial struggle that patients and their families go through. Programs such as what Harboring Hearts offers can have a significant impact on patients and their families. My personal experience made me want to get involved in the development of a program such as this.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life?

My greatest inspiration in my life has been my father. He lived a life of constant struggle, moved from country to country as an orphan and still has managed to be the hardest working person I know. With no real father figure in his life, he has parented both my brother and I in an incredible way. He has been our constant support and has never given up on our dreams even when we doubted ourselves. He is my greatest inspiration.

What are your career and life goals?

My career goal is to be running an organization that makes a positive impact on the lives of children and adolescents. I have a passion for children, their innocence, and their potential. I want to always have direct contact with the people or population that I am working with. As a social worker, it is important for me to not only be administratively running a program, but also have hands-on clinical work with patients.  A life goal is to be passionate about my work and have a balanced life that has room for work and play. 

Gacia’s Favorites

  • Favorite Food? – Sushi         
  • Favorite Ways to Relax? – Swimming, Yoga, and a nice bubble bath!
  • Favorite Music? Beyonce
  • Favorite Travel Destination? Paris and the south of France
  • Favorite Book? Random Family
  • Favorite Movie? The Notebook

Greek Watermelon Salad


For a refreshing summer lunch, try this easy and delicious (and healthy!) twist on a traditional Greek salad, courtesy of Elizabeth Woolfe, our interim Executive Vice President. Elizabeth says, “Nothing reminds me of summer more than the crisp, sweet, mouth-watering taste of watermelon. ENJOY!”

A refreshing twist on a traditional Greek salad.  So rich in flavor that it doesn’t even need dressing!

Serves 4 for lunch

I small head Romaine lettuce, washed and cut/torn into bite-sized pieces

3 cups watermelon, cut in 1-inch chunks

1 large cucumber, peeled and diced

¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced

½ cup red onion, diced

¼ cup olive oil

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Fresh mint and parsley to taste

Combine all ingredients and chill together.  Add ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled, just before serving.

Note:  you can add or substitute other salad ingredients: red or green pepper, ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella for the feta.

 

Our Spring Gala Event

May 23rd was a special day for Harboring Hearts. We celebrated our third annual Spring Gala.

We would like to thank to special people at this event. Dr. Yoshifumi Naka, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at New York Presbyterian and Associate Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and Dr. Donna Mancini, Medical Director, Professor of Medicine and Sudhir Choudhrie Professor of Cardiology at the Center for Advanced Cardiac Care at Columbia University Medical Center.

We would like to thank Claudia Chan, The Rubin Museum, Eric Trump,Clay Aiken, Hope Geier Smith.

 

Press

Guest of a Guest

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/63317659@N03/sets/72157629986157000/show/

Photo credit: Sunny Norton

Meet Maya Oaks

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

Forward by Yuki Kotani

Maya Oaks is one of our amazing and dedicated Board of Directors.  She has provided guidance for the organization and has used her knowledge in social work and program development to create and implement our Grant Program.  This program provides financial assistance to heart patients and their families.

Maya brings the energy and passion necessary for Harboring Hearts to grow.

Thank you Maya for your support and hard work.  Read below to learn more about our amazing board member.

——————————————————————————————————

Name – Maya Oaks

Current Occupation – Civil Servant, Office of Head Start/Administration for Children and Families

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – I connected to Harboring Hearts through a group named Palindrome Advisors, which links industry leaders to nonprofit organizations. When I first sat down to speak with the co-founders, I was struck by their passion and was excited to be part of a rapidly growing organization. I’ve also seen firsthand the impact chronic disease can have on patients, families and friends, and know that the support and resources provided by Harboring Hearts are crucial.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – It’s tough, to be sure! When you’re thinking about both careers and volunteering, I think the key is to find organizations, people and causes that inspire you. If you love what you do, it won’t really feel like it’s a difficult balance. I also have had to be pretty realistic about what I can and can’t do, and to tell myself that there are only so many hours in any given day!

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – There are two experiences in my adult life that have really shaped the work I pursue today: building HIV/AIDS awareness in a remote village in Tanzania and working with adolescents in New York City’s juvenile justice system. While on the surface these experiences appear to be radically different, both of them were integral in shaping the way I approach working with undeserved and underrepresented populations. In both places, I encountered people who taught me so much more than I ever could have imagined.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – I’m relatively new to Harboring Hearts and am looking forward to cultivating many more memories in the year to come! However, my favorite memory thus far is probably the first Board meeting I attended, when the passion and dedication of all those connected to the organization became even more evident to me.

Maya’s Favorites

  • Favorite City? It’s a tie between three cities for three very different reasons: New York (for its diversity), San Francisco (for its strong activist tendencies) and Paris (for its beauty and general joie de vivre).
  • Favorite Food? My mom’s Burmese chicken curry.
  • Favorite Activity? Exploring new places – whether a new park, museum, neighborhood, city, country, or continent.
  • Favorite Music?  Depends entirely on my mood, although I love pretty much every genre. Right now, the Wicked soundtrack seems to be running through my head…
  • Favorite Museum? The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
  • Favorite Travel Destination? That’s like asking a child to pick his favorite toy at FAO Schwarz! But if I had to choose, I would probably say Tanzania and other countries in the East Africa region.
  • Favorite Book? The Time Traveler’s Wife.
  • Favorite Movie? Another hard category! Like music, it depends entirely on my mood. I recently watched Marley and Me, which I think is an especially poignant movie for anyone who grew up with a labrador retriever.

Meet Peter Christodoulou

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

Forward by Yuki Kotani

As our Spring Gala fast approaches, we want to recognize people who have been essential to ensuring that the event would be a success.  For the second time, we are holding another exciting event at the Rubin Museum of Art and we want to thank Peter Christodoulou for securing us the venue.  The museum is beautiful with amazing Tibetan and Himalayan art work.  The peaceful yet trendy ambience has been one of the best venue choices for Harboring Hearts.

We want to thank Peter for his continued support and dedication to the organization.  Please read about our amazing volunteer, Peter Christodoulou. 

——————————————————————————————————

Name – Peter Christodoulou

Current Occupation – Finance, specifically Asset Management at Credit Suisse

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – I have been friends with Michelle Javian, one of the co-founders of Harboring Hearts, ever since I met her at the airport. We were both returning from vacation in Greece, and we shared a few common connections which we discovered while waiting in the taxi line! We continued to stay in touch, and as I discovered Harboring Hearts I immediately took an interest in the organization’s mission and helping out any way I could.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – My career keeps me quite busy, but helping Harboring Hearts has always been a rewarding experience and it has never been hard to find time to help (especially given how fun Harboring Hearts events are!). I am generally most useful with event hosting and planning, and I am always able to catch up after regular working hours or when my work load is low.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience?  – My greatest inspiration is watching other people with the drive to succeed, specifically in watching others who manage challenging projects from an idea all the way to completion. I see this in colleagues, my closest friends, my fiancée, and my family. I’ve also seen such drive from the volunteers at Harboring Hearts, and it is this drive which is part of the reason I am involved with the organization. Having seen multiple fundraising events worked on by volunteers who truly feel motivated by the organization’s mission, I am myself motivated to make each and every event even better.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – I have been a member of the host committee for various Harboring Hearts events. My favorite was the first event at the Rubin Museum since I helped secure the venue. The space and the turn out made for a fantastic and successful night!

Peter’s Favorites:

  • Favorite City? New York City
  • Favorite Food? Italian (especially spaghetti with pesto)
  • Favorite Activity? Travel
  • Favorite Music? Classic rock
  • Favorite Museum? Museum of Moving Image
  • Favorite Travel Destination? Greek islands
  • Favorite Movie? A Shot in the Dark (1964)