A walk of the heart

More than 1,000 lace up their shoes to fight heart disease

By CATHY LOGG

Herald Writer

EDMONDS — For six years, Alex Henson has joined the annual Snohomish County American Heart Walk. This year, she walked with a friend her age who also shares her motivation.

Alex, 13, of Edmonds, was born with a heart defect. She had three holes in her heart, a closed vessel and a valve that didn’t work. Her first heart surgery occurred when she was 6 weeks old and her second at the age of 2. At age 4, doctors put a stint in her heart to keep the blood vessel open so the valve doesn’t have to work so hard.

"She’s doing really well," her mother, Tana Axtelle, said. "She’s very small for her size. She does have some limitations, but nothing that keeps her from living a normal life."

Alex is even on a jump rope team. In 1990, she was the Washington Heart Association’s poster child.

Axtelle was one of more than 1,000 people to join this year’s heart walk Saturday, covering 3.1 miles to raise money for research and community education. Edmonds firefighters on bicycles pedaled the route to keep an eye on some of the walkers who suffer from lung ailments.

Each year, the walk and the amount of money raised for the Washington Heart Association grows. In 1998, the county goal was $100,000. Last year, it increased to $175,000, and this year it is $200,000. The walk was one of four such events taking place across the state.

"I believe we’re going to hit our goal," said Paul Mendez III, the association’s regional director for Snohomish County.

"That’s really good," said Jonathan Modie, association spokesman, as he looked over the crowd of walkers, including many sporting red hats that identified them as survivors of heart problems.

They came in all ages and sizes, including a large dog dressed in a white T-shirt who eagerly accompanied his humans on the waterfront walk.

Donn Wells of Edmonds joins the walk each year in honor of his granddaughter, Anna Thordarson, 11, of Arlington. Anna also was born with a hole in her heart that doctors discovered when she was 18 months old. She’s had two open heart surgeries, at age 2 and 4, at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center.

Wells raised about $300 in his neighborhood this year.

"The money that goes for research covers all sorts of heart defects," he said. "A lot of that research is done at the University of Washington Medical Center."

People often think of heart diseases and ailments as afflictions of the elderly, but they can affect any age.

Elizabeth Stevenson, 61, of Lynnwood became interested in the walk 16 years ago after her husband John suffered his first heart attack at age 46 and smoked his last cigar. He had a second attack a year later and had to undergo bypass surgery.

"That’s when he became serious about good diet and exercise," Stevenson said.

He remained well for four years, then suffered a third heart attack, but was treated by paramedics right away and had little damage. A year after that, John suffered a fourth heart attack that nearly killed him. He had only 30 percent heart function and awaited a transplant.

"The sad thing about that is that at any given time, there are 50,000 people waiting for a transplant," Stevenson said. "In the U.S., about 2,000 people get a transplant."

John Stevenson spent six weeks in the hospital on life support before he received a transplant.

"After that, the first year was very, very rough," Stevenson said. Because his immune system had been suppressed, he developed lung cancer, but he survived that after six months of chemotherapy. A year later, he suffered a pulmonary embolism while skiing in Colorado.

He died in May, at 64, of congestive heart failure after deciding not to seek a second transplant because he felt someone else needed the heart more, his wife said.

"We had the opportunity to live a very full life," she said. "It was just a gift. He had limitations, but he didn’t let them limit him. He was a very fine, courageous man."

Elizabeth joined the heart association after John’s first heart attack. At that time, the county heart walk raised $30,000, she said. Last year, it raised $160,000.

The association’s goal is to reduce death and disability from heart diseases and stroke by 25 percent by the year 2010, she said.

She and Carrell Tysver, 53, of Bothell were among a group who released white balloons in John Stevenson’s memory after the walk.

Tysver suffered a massive stroke two years ago that left her paralyzed and unable to speak or write.

"I have spent two years rebuilding my life," she said.

Tysver’s sister, Melodee Jones, 50, of Spokane, joined her on the walk this year to promote awareness of heart attack and stroke symptoms and the importance of heeding a doctor’s warning about the dangers of high blood pressure, and to honor their mother, who died from a heart attack.

Tysver underwent a year of physical therapy, then began a year of her own dance therapy to regain the abilities she lost.

"I have re-learned all the skills I taught my children," she said. "They have watched me struggle."

Last year, she joined the Lilac Bloomsday Run in Spokane.

"It was very, very slow, but we finished it — 2 1/2 hours for seven miles," Tysver said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Bothell
Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Providence to pay $200M for illegal timekeeping and break practices

One of the lead plaintiffs in the “enormous” class-action lawsuit was Naomi Bennett, of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Dorothy Crossman rides up on her bike to turn in her ballot  on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Voters to decide on levies for Arlington fire, Lakewood schools

On Tuesday, a fire district tries for the fourth time to pass a levy and a school district makes a change two months after failing.

Everett
Red Robin to pay $600K for harassment at Everett location

A consent decree approved Friday settles sexual harassment and retaliation claims by four victims against the restaurant chain.

A Tesla electric vehicle is seen at a Tesla electric vehicle charging station at Willow Festival shopping plaza parking lot in Northbrook, Ill., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. A Tesla driver who had set his car on Autopilot was “distracted” by his phone before reportedly hitting and killing a motorcyclist Friday on Highway 522, according to a new police report. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tesla driver on Autopilot caused fatal Highway 522 crash, police say

The driver was reportedly on his phone with his Tesla on Autopilot on Friday when he crashed into Jeffrey Nissen, killing him.

Janet Garcia walks into the courtroom for her arraignment at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, April 22, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mother pleads not guilty in stabbing death of Ariel Garcia, 4

Janet Garcia, 27, appeared in court Monday unrestrained, in civilian clothes. A judge reduced her bail to $3 million.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.