SARATOGA SPRINGS Eleven-year-old Kora Austin of Porter Corners came into this world with a serious heart defect, but you’d never know it now. She’s a sixth-grader, a Pop Warner cheerleader, and all in all, just a typical kid.
“She doesn’t have any restrictions,” her mom, Shannon Austin, said happily.
North Country Heart Walk
WHERE: Saratoga Race Course, 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs
SCHEDULE: 9:30 a.m. Registration begins; 10:45 a.m. 1-mile and 3-mile walks begin; Event also includes breakfast, health screening, tribute to survivors, nutrition and exercise information, children's activities, music and lunch. Jared from Subway will be on hand to sign autographs and to help cut the starting ribbon.
TO REGISTER: 869-1961, www.saratogaglensfallsheartwalk.org
The success story embodied in this blond-haired girl with a lively demeanor and a bright smile is owed in part to the success of heart disease research funded by the American Heart Association, Austin said.
On Saturday, Kora will serve as junior ambassador at the North Country Heart Walk at Saratoga Race Course, an event she’s been a part of every year since she was born.
“We used to push her in a stroller,” her mother recalled.
Event organizers hope to raise $205,000, the majority of which will fund research.
Right now, the Heart Association is funding about $1.4 million in research in the Capital Region, according to Katherine McCarthy, senior regional director of communications for the organization.
“The more we raise, the more we can fund,” she said.
Heart disease research has the potential to make a difference in the lives of young and old alike.
“One in 100 children are born with a congenital heart defect,” McCarthy said. “Typically people think of heart disease and especially heart attacks as an old man’s disease and it’s really not. We say it’s the No. 1 killer in America, so that strikes a lot of people, and if everybody stops and thinks about someone they know who lives with heart disease, or a stroke, because that’s also a cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t take long until you realize that there’s somebody — even if you think, ‘Who do you know that takes cholesterol medication? Who takes blood pressure medication?’ It’s really prevalent.”
When Kora was born at 5 p.m. Dec. 20, 2000, she seemed healthy, but by 8 a.m. the next day, she was being rushed to Albany Medical Center because she was turning gray. She was diagnosed with a heart defect that reduced blood flow to her lungs, allowing oxygen-poor blood to be pumped throughout her body. Her pulmonary artery, which regulates the blood flow from the right ventricle of the heart to the lungs, was malfunctioning as well. At 8 months old, she had open heart surgery.
“That whole time was like a blur. I couldn’t tell you exactly what they did,” her mother recounted.
Before Kora’s diagnosis, her mother hadn’t given heart disease a second thought. “There’s been no history in my family whatsoever,” she said. “Nobody’s been born with any problems.”
Today Kora will have a cardiac catheterization at Albany Med, to adjust the stents in her heart, but that won’t slow her down for long. She plans to be ready for action in time for Saturday’s Heart Walk, where she’ll speak at the opening ceremony, help cut the ribbon at the starting line and then join her family and about 1,000 others in the walk.
“She’s getting very excited,” her mom said. “She knows she’s getting up on stage and everybody’s coming to see her, so she’s getting really excited about that part.”