NORWICH – Heart disease and stroke are the number one and number three killers in America today, claiming more than 910,000 lives a year. With so many people falling victim, telling the stories of those who have beaten both is one way the American Heart Association hopes to inspire more awareness and donations toward life-saving research.
Norwich resident Joseph Phelps is one of many people who have struggled with a heart condition. After surviving four open heart surgeries, Joe was chosen as a Red Cap Ambassador for the 2008 America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk.
According to the organization, Red Cap Ambassadors provide inspirational stories that have encouraged the growth in participation and dollars raised annually during the event.
This year, Joe’s story was featured in the event guide for the Heart Walk. The story of Joe’s heart problems began when he was only a few days old. The fourth of six children, Joe had a normal birth, but began struggling just three days into his life. When the small child began turning blue, the doctors quickly sent the family to Saint Joseph’s hospital in Syracuse.
Doctors discovered Joe had a narrowing of the pulmonic valve, a condition known as Pulmonic Stenosis. At five-days-old, Joe underwent his first open heart surgery. The doctors worked to repair the pulmonic valve and correct the flow of Joe’s blood. The surgery went well, and Joe appeared to be a normal, healthy child, but at four and a half, problems began to develop again.