By GAIL WHITE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Seven-year-old Lindsey Beck has been interviewed on the morning news, starred in a commercial and been written about in the newspaper.
She was the honored guest at a ball and the dessert judge at a cook-off.
None of these successes, however, compares to her greatest achievement -- overcoming heart disease.
When Lindsey was 5, she went to the doctor for a checkup before entering kindergarten.
Lindsey's parents, Bob and Wendy Beck, knew their daughter had a heart murmur.
"When the doctor listened to her heart, she said it sounded different than it should or had sounded before," Wendy Beck said of the moment the family realized there was a bigger concern.
Sitting at the kitchen table with her mom and 11-year-old brother, Justin, Lindsey is uncertain about the details of her heart condition. When asked a question, she looked at her mother for the answer.
But Mom didn't have a chance to respond.
"She had two holes in her heart," Justin explained matter-of-factly. "We thought she had a heart murmur for five years."
When asked how his parents reacted to the news of his sister's condition, he said, "They were kind of in shock."
Looking out for his sister
Justin has made it his business to understand his sister's condition and although his facts get confused every once in a while, there is no mistaking the love and concern he has for his sibling.
Lindsey was taken to Rainbow Babies Hospital in Akron, and on Jan. 20, 2004, she underwent open heart surgery to repair the 8mm and 4mm (0.32 and 0.16 inch, respectively) holes in her heart.
"She was sitting up the next day," Wendy Beck said, still amazed at the progress of her daughter after her surgery.
"And the day after that she got presents," Justin added. He gave his sister one of his old teddy bears that he didn't need anymore.
As Lindsey lifted her shirt to reveal her scar, a delicate, little, white line down the middle of her chest, Justin hid his face with his hands.
Pointing to a small, white dot, below the scar, Lindsey explained, "That's where they put the tube."
A year and a half after her surgery, Lindsey has resumed all the activities she did before.
"We waited nine months before starting gymnastics," Wendy Beck said. "She's back playing soccer too."
Back to normal, and then some
Along with her regular activities, Lindsey has some added responsibilities. She is the 2005 Heart Child for the American Heart Association.
"We feel it's important to help the American Heart Association get the message out about heart disease," Wendy said.
"Other members of our family besides Lindsey have been affected by heart disease and some have benefited from the advancements in treatment due to research the American Heart Association helps fund."
Wearing a red cap with the heart association's logo on the front and the words, "Fighting Back!" on the back, Lindsey has spent the year promoting the importance of her cause.
She began her reign at the Heart Ball in February.
"We won four tickets to the Columbus Zoo," Justin said.
When she was interviewed on television, Justin assisted with the weather.
When she was the taste-testing judge, he agreed with her that the tiramisu didn't go down very well.
And, sitting with newspaper reporters, he is more than happy to answer any questions when his little sister struggles to find the right words.
"It's fun!' Justin said enthusiastically.
"I like being the Heart Child," Lindsey said, revealing a sweet smile.
She is now working on promoting the biggest event of the year for the American Heart Association -- the annual Heart Walk.
About the walk
While emphasizing physical activity and proper nutrition for a healthy lifestyle, the Heart Walk is the premier fund-raising event for the American Heart Association. Gold sponsors for this year's event are St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Center, Humility of Mary Health Partners and The Heart Hospital at Forum Health -- The Yoon Group.
While the Becks are busy raising support for the walk, they are all looking forward to Sept. 17 when hundreds of supporters and survivors will meet at the Youngstown State University track to walk in unity against our nation's No. 1 and No. 3 killers -- heart disease and stroke, which claim nearly 930,000 lives a year.
Lindsey will lead the walk, wearing her red hat to show that she is fighting back against this deadly disease. Her parents will be on hand to support their daughter, and brother Justin will be easily spotted. He will be the young man with the big smile, watching every move his little sister makes -- ready to give an account. Just ask him.
XTo become involved in the Heart Walk, go to www.heartwalk.kintera.org or call (330) 965-9230.