Nurse, heart attack survivor goes red

American Heart Association honors Poland woman with Impact Award

CANFIELD — Jenn Knight’s total itinerary for being 49 years old did not include having a heart attack in November 2022 followed by quadruple bypass open heart surgery.

“My family and friends were absolutely amazing during my recovery,” Knight, of Poland, said.

Today, the vibrant 50-year-old survivor is a nurse educator for Daiichi Sankyo Inc., a Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company that specializes in oncology products.

For her fundraising efforts on behalf of the American Heart Association and raising greater awareness of the importance of maintaining heart health, especially in women, Knight was the recipient of the 2024 Tri-County Women of Impact Award during the signature Go Red for Women event Thursday evening at Waypoint 4180, 4180 Westford Place.

More than 200 people attended the event, which raised $100,000 for the AHA.

Knight raised $35,157 for the AHA during a nine-week fundraising campaign.

Taking home the 2024 Tri-County Teen of Impact Award for having raised $10,640 for the campaign was Anna Vennetti, 16, a Canfield High School junior.

“I want people my age to know the importance of eating well, exercising and to know CPR,” Vennetti said, adding that she’s certified to administer CPR.

Giada Ezzo, Ellie Davies and Liv Reichard were the additional nominees for the Teen of Impact Award.

The other five who were nominated for this year’s Tri-County Women of Impact Award were Julianna Begalla, who works for Farmers National Bank; Lynn Hart Bilal, Gloris Counseling Services; Stephanie Gilchrist, the city of Youngstown; Shannon Reigrut, NextHome GO30 Realty; and Veronica Crafter Srinivasan, Power Cellular Solutions LLC.

Lisa Wheeler-Cooper, the American Heart Association’s Northeast Ohio affiliate’s executive director, celebrated the agency’s centennial and said the AHA’s primary mission moving forward is to identify and then remove barriers to access to quality health care.

“Equity will be our guiding light,” Wheeler-Cooper said, adding that the 100-year-old agency also is committed to helping more people gain greater access to healthy foods and standing up to big tobacco while protecting the next generation from dangerous tobacco and vaping products.

Too many residents in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties lack the resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle, she added.

Attendees also heard the story of Christi Eberhardt of Richfield, who told the audience that too often, women are overlooked regarding heart disease. Eberhardt, who teaches CPR courses, added that when they see someone in such an emergency, many people don’t know what to do — or fear doing the wrong thing — so they fail to act.

Eberhardt speaks from experience. On Oct. 28, 2006, at age 29, she suffered sudden cardiac arrest and then passed out while on a walkway at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron as five people walked past her without offering aid. It took more than five minutes for her to receive life-saving CPR, Eberhardt recalled.

Then in July 2018, she suffered a spontaneous cardiac artery dissection, which occurs when a tear forms in the wall of a heart artery. A SCAD often slows or blocks blood flow to the heart, which often results in a heart attack, heart rhythm problems or death.

SCADs usually affect women in their 40s and 50s, and those who have them commonly lack high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease. Coronary angioplasty and stent is a primary treatment for the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As a result of her SCAD, Eberhardt underwent triple bypass surgery, with a grim prognosis that she would survive, she remembered.

In addition, Eberhardt expressed the dire importance of learning hands-on CPR, which can be as effective as conventional CPR. The American Heart Association’s website shows a two-step method: first to call 911, then to push hard and fast.

“I’m so blessed to be here and use my story to help others,” Eberhardt said to applause.

Amy Cossentino, dean of Youngstown State University’s Sokolov Honors College, said she and her students are dedicated to the mission of raising greater awareness of heart disease and the importance of good heart health.

“I want to serve others through education,” Cossentino, who has a family history of heart disease and stroke, said. “I’m steadfast in supporting women’s health in every stage of life.”

Knight was anything but shy about expressing her greatest hope and takeaway from Thursday’s Go Red for Women gathering.

“Take women’s heart disease seriously,” she advised. “If you don’t feel right, go get checked by a health care provider and be an advocate for your heart health.”

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