Our Latest Scholarship Winner Focuses on the Heart
Meet Lauren Menke, our latest scholarship winner! We are pleased to share her powerful story, with much admiration for the way she turned her personal loss into her community’s gain. It originally came to us as a video and, while we would love to share it in that format, it contained so many pictures of people in her community that have supported her cause, we couldn’t possibly get permission from them all to use their likenesses on our website. The following is Lauren’s story:
I wish more people knew that sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of age, race, or gender. I wish I knew this before I was twelve years old. When I was young, my dad and I often ran together. For years, he had been running, and he convinced me to do my first 5k when I was in second grade. After that, we didn’t stop running together.
A week before my first junior high cross country race, my dad and I went for a run on a 4-mile route that was typical for us. We chatted about how I was excited for the race and starting 7th grade. I teased him that he needed to run a little faster to beat the two fastest girls on our team. That loop finishes with an uphill back to our driveway, and my dad could always beat me to the top. Like always, we finished hard, and my shorter legs couldn’t keep up. But when I reached the hill, I realized something was very wrong. My dad had keeled over, and he collapsed to the ground. I ran inside, yelled for my stepmother, who was in the shower, and dialed 911. The next few minutes are a blur as I waited for the ambulance and felt helpless. Paramedics took my dad away, and I prayed he would come back home. My next clear memory is standing outside the hospital, hearing my grandpa tell me that my dad didn’t make it.
My dad was in his thirties. He ran regularly. He had three young children. He didn’t smoke cigarettes. He wasn’t a junk food addict. His regular check-ups gave him a clean bill of health, yet he died from sudden cardiac arrest. I didn’t understand why my dad, someone young and apparently healthy, had been struck.
In the days, weeks, and months after, my family and I grieved from our unexpected loss. We will never stop grieving for the loss of a father, a brother, a son, a coworker, and a friend. What we can do is prevent others from experiencing the same tragedy. This is why we founded Four Miles for Heart and Health in 2016. It’s an annual race that raises awareness for heart health. Also, all of its proceeds are donated to fund vascular screenings in the community. These vascular screenings can detect a heart problem before a deadly event happens. For five years, we have held this event. To date, it has raised $53,441.11 and provided 1,424 free or discounted vascular screenings. Approximately one in every three of these screenings discover results that require a follow-up, possibly saving lives before sudden cardiac arrest. We hope to continue making a difference in our community and beyond.
As for me, I have never stopped running. My race is to become a cardiologist to prevent more deaths from sudden cardiac arrest. Some people say, “Follow your heart.” I don’t just want to follow my heart; I want to heal the hearts of those around me. Now, I am a senior in Versailles, Ohio, and I am excited to begin my secondary education this fall. I will be attending a four-year university to study pre-medicine and nutrition. I will not let the loss of my father undermine my life. Instead, I will utilize my energy and talents to help others because I want another girl to run more miles with her dad. Already, through Four Miles for Heart & Health, I have spoken on the radio, in publications, and on social media about the cause. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, and it is my mission to spread this news to everyone.
I would like to thank the AED Superstore for providing me with this opportunity to share my story and raise awareness about heart health. Their generosity will aid me in my studies to become a cardiologist and continue teaching others about sudden cardiac arrest.
Congratulations, Lauren! We know you will be an amazing physician!