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Plattsburgh Heart Walk participants share ‘heart-warming’ stories

Event raises more than $85,000 toward goal

Heart defect survivor Luke Garcia and his father, Chad Garcia, assist stroke survivor Melody Trombly in cutting the ribbon during the American Heart Association’s Plattsburgh Heart Walk last Saturday morning. Luke, 2, walked about one-quarter mile unassisted.

Heart defect survivor Luke Garcia and his father, Chad Garcia, assist stroke survivor Melody Trombly in cutting the ribbon during the American Heart Association’s Plattsburgh Heart Walk last Saturday morning. Luke, 2, walked about one-quarter mile unassisted. Photo by Eagle Dunsmore.

— Birthday boy and 2-year-old “Heart Hero” Luke Garcia was full of energy and smiles during the Plattsburgh Heart Walk at the PARC Oval Oct. 15.

When Luke was 15 months old, a “snapping” sound was detected in his chest, and was later diagnosed with a rare heart valve defect called congenital mitral stenosis. His parents, Chad and Marla Garcia, suspected something was wrong when he lost his appetite, and his skin color became abnormal. Luke underwent a medical procedure involving a balloon catheter in February to temporarily restore his heart function. It was successful.

“He feels phenomenal,” said Marla Garcia. “He's a totally different child.”

After Luke's 6-year-old brother, Carson, led nearly 1,000 participants in "Happy Birthday," the crowd filed out to the starting line for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to commence the Heart Walk. Luke was there to assist.

“It was a great honor for the American Heart Association to ask Luke to be their Heart Hero.” said Luke's mother.

However, Plattsburgh resident Melody Trombly was the one holding the scissors. Five years ago, Trombly suffered from a stroke that ultimately changed her life. She vividly recalled her experience.

“All of a sudden, I felt like I was in a tunnel. Everything went black,” she said.

Luckily, Trombly's husband was present, helped her get her bearings and brought her to the hospital for treatment. Recovery was difficult for her, she said, especially when it came to her work. She had lost her speech and could not read or write.

This was Trombly's fourth Heart Walk; she has also been to Washington, D.C., three times to lobby with the American Heart Association. She now maintains a healthy diet and is committed to daily exercise.

Luke Garcia and Trombly were two of the estimated one-thousand participants that showed up for the outdoor walk on a day with rain in the forecast.

“To have so many people come out to support the cause on a day like this is wonderful,” said Katherine McCarthy, communications director for the American Heart Association. “It's a real tribute to the Plattsburgh community.”

The Heart Walk event last Saturday collected more than $85,000 to help fight against heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association is accepting donations through the end of the year, and they expect to meet their annual goal of $165,000.

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