ShareThis Page

Go Red event shows women can move beyond heart disease diagnosis

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Kristie Lindblom poses for a portrait at the American Heart Association in Downtown on Friday, November 8, 2013. Lindblom, who was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, will be modeling during the Go Red for Women Fashion Show.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Kristie Lindblom poses for a portrait at the American Heart Association in Downtown on Friday, November 8, 2013. Lindblom, who was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, will be modeling during the Go Red for Women Fashion Show.
Kristie Lindblom poses for a portrait at the American Heart Association in Downtown on Friday, November 8, 2013. Lindblom, who was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, will be modeling during the Go Red for Women Fashion Show.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Kristie Lindblom poses for a portrait at the American Heart Association in Downtown on Friday, November 8, 2013. Lindblom, who was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, will be modeling during the Go Red for Women Fashion Show.
Kristie Lindblom was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, and will be modeling during the Go Red for Women Fashion Show on November 20th. The motto for the show is 'A woman can never have enough shoes… But she only has one heart.' She poses for a portrait in Downtown on Friday, November 8, 2013. Women will be modeling red shoes and outfits for the American Heart Association.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Kristie Lindblom was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, and will be modeling during the Go Red for Women Fashion Show on November 20th. The motto for the show is 'A woman can never have enough shoes… But she only has one heart.' She poses for a portrait in Downtown on Friday, November 8, 2013. Women will be modeling red shoes and outfits for the American Heart Association.

The dancing had to stop.

Those were not words that Kristie Lindblom wanted to hear. She was 21. She had her entire life ahead of her to perform on stage. The dance major at Point Park University with only two credits remaining to graduate didn't want to face standing still and not being allowed to take future steps in rehearsals preparing for upcoming shows.

But the dancing had to stop.

Lindblom's heartbeat wouldn't be strong enough to keep the dance beats pumping. She was born with a congenital heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, which causes fast, chaotic heartbeats that can result in fainting and, in some cases, cardiac arrest.

“I didn't know what was going on,” she says. “I was a young, healthy dancer.”

Lindblom, 34, of Regent Square will be one of the models — all who have heart disease — sporting fashions from Macy's at the American Heart Association's 10th annual Go Red for Women Fashion Show on Nov. 20 at The Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh. The theme is “A Woman Can Never Have Enough Shoes. But She Only Has One Heart”

Lindblom was first diagnosed at the age of 19 after passing out multiple times. Her cardiologist-electrophysiologist Dr. Gur Adhar from UPMC Mercy tried to treat her condition with beta blockers.

“We tried to regulate the condition for two years until I passed out on my front porch and my boyfriend, now husband, caught me on the way down,” she says. “I wasn't breathing and could hear him yelling at me to breathe, though I was unconscious.”

She was then given a Holter monitor, which at one point recorded her heart rate at 400 beats per minute.

“I was told to go directly to the hospital where my doctor recommended an ICD implantation (pacemaker), which ended my dancing career.”

But not her fight to survive.

Part of the message for the show is that heart disease is not only an older woman's concern. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. It's a condition that can affect any female, even one who's fit and dances 10 hours a day.

Heart disease does not discriminate, says Karen Colbert, director of communications for the American Heart Association, Great Rivers Affiliate. The fashion show is about real women of all ages with heart disease.

“All these women have such interesting stories,” Colbert says. “Kristie has such a wonderful attitude. She embraces what has happened to her, and she doesn't let it get her down. She keeps on moving.”

Lindblom has moved forward in life without dancing. She married Brett, and they have a son, Seamus, 8 and daughter, Emelie, 5. The children, as well as Lindblom's mother, sister, brother and nephew have tested positive for the Long QT gene, but are asymptomatic.

“It sounds funny, but, in many ways, I see my heart condition as a gift sent from beyond to guide me in finding true purpose,” she says. “I am passionate about empowering others to take control of their health and am honored to do so through amazing organizations like the American Heart Association.”

She started using yogic breathing to calm down during a surgery to fix her pacemaker. She started meditating and became a registered yoga instructor. She has been teaching yoga and meditation for the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease through Highmark and Jefferson Hospital. She also holds classes for the staff at the Pittsburgh branch of the American Heart Association, teaches at Schoolhouse Yoga, and works privately with clients to use yoga to help create an environment for healing in the body.

She maintains her ties to her collegiate alma mater by teaching stage movement.

“There was a time I was in a very dark place,” Lindblom says. “I was 30 years old, and I was sick of being sick. But I got myself together and decided I wanted to work with heart patients. I am not my diagnosis. Heart disease doesn't have to define you.”

Linda Gordon, a nurse practitioner in interventional cardiology at UPMC Shadyside says it's important to get the word out about heart disease to women who tend to think of others in their families first.

“What better way than a fashion show to get that message across?” says Gordon, who 10 years ago was involved with a gathering of women with heart disease for an informational event. The fashion show grew from that first meeting.

“The second year we met we decided to do the fashion show and had patients and physicians as models,” Gordon says. “I love having both the patients and the doctors who care for those patients involved in events like this fashion show. The American Heart Association has helped the event to grow. If you get women involved at a young age it can help prevent a lot of things. We want to educate women about heart disease and do something about this.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.