West Michigan Goes Red: Tears and Laughter Spread Heart Health Message at Lunch

May 25, 2011 is the day Holly and Bill Hollstein’s lives were forever changed.

Holly Hollstein started experiencing chest and back discomfort, dizziness and lightheadedness, eventually slipping in and out of consciousness. Luckily, the couple was just leaving Spectrum Health hospital after visiting a patient there.

Bill Hollstein said over his lifetime, there are words and phrases he’d always wanted to hear: ‘I love you,’ ‘I will,’ and ‘I do.’ Holly Hollstein had said all those words and more, but Bill Hollstein wasn’t prepared to hear ‘EKG,’ ‘massive heart attack,’ and ‘coding,’ in relation to his young wife.

“I praise God that we got the help we needed,” Bill Hollstein said.

Bill and Holly
Bill and Holly Hollstein (Photo courtesy of the American Heart Association)

There weren’t many dry eyes as the Hollsteins shared their story at the West Michigan Go Red For Women Luncheon, held on Feb. 25 at the JW Marriott hotel in Grand Rapids. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was a sponsor of the luncheon.

Holly Hollstein’s EKG had revealed a massive heart attack, and she said she’ll be forever grateful to the health care workers who saved her life that day. A happier life-changing date would come just a little over three years later, making her recovery that much sweeter. October 3, 2014, is the day the couple found out they would be able to adopt a son, Henry, whom they both adore.

“There was just so much that was waiting for me and for us,” Holly Hollstein said.

Her cardiologist explained to her that the type of heart attack she had would have been a death sentence years earlier, but advances in research and treatment made saving her life possible. She thanked those attending the luncheon for their continued financial donations to the American Heart Association and the cause of beating heart disease, the number one killer of women in the United States.

“I am a 34-year-old woman living with heart disease,” she said.  “People like you are part of the reason I’m here today.”

Women browsing the "Purse-inality" packages up for bid at a recent West Michigan Go Red For Women luncheon.
Women browsing the “Purse-inality” packages up for bid at a recent West Michigan Go Red For Women luncheon.

Attendees at the luncheon had ample opportunity to open their hearts and wallets for the cause. Silent auction “purse-inalities” packages that included everything from concert tickets to wine tasting weekends were up for grabs before the event started. A live auction gave bidders a chance to claim a Steelcase chair, artwork, and even a Colorado vacation.

Spectrum Health’s Dr. Helayne Sherman said deaths from cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and strokes have all gone down since the Go Red campaign started in 2004. Unfortunately, obesity continues to rise, with experts predicting that more than half the U.S. population will be overweight or obese by 2050. Increased obesity numbers are tied to developing Type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Sherman said the changes required to prevent heart disease or bounce back from it aren’t hard to make. She related her own father’s experience to the gathered crowd. In 1980, he suffered from a heart attack at the age of 48. Sherman’s mother instituted major lifestyle changes for the household, cutting out red meats, desserts, and substituting healthier ingredients in her cooking. The family also started walking together. Sherman’s father, now 82, still takes daily 3-5 mile walks with her mother. They completed a trek across the Mackinac Bridge in September.

“Anybody can do this,” she encouraged.

Peggy Kline
Peggy Kline

Humorist and keynote speaker Peggy Kline encouraged women to adopt a “majestic mindset” when it comes to their health, and underlined her point by wearing a cape and tiara to deliver her message. Her talk gave a humorous spin to ways women can take better care of their heart, including stressing less and exercising, sleeping, and laughing more.

Kline said most of her attempts at exercise failed until she discovered the simplicity of walking and her love for swimming laps. She said discovering exercise you’re passionate about and doing it consistently is the key.

“When I get in that pool, I am the Little Mermaid,” she joked. “Find what you love.”

As a humorist, Kline said laughter is an important way she exercises her heart muscle. She said the average child laughs an average of 300 times per day. Adults? Maybe 20 guffaws per day.

“Laughter truly is the best medicine,” Kline said.

Local radio personality Shelley Irwin encouraged donations to further support research and advancements in care. She said 42 women die every day of heart disease in Michigan and that it could be your sister, mother, or daughter.

“Give someone one more day and one more hug,” she said.

If you’re interested in donating to the work of the American Heart Association, you can do so here.  

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Photo credit: Julie Bitely, A Healthier Michigan

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