Open Your Heart is the space within the American Heart Association where Heart Ball donors can see, celebrate and live their investment in our mission.
With one out of every three U.S. adults affected by heart disease or stroke, we have a lot more to do before everyone has the same opportunity to live a long and healthy life. That’s what Open Your Heart is trying to achieve.
Together, we can change lives and saves lives!
Featured Survivor: Kennedy Penkhus
Imagine being told that your three-year-old daughter was going into congestive heart failure. That’s the reality that the Penkhus family faced with their daughter, Kennedy.
Because she was born several weeks early, Kennedy had to stay in the hospital a few extra days after she was born. It was during that extra time that doctors diagnosed Kennedy with several atrial septal defects, ventricular septal defects and a mitral valve prolapse. Her parents monitored her heart closely the next few years.
Even though she remained asymptomatic, doctors diagnosed Kennedy with heart failure at the age of three. She did not tolerate the medicine well and the family went back to monitoring her progress.
Although her condition did not worsen dramatically, at age six, a cardiologist suggested that Kennedy undergo heart surgery while she was still healthy versus waiting until she was sick. For the Penkhus family, Kennedy’s open-heart surgery was the scariest day of their lives. Despite the trauma, the surgery was a resounding success.
Kennedy is now 13 years old and still has her heart monitored regularly. Doctors have said her heart valve leaks less than most healthy people’s valves and her other heart defects have closed on their own.
Throughout everything, Kennedy has maintained a positive outlook and she inspires her family and everyone around her with grace and dignity.