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Highway Dept members are helping fight heart disease – know the signs

Highway Assistant Kathleen Leonard Holds $1000 donation

February is American Heart Month, and our incredible Highway Department team just raised $1,000 in personal funds to donate to the American Heart Association in honor of Highway Department Assistant Kathleen Leonard!

In 2021 Kathleen Leonard experienced a life-altering event. One moment she was sleeping peacefully; the next, she was in sudden cardiac arrest.

At just 48 years of age, Kathleen was the picture of health. Fit and energetic, she ate right and exercised regularly. Heart disease wasn’t on her radar, yet it struck in the middle of the night without warning. Years later, the terrified looks in her children's eyes after witnessing their mother's near-death experience still haunt her. Now, she does all she can to spread awareness about heart disease so that her loved ones never have to live through that kind of fear again.

Medical professionals call heart disease the "silent killer" because 1) many people are unaware they have heart disease, and 2) it can attack for no apparent reason whatsoever. Kathleen still doesn't know why she went into cardiac arrest, but she does know one thing for certain: after her heart stopped beating, the CPR administered by her boyfriend saved her life.

CPR can triple the chances of surviving a cardiac event; however, women are less likely to receive this life-saving intervention. Why? Bystanders have an underlying fear that their intercession might harm female victims further. Although heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States, bystander reluctance (and other misguided notions about women and heart disease) causes women to be 23% less likely to survive cardiac arrest than men.

Kathleen wants to change these statistics. "My boyfriend saved me. Yes, my sternum was damaged, but I'd much rather have had bruised or broken bones than to have lost my life.”

Kathleen also finds it troubling that women who experience symptoms of heart disease are less likely to report them than men. "Women often don't speak up when they aren't feeling well. They don’t want others to label them as dramatic. Many simply dismiss signs of heart disease. Women have a tendency to put their own health behind everything else."

Today, Kathleen works hard to spread information and awareness about heart disease. She is an especially strong advocate for CPR, recognizing it as the single most effective way to save a person in cardiac arrest.

"It's great that there's such strong awareness about breast cancer and other diseases that hit women hard, but we NEED to draw more attention to heart disease."

Kathleen believes everyone should undergo CPR training. Proper training reduces bystander fear. Studies show that those who undergo training are much more likely to intercede when they spot a person in trouble.

Spreading awareness about heart disease and the need for CPR training is critical. Recognizing the signs of heart disease can lead to vital preventative care, learning CPR can rescue a life hanging in the balance, and telling others about the dangers of heart disease might just inspire them to raise money that funds life-saving research.

Thank you, Kathleen and our Highway Department team, for supporting the fight against heart disease!

It's easy to find a CPR-training class through the American Heart Association Website:

The Town of Pittsford Recreation Department offers their next CPR Training on March 9 at the Pittsford Community Center. Register here:

Read more about Kathleen’s story here:


Highway Department Assistant Kathleen Leonard