YOUNGSTOWN - Barb McDade said she realizes how fortunate she is to be able to call herself a survivor.
The Rogers woman suffered a heart attack May 30, 2009. She was 62.
"I had no symptoms," she said. "I didn't expect it at all. I had a scratchy throat and my chin felt kind of funny. But I had no idea."
On Saturday, she was among the more than 2,000 people who participated in the 2012 Youngstown Area Heart Walk at Youngstown State University's Watson and Tressel Training Site (WATTS).
"I'm here to support, to encourage and hopefully raise awareness," she said. "Having a heart attack isn't something you necessarily expect, but it's something that can greatly alter your life and the lives of the people around you. That's why an event like this is so very important. It can be life-changing, even life-saving."
The event, conducted each year to fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke, featured an exercise demonstration, opening ceremonies and the walk. Participants were encouraged to walk the track inside the training site or the YSU campus.
"This has been a great turnout this year," remarked Gina Henke, a communications director with the American Heart Association. "Our goal was 2,000 people and we've well surpassed that. What's great this year is that we have so many teams, so many community groups and more family involvement, I think, than ever before. That's so important because that support means so much."
Regina Mitchell, owner of Warren Fabricating, and several of the plant's employees walked in memory of her father, John Rebhan, who started the company 45 years ago.
Mitchell said that although her father had undergone heart surgery years before his heart attack, he had received a clean bill of health, even passing a stress test, shortly before he unexpectedly died in 2008 at the age of 64. At the time, he was on vacation in Florida with his grandchildren.
Mitchell said that her goal is to raise money that can be put toward research.
"It's important for there to be more testing and more studies and for less invasive procedures to be developed," she said. "To study and see how something like this can happen to someone who appears to be in good health and to get to the root of that, that's what's so important. If we can do more research and save more lives, that's what we need to focus on."
This year marked the second in a row that teams from Warren Fabricating participated, Mitchell explained. The company was also the top fundraiser this year with $26,524. Last year the company raised $33,244, exceeding its goal of $10,000.
"My family did not expect this. It came as such a surprise, a total shock. We thought my dad was OK. We still feel his loss, the family, all through the company. If we can work together to raise money for research and education to prevent another family from suffering a loss like this, it's worth it. "