YOUNGSTOWN - Celia M. Ciarniello said it feels good to be alive after she collapsed 10 years ago from a blocked artery.
They say a healthy heart is a happy one, and many smiles were had Saturday at the American Heart Association's 2013 Tri-County Heart Ball at Stambaugh Auditorium, where Ciarniello was honored with a Heart of the Community Award.
"I feel great. I'm still working, I'm still active. It feels good to be alive and to be a survivor. I feel honored," she said.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
Event chair Nancy Landgraff hugs Isaiah McCollum, 5, on Saturday during the American Heart Association’s 2013 Tri-County Heart Ball at Stambaugh Auditorium. The annual event is the organization’s top fundraiser. Isaiah was named the 2013 Heart Child.
Ciarniello said part of her secret is being surrounded by young people and keeping busy while managing her son's business, Casal's de Spa and Salon.
"They help keep me feeling young. They don't want to hear about your Lipitor," she quipped with a smile.
Ciarniello also remains active in several outreach programs and Earth Day at Aveda, and is an advocate for women's health and health education.
This year's event was the biggest one of its kind, drawing in a crowd of more than 350 people, said event chair Nancy Landgraff, who called it the major black tie event of the year.
"It brings people from the tri-county area together," she said. "It's always a special event for the honorees and their families."
The event featured live and silent auctions with items donated from numerous area businesses, individuals and organizations as well as support from more than 35 pre-event donors. The money raised will help fund cardiovascular and stroke research as well as healthy living and education.
Also honored Saturday was a much younger survivor, 5-year-old Isaiah McCollum, who was introduced as the 2013 Heart Child.
"He had a hole in his lung and a hole in his heart," said his mother, Anastasia Williams, recalling the stress and pain of seeing her son flown by helicopter to Akron Children's Hospital when he was just 2 months old.
During four years of treatment, the hole in Isaiah's heart continued to widen until his family made the difficult decision that he would undergo open-heart surgery.
Today, Isaiah lives a normal, happy life. His favorite thing to do, Williams said, is play on the monkey bars at the park.
"He's doing good now, he's excellent," she said. "Like it never happened."
Cardiac Service Award honorees included Dr. Jason Richard Delatore and Dr. Amarjeet Singh Nagpaul.
Delatore, formerly of Steubenville, is board-certified in general and vascular surgery and is the section director of Vascular Surgery for Northeastern Ohio Medical University.
Nagpaul, a board-certified neurologist, is medical director of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and founding chairman of the Bioethics Committee. He said he is deeply honored and thrilled to be a part of the American Heart Association and stressed the importance of community outreach for the prevention of strokes and heart disease.
"The most important part of prevention is taking good care of yourself," he said.
Ciarniello also gave some advice: "If you're a woman and you get any unusual pains, go to the hospital and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,'" she said, recalling that she didn't know she was having a heart attack when it happened.
"You need to be more aware of your body - and don't be in denial," she said.