February is Heart Month in Canada, an annual reminder for folks to bring awareness to their cardiovascular well-being.
Ladysmith resident, PJ Halliday has devoted much of her life to educating the public about the risks of heart disease and stroke. Halliday lost both of her parents to cardiovascular disease, and she struggles with cardiovascular health herself.
Halliday has volunteered for cardiovascular health organizations since 1988.
Something that sticks with Halliday is all the stories she’s heard from people over the years about their experience with cardiovascular disease.
“What hits close to home is that personal experience. When people say it was their mother, or their father, and I can relate. I related to children as well, because when I worked for the Heart and Stroke Foundation I know there are children in elementary schools who have experienced cardiovascular disease in some way,” she said.
Halliday shared an experience of showing children at an elementary school the size of a pacemaker in 1979 — it was the size of a hockey puck. She then showed them modern pacemakers that are roughly the size of a toonie. Those advancements in technology are the result of ordinary people who donate toward organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
For the past several years, Halliday has participated in a door knocking campaign during Heart Month to raise awareness around cardiovascular health, and raise funds for cardiovascular research. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraiser has been cancelled.
In lieu of in-person fundraising, Halliday has a virtual canvassing page with the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She also has a handful of face masks decorated with hearts for those who donate $25 or more.
For folks who cannot make a donation, Halliday hopes she can still get the word out about how people can live a heart healthy life.
“There are so many things that we know can prevent cardiovascular disease. Those things are primarily trying to eat healthy, living smoke free, and getting regular exercise,” she said. “There are things you can’t control like your family history… you try your best is there is that possibility of still having a cardiovascular event, but all you can do is try.”
Anyone wanting to make a donation or get involved as a volunteer is encouraged to contact Halliday at: firstname.lastname@example.org.