Having a Heart: Local Heart Disease Survivor Gives Back
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 10, 2012, 14:58
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Alexis Cowden snuggled up with a pet rabbit at Theresa Brisendine’s petting zoo fundraiser at WHAP Saturday.
When Theresa Brisendine’s husband’s birthday wish came true, she got her life back.
“He blew out his candles at about 8 o’clock at night wishing that I could get a heart,” she remembered.
That was May 28. The next day, she got a call saying that a donated heart was available for a transplant.
Now that she has her energy and her health back, after 15 years of heart disease, Brisendine has turned her attention to helping others who share her experience.
“It’s to help people who went through what I went through,” she said at a fundraiser she organized outside Hopewell’s WHAP radio station on Saturday.
Brisendine is raising money for the team she’ll be leading in the upcoming American Heart Association walk and has a fundraising goal of $1,000 dollars.
On Saturday, she asked her brother-in-law, John Brisendine, who owns Peter Wabbit Children’s Photography, to bring his collection of goats, pigs, ducks and rabbits to attract a crowd to her first big fundraiser before the Oct. 20 trek.
Brisendine also raffled off donated items and gift cards from Randolph Market, Rosa’s Italian Ristorante Pizzeria, Heretick Feed and Seed, PetSmart, Fish Tails Bait and Tackle and Kim and Kompany Salon.
“People have been really good to me,” Brisendine said, noting people were telling her to keep the change from their food purchases at the event.
Brisendine has made a quick recovery since her surgery earlier this year and is now able to walk a mile. Since her heart stopped for the first time at a Hopewell High School football game, she’s been living a healthier lifestyle, quitting smoking and improving her diet. On Saturday, she said she feels better than she has in years and realized that she had to change her life to keep it.
“Life is too important,” she said. “I’ve got a lot to live for.”
Brisendine said that she wanted to make sure she would be around for her children and grandchildren.
She knows that the heart that now beats in her chest came from a 20-something resident of Western Virginia. Brisendine plans on writing a letter to the family, expressing her gratitude and condolences, and hopes to be able to meet them.
“I’ll let them know that I am taking good care of their family member,” she said. “I hope and pray they will let me meet them.”
Brisendine plans on making the petting zoo and raffle an annual fundraising event and has more activities planned for this year. On Sunday, Kim and Kompany, at 2110 Boulevard in Colonial Heights, will be hosting a cut-a-thon to benefit Brisendine’s fundraising efforts. The salon will be offering $15 hair cuts from 1-4 p.m. and donating all the proceeds to Brisdendine’s team for the American Heart Association’s annual walk.