As a heart patient, Mike Yeager's story is a bit unusual. His journey struggling with the disease has included coding for five minutes on the operating table while a blood clot was being removed from his heart in 2013, along with a number of small strokes and a coma that lasted 12 days. Yeager now walks regularly and plays tennis several times a week, but his problems were not completely preventable. "I have a mutation in a gene that causes cardiomyopathy that they think my father passed to me," Yeager explained. Yeager's father died of a heart attack while playing basketball at the age of 31.
Yeager's history has led him to become involved in the work of the American Heart Association (AHA), and he is serving as chair of the 2018 Lancaster Heart Ball, which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Lancaster Country Club, 1466 New Holland Pike, Lancaster, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The theme for this year's ball will be "A Night of Red at the Moulin Rouge," and the event will include dinner, dancing, and a silent auction. The annual ball raises about $300,000 for research and other AHA projects.
According to Bill Coder, social events director for AHA Lancaster, 80 cents of every dollar raised by the gala comes back to the greater Lancaster area. Area hospitals receive AHA research grants, community blood pressure screenings are held, and studies that help assess heart disease risk among area residents are funded. "We just did a community health assessment for every county in every state we are in," explained Coder, who added that the study looked at a number of factors that affect life expectancy. "(About) 80 percent of heart disease and (related) death are preventable," said Coder. "Funds raised by the Heart Ball will be used to promote healthy living across Lancaster County," Coder stated.
In Yeager's case, some diet modification, regular exercise as prescribed by his doctor, and modern medicine have helped to keep him in good health. Yeager credits his willpower and great care. "They said the recovery would be a tough road ... but I recovered really quickly," he said, adding, "A defibrillator was (implanted) to shock my heart back to life if it stops. Every night a download from that goes to the cardiologist, and when I go in (to the doctor), there's a readout for the technician."
Yeager, vice president of Cargas Systems, is a self-proclaimed techie, who professes great faith in medical advances. "Just 15 years ago, I wouldn't have survived, but now with medication they can keep me alive," he said. "I don't worry about how long I will live because if I have a problem, there will be technology to fix it," he added.
Coder said that statistics from the health assessment bring attention to the prevalence of heart disease in the area. "We learned an average of three people a day in Lancaster County die of heart disease," said Coder. "If there was a road in Lancaster County where three people were dying per day (in accidents), there would be no end to the steps taken to prevent that." He added that one goal of the AHA is to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans by 20 percent and reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020.
Locally, the Heart Ball is sponsored by the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation, Lancaster General Health Penn Medicine, and a number of local businesses. Tickets to the event may be purchased at http://lancasterheartball.heart.org or by calling 717-207-4234. Tickets must be purchased by Saturday, Jan. 20.