ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) - Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, and one in three deaths among women is due to heart disease or stroke.
The American Heart Association hosts Go Red for Women each year to raise awareness, and says 80 percent of cardiac incidents can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.
Ramona Dale, of Holmen, is Go Red for Women’s featured survivor in our area this year.
It takes strength, determination and heart to get to where Dale is today. She frequents the Onalaska YMCA.
At age 4, Dale needed open-heart surgery.
"This had never been done in this area or anywhere near here,” she said.
Without the surgery, doctors said, she would die. With the surgery, she told she could live until age 21.
"As you can see, it was a success. I am 57, so it's been quite a few years,” Dale said.
As a child, she wasn't allowed to do strenuous activity out of concern for her heart.
After undergoing back surgery in 2004, however, she started taking small steps toward running.
"Excuses suck,” Dale said. "I would like run down to the bottom of our driveway.”
One mile turned to two miles.
Two miles became 5Ks and 10Ks, and soon, Dale's small steps became a marathon -- or seven marathons, to be exact.
"I realize now, you can do anything as long as mind and heart are in it."
It's not just physical feats that Dale's heart has conquered.
"We've had some tragedies,” she said.
She ran into obstacle after obstacle.
"My father passed away in ‘90 of a heart attack. My mother actually passed away. The day of the Go Red For Women event, it will be 19 years. She died of a heart attack."
The obstacles didn’t stop. Dale said on the day of a half-marathon, she got a phone call saying that her brother had died unexpectedly, but she kept moving forward.
"We ran the race in the morning in his honor,” she said. "Life is precious. You’ve got to live."
After a skiing accident in December, doctors told her she’d never be able to run again, but she's now training for the Ironman triathlon in September.
“I didn’t know how to swim, so I thought, 'Go big or go home,'” Dale said.
She is raising money for heart disease awareness and for her granddaughter who has leukemia. Both will be in her heart as she crosses the finish line.
"It'll be amazing,” Dale said. "I'll do it. I'll get there."
Dale wants everyone to know regardless of heart disease and other obstacles, if you've got a heartbeat, you can beat it.
"Anyone can do it,” she said. “You just have to have the will and strength to do it and know you can."
The granddaughter Dale is raising money for is 4-year-old Macy, whose story we shared in December when Holmen police surprised her by making her an honorary police officer.
If you are interested in donating to Dale's cause, visit this website.
The Go Red For Women luncheon is tomorrow from 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Waterfront.
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