In his two seasons with the St. Louis Rams, wide receiver
The Heart Walk, which takes place Saturday, May 4, is the American Heart Association’s national campaign to raise awareness of prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke. It is meant to celebrate those who have made lifestyle changes and encourage others to make a similar healthy commitment. The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center hope having Pettis at the helm will further spread the message.
“In our partnership with the Rams, it’s important for us to raise awareness for prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke in the most effective manner,” said Patti Crimmins-Reda, RN, MSN, Heart and Vascular Center executive director. “So to partner on the Heart Walk was an ideal situation for us. And being able to integrate a player like Austin, who’s interested in assisting that effort, helped us enhance this partnership even more.”
Pettis said he feels up to the challenge.
“This being my third year in St. Louis, I feel like I can get out in the community a little bit more,” Pettis said. “And hopefully I can raise a little more awareness for (the Heart Walk) to help shed a little more light on the importance of being heart healthy.”
In preparation for the Heart Walk, Pettis took part in an employee rally at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Before he interacted with staff and answered many of their football-related questions, the Rams’ wide receiver got the opportunity to witness the wonder of heart treatment first-hand. Clad in his hospital scrubs, Pettis joined doctors and observed them performing open-heart surgery.
“I was pretty nervous for the past two days leading up to it, just because I had heard stories” Pettis said. “But once I got in there, the doctors and the rest of the staff were very welcoming and made it fun and easy for me to understand what they do and how they save lives.”
It is a unique experience that the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center shares with certain supporters.
“We felt it was important for Austin to have the opportunity to come in and see first-hand what we do and why we’re unique,” said Crimmins-Reda. “And there’s no better way to do that than to have him come in, see the facilities and meet the physicians and nurses, people who are actually saving lives every day.”
In addition to observing the open-heart surgery, Pettis visited various patients in the hospital, most of who were dealing with heart issues of their own. The effort coincided well with his role as honorary team captain of the Heart Walk.
“It’s nice when you can go and visit patients because you can see how much they appreciate the little things,” Pettis said. “It really humbles you to go meet with these people and reminds you of the things that are most important.”
The experience also illustrated the importance of heart disease prevention and treatment. According to the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It also kills more women each year than breast cancer. Through the Heart Walk, the organization is hoping to spread this information throughout the community, while encouraging people to take the necessary steps for a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s key to get the community behind this effort, to support heart disease and stroke awareness,” Crimmins-Reda said. “These are conditions that are preventable and treatable in certain cases.”
While the main goal is to spread awareness, the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center also hopes the Heart Walk can serve as inspiration for people trying to turn their lives in a healthier direction.
“This is just a step forward for people,” Crimmins-Reda said. “If you’re a person who’s never exercised or doesn’t exercise regularly, the Heart Walk can be your jump start.”
Fans and other participants can join Pettis and others for the Heart Walk next Saturday, May 4. The walk will begin at Busch Stadium and will be used to raise awareness of prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke. You can register to walk on the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Friends and Family Team, powered by the Heart & Vascular Center, by visiting BarnesJewish.org/heartwalk. Participants will also receive a complimentary t-shirt while supplies last.