By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service

BALTIMORE – One Maryland woman who survived a near-fatal heart attack will be rallying others this weekend to support heart science research.

Barbara Jackson didn’t know she had a genetic heart defect until her 37th birthday. That day, she suffered a catastrophic heart attack, but medics revived her.

On Saturday, Jackson and her daughter, who inherited the same heart problem, will participate in the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk for the 11th year in a row.

“It’s so important to me and my family because as a survivor I really want to see other people survive any kind of heart issue as well,” Jackson states. “And I also, as a mom, it’s very important to me that families realize that there is hope.”

This year’s walk will be held at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore. Activities will include a dog agility walk, blood pressure screenings, and a survivor tribute ceremony.

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Jackson says her daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with the same heart condition as hers when she was 11. It’s a rare heart rhythm disorder called Long QT Syndrome that causes the heart muscle to take longer than normal to recharge between beats.

Olivia, like her mom, had to have a defibrillator implanted in her chest to help with the defect.

Jackson says the device can be seen under the skin.

“Trying to work through these heart health issues with an 11-year-old was very tough,” Jackson relates. “She had to go through surgery. She just really didn’t have a support group at school. Middle-school kids can be brutal. They picked on her. She was pretty isolated.”

Jackson credits the American Heart Association with giving her and her daughter the tools they needed to live with their conditions.

Olivia is now 23, doing fine and looking forward to the walk on Saturday, Jackson says.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...