A Family Affair of the Heart

Larry and Kelly Branscomb

Kelly Branscomb wears her red dress pin–the icon of the Go Red movement–with pride. Not only is the jewelry beautiful, it’s meaningful as well.

When people ask about it, she shares the story of her dad, Larry Branscomb.

The year was 2003. Kelly’s parents, both retired, were tooling around Florida in their motor home when Larry felt like he was going to pass out. The couple pulled into a shopping mall parking lot where Kelly’s mom, Julie-Anne, spotted a fire truck. The firefighters, trained emergency medical technicians, hurried over. They diagnosed Larry with atrial fibrillation. He was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital and immediately administered blood thinners. Little did he know, his ordeal was just beginning.

According to the American Heart Association, atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart’s two small upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood wasn’t pumped completely out of the chambers of Larry’s heart, so the blood was pooling (and could have clotted, leading to a stroke).

Four years, five surgeries, 13 stents, and a pacemaker later, Larry is living life to the fullest. He loves spending valuable time with his family, playing with his five grandkids, staying active, and traveling.

â€It wasn’t until my dad started having problems that I realized how important it was to educate myself about my heart,†says Kelly, 36, a customer support liaison for Supervalu. “Heart disease isn’t just for men, it’s for everyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on age, sex, or body type.â€

Kelly is well aware of her hereditary risk factors–both grandfathers and an aunt died from heart attacks, while two uncles survived them.

She keeps her heart healthy by eating well, exercising, and getting annual checkups. She’s vigilant about educating others about cardiovascular disease, and further raises awareness through participating in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. In the past three years, she has walked with a group from Fairview Ridges Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation, and with the help of generous friends and family raised nearly $10,000.

Kelly is on a mission to use her dad’s story, along with the information she’s learned about heart disease, to encourage positive lifestyle changes in others. After all, she reasons, it’s the least she can do to thank and honor her dad.

“My parents mean everything to me,†she says. “Together we’ve traveled the world. There are many more adventures to be had and my parents are who I most want to share those adventures.â€