Community Health Leaders
Last updated: August 2023
In order to stay up to date on the latest treatments, drug discovery, clinical studies, and how to cope with prostate cancer every day, Heart-Failure.net brings you frequent articles, blogs, opinions, and advice from health leaders and professional medical experts.
Current health leaders
On heart-failure.net, Lisa hopes to tell the story of her family history of Brugada Syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, in case it might help others searching for answers for themselves or family members. Read more.
Amber Blackburn, RN
Amber Blackburn is a Registered Nurse turned blogger and patient advocate for those with chronic illnesses. She was forced to leave the workforce after ten years as a nurse; this gave her the patient medical experience and perspective. She was able to work with heart patients for the majority of her career. And has a passion for helping others. Read more.
John Bottrell, RRT
Hi. I’m John, I’ve been a respiratory therapist for over 20 years. A good part of my job is taking care of people with heart failure. So, I have quite a bit of experience with heart failure and it’s affect of people. Read more.
She is a pharmacist working in the field of specialty medicines and community pharmacy. She received her Bachelor of Science, English and Pharmacy degrees from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. Read more.
Leslie Castro was a congenital heart disease survivor who was diagnosed in 1973 at the age of four months old with tricuspid atresia, pulmonary stenosis and multiple other congenital heart defects. Read more.
I'm Kimberly Connell, Support Network Coordinator of Women Heart Houston. A Heart survivor. I was first diagnosed with a heart murmur at 12 years old that later turned into Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy at the age of 17. Read more.
Bouba Diemé (aka Heartofagiant) comes from Mali and Senegal (Africa). He now lives in Boston with his loving wife, Desiree and their three children - two of whom are toddler twins. Read more.
Morgan Drutchas was diagnosed with CHF at 35 after a catastrophic SCAD induced heart attack. Before the diagnosis she was an HR leader and lover of old homes and exotic travel. She owns a 1904 home in Downtown Detroit which she enjoyed working on, prior to the physical limitations brought on by heart failure. Read more.
I am a single mom to a fire cracker little girl residing in the tip of Africa. I am also a sister, a daughter and friend. Already forming part of our plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis communities. Read more.
Christopher Gehrke is a survivor of two heart attacks, both of which occurred by the age of 35. He has been living with heart failure since 2015. Since his diagnosis, he has co-created a private Facebook group for caregivers and people living with heart failure. Read more.
Dr. Alin Gragossian is currently an Emergency Medicine resident physician in Harrisburg, PA. In December 2018, in the middle of her medical training, she suddenly became very sick. While she was hospitalized with this mystery illness, her heart basically stopped working on her. Read more.
Latoya Johnson Keelen, PhD
Meet Dr. Latoya Johnson Keelen. Dr. Johnson Keelen is a proud wife and mother of four children (a toddler, a tween, and two adults). About six weeks after the birth of her last child, she immediately went into end-stage (stage 4), post-partum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), and eventually received a left ventricular-assistance device and internal defibrillator the same year. Read more.
Tina Marie Marsden
Hello, my name is Tina. Seventeen plus years ago, I would receive a diagnosis that would alter my life and lead me to part of my purpose. Four months following the childbirth of my second son, I was diagnosed with pregnancy induced heart disease (also known as peri-partum cardiomyopathy or PPCM) and congestive heart failure. Read more.
Hi my name is Jazmine McRae. A native of Brockton, MA., now residing in Atlanta, GA. A graduate of Georgia State University with a Bachelors in Exercise Science. My plan was to become a physical therapist, little did I know I was to become a caregiver for my mother Evelyn Charrisse McRae. Read more.
Monica's journey with Heart Failure began in 2013 at the tender age of 38. She is on home oxygen concentrator tank at 02 liters.
Olivia is a 2-time stroke survivor, former LVAD patient, and heart transplant, recipient. In 2014 at the age of 25, Olivia suffered her first stroke and was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Four years later, she suffered another stroke and was in advanced-stage heart failure. Read more.
Samantha Stinocher is a Postpartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) survivor and mother to twin boys. Since her diagnosis in 2015, she has worked to bring awareness to the condition through social media and collaborations with other influencers. Read more.
Maggie Teliska Parke
Maggie Parke, Ph.D., is a SCAD and heart attack survivor living with her husband in Boston, MA. She is a co-founder of a private Congestive Heart Failure group on Facebook and www.mybeatgoeson.org, a website to further support the heart failure community with information put together by the group. Read more.
Former health leaders
Wendy was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy at the age of 24. She comes from a family with a long history of HCM and sudden cardiac arrest, leading to 7 heart transplants within her immediate and extended family. Wendy has 2 children, both of whom have been diagnosed with HCM. Wendy’s daughter was diagnosed at birth and her son at the age of 15. Read more.
Hello! I’m Theresa & I’m a Respiratory Therapist and heart patient myself. I have been in the medical field for 20 years and have been a Respiratory Therapist since 2004. Read more.
Julia Celano was born with a congenital heart defect called a single ventricle heart. Born with only one ventricle and two atria, Julia was not expected to live past one week. Read more.
Tannie Barnes Coward Retired after 33 year of serving the Criminal Justice community in both Harris and Dallas County. Most recently, Tannie also retired from Serving the Houston Wedding Community as The Owner of her own business DeVine Choices Wedding & Event Planning. Read more.
I come from a long line of male family members who have suffered from cardiovascular disease. My grandfather and those preceding him did not make it past 60. Fortunately for my father, uncle, and me, modern medicine has allowed us the opportunity to discover our heart problems before too late, make the needed repairs, recover, and eventually thrive. Read more.
Donna Hacker Smith
During their marriage, Donna learned about heart disease and congestive heart failure, from which her husband suffered and which ultimately led to his death. She will be participating in the Heart Failure Community as a writer focusing on caregiving, and also as a community moderator. Read more.
Kelli Lynn Hicks is a 43-year-old wife, and mother who was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure in 2015. After the initial diagnosis Kelli learned that her heart was functioning at 25% it was evident that her health had been declining unbeknownst to her. What followed was a series of cardiology appointments with numerous specialists, hospitalizations and her life was forever changed. Read more.
Despite health challenges like coronary artery disease, diagnosed in 2010, and prostate cancer, diagnosed in 2017, Will enjoys an active outdoor lifestyle that includes hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and playing golf. He is also active as a volunteer in his community and a regular contributor to “Journal Plus: The Magazine of the Central Coast.” Read more.
Alyssa Parete is 25-year-old heart transplant recipient who received her new heart at the age of 8 years old. When she was 2 weeks old, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. She received treatment at a local hospital until she was 7 years old. Read more.
Karen is a mother of two daughters both diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions, Alyssa 25 and Nicole 21. Karen brings us her perspective on accepting, absorbing, and ultimately navigating the challenges of a family with children who have severe medical needs. Alyssa her oldest daughter was born with idiopathic cardiomyopathy and went into heart failure at two weeks old. Read more.
Rachael lives in Strawberry Plains, TN with her husband, two kids, and multiple fur babies. She has been helping her husband manage and treat his heart failure since his second heart attack in March, 2015. Read more.
A graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, Teresa has an extensive background in criminal justice and social services. She is a retired Parole Officer and uses her life lessons to uplift, empower and inspire. Teresa truly believes that where there is life there is hope and with hope anything is possible. She aspires to be the light that shines in darkness. Read more.
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