American Heart Association

Real Women

Sharing stories of survival and elevating awareness.

This year’s class of Real Women includes:

Stacy-Ann Walker

Stacy-Ann Walker thought her exhaustion, breathlessness and swelling in her legs were part of late-term pregnancy. Actually, Walker had undiagnosed heart valve disease and was in heart failure.

Stacy Ann Walker
Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

After surviving a stroke, Laura Pugh was told she may only get back to 65 percent of what she used to be able to do physically. Determined to reclaim her life, the long-time runner set sights on half-marathon to motivate her recovery.

Sofia Montoya

An ultrasound before she was born revealed Sofia Montoya had significant health challenges ahead – that includes her heart being on the wrong side of her body. After undergoing multiple surgeries, including stomach surgery when she was a day old, open heart surgery at 5 months and a pacemaker at age 7, Montoya sees her heart story as a way to inspire courage in others facing health challenges.

Sofia Montoya
Molly Schroeder

Molly Schroeder

Six weeks after losing her mom to a pulmonary embolism, Molly Schroeder had a heart attack when a clot blocked one of her main arteries. The then 21-year-old soccer player learned she had a congenital condition and a family history of heart disease increasing her own risks.

Debora Grandison

Misdiagnoses and compounding medical issues left Debora Grandison struggling with her health for 20 years before getting on track. Three decades after her first diagnosis, the Missouri woman advocates for her heart health, proactively staying informed about her condition and getting second opinions when necessary to make sure she’s getting the best care.

Debora Grandison
Mika Leach

Mika Leah

Knowing her father’s heart disease meant she, too, had increased risks, Mika Leah focused on diet and exercise, and making sure her numbers stayed in the healthy range. Even so, she couldn’t imagine the shortness of breath and chest pains she experienced during exercise signaled a 98 percent blockage of her main coronary artery at age 33. The experience taught her to advocate for herself and the importance of understanding how family heart health history increases risk factors for heart disease.

Kelsey Gumm

Naval officer Kelsey Gumm experienced unexplained fainting episodes for a decade before being diagnosed with a serious heart condition that would end her career. The diagnosis left the then 27-year-old Wisconsin women apprehensive about being active again. A veteran-focused cycling event inspired Gumm to move more and transform her life.  

Kelsey Gumt
Latasha Jones

Latarsha Jones

Latarsha Jones blamed a nagging headache she’d had for weeks on intense grief following her grandmother’s death and a grueling work schedule. After having a stroke at 41, she realized she needed to put herself first.

Real Women Empowered

See highlights from the 2017-2018 class!