COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The American Heart Association Central Ohio Heart Walk is Saturday, as heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States.

Even young people can be at risk. NBC4 recently met a young girl in Columbus, Emersen White, whose heart just keeps beating.

“It all started when I was 13, the day after Christmas,” said White. “I started feeling sick, and we all just thought I had the flu.”

White’s parents brought her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“I thought this was the flu and we were going to go home and everything would be ok,” said Heidi Popadych, White’s mother.

Instead, doctors found a bacterial infection in White’s blood, which quickly affected her heart.

“It was at that point that the world just shut down,” Popadych said. “They said we can see the bacteria is growing on her mitral valve.”

That led to three open heart surgeries in six weeks. In addition to an aneurysm, pneumonia and kidney damage, she even suffered a small stoke.

“It was just a really scary process,” said White

After more than 160 nights in the hospital, White was finally healthy enough to resume relatively normal life.

“It makes you like realize how strong you are,” she said.

White is now 15-years-old, even playing tennis as a sophomore at Columbus School for Girls.

“Seeing her out there, it’s always in the back of my mind, but yesterday I was able to root for her as a fan instead of a scared to death mom,” said Popadych.

Their message about heart health rings true at any age: Listen to your body.  

“Every time, I was just like mom, I want to go home and mom was always like we need to stay and figure out what it is,” said White. “I wouldn’t be here if mom had listened to me.”

“to see her today, I never would have believed she would be where she is,” said Popadych. “It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle.”