COLUMBUS (WCMH) – One of the many proclamations signed by President Joe Biden is one declaring February National Heart Health Month, and Friday was Go Red For Women Day, and you’ve probably heard of the pre-pandemic Go Red Luncheons.
However, were you aware that national even has its beginnings right here in Columbus, and that former NBC4 anchor Gail Hogan helped plan it?
These days, because of her chronic heart condition, the pandemic is forcing Gail to stay isolated.
Colleen Marshall talked with Gail and learned she is still working to turn her own heart crisis into heart hope.
In 1988, a panicked call for help was put out over the PA system at the NBC4 studios. Gail, then just 32-years-old, had collapsed, with five coworkers taking turns doing CPR to keep her alive, and it was terrifying.
“It was terrifying for you all, but I have to tell you, I was unconscious, so I remember very little,” Gail said. “What I know now is what I have been told.”
She was in cardiac arrest.
“It took 35 minutes for medics to get there because the medics in 1988 weren’t at every fire station like they are now,” Gail said.
Gail’s heart had a rhythm irregularity.
“It just keeps beating,” she said. “It’s like it quivers, you know, so nothing is happening and if you don’t get CPR and you don’t get back into a regular rhythm, you will die, and if you don’t die, many times people have brain damage if people don’t get to you soon enough.”
Heart problems? For the upbeat Gail, the woman who viewers and coworkers always saw with a smile on her face?
“I have always said I was there at the right time with the right people with the right circumstances,” Gail said of her time at NBC4. “It was so much fun.”
And the right time because six months before she collapsed, the staff at NBC4 was given CPR training.
It was that incident that started Gail on a journey that took her from news anchor to patient to educator to advocate.
She eventually partnered with the Ross Heart Hospital at Ohio State University and the American Heart Association.
“We had the first luncheon here,” Gail said. “It was called the Women’s Heart Initiative in the 90s, and the Heart Association nationally saw this and thought, ‘Well, this is a great idea. We’re getting a bunch of women together and we should do this nationally,’ and that led to the Go Red Luncheon.
Gail said the medical community itself did not know then to take women’s heart issues seriously, and a woman reporting to the emergency room with chest pains was often treated differently.
“And they say, you know, what it is is stress,” Gail said. “’Why don’t you take a yoga class?’ You know, a yoga class is not the answer.”
Gail works to keep her heart as healthy as possible.
“I have walked at least five or six days a week for over 25 years because I had to figure out a way to exercise with young children,” Gail said. “How was I going to do that? I got up before everyone else. I took the dog and we walked.”
And now she works to educate and inform.
“I have made it my mission, my passion, especially around women and heart disease to get us recognized by the medical community, by women themselves and to know what to look for themselves,” Gail said. “All that gave me purpose to take my mind necessarily off what I had and be able to do something good with what had happened and, hopefully, do good for other people so that they can learn how to take better care of their health.”
Heart patients are vulnerable to COVID-19, so the pandemic is forcing Gail to stay home. She has virtual meetings, but she can’t see her mother or her children and grandchildren. She and her husband even have their groceries delivered.
But sill, she still has a smile on her face.