Sharon Sopp knows the dangers and anguish of undiagnosed heart disease. Ten years ago, her husband, Greg, died without warning due to an arrhythmia from an enlarged heart.
“It was the Friday night before St. Patrick’s Day,” recalls Sopp, assistant director of internal communications and public relations at Howard County General Hospital. “We watched a few NCAA basketball games and I went to bed early. When I woke at 6 a.m., Greg hadn’t come to bed. I thought he must have fallen asleep watching the games. I found him in his man cave. He had been playing video games and was sitting upright in his recliner. He was just gone.”
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, representing 32% of all global deaths. Of the CVD deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke.
Greg’s death left Sharon and the couple’s three young daughters, Carrie, Katie and Allie, then 16, 14 and 9 years old, to grieve a tremendous loss and wonder what might have happened if Greg’s condition had been diagnosed and treated. The next year, they began volunteering and leading a team in the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk fundraiser. Sharon’s team has raised more than $1,000 each year to support education, prevention and research efforts.
This year’s Greater Maryland Heart Walk is Saturday, Oct. 8, at 8 a.m. at the Maryland state fairgrounds in Timonium. The goal is to raise $1,725,000. Once again, Johns Hopkins Medicine is a strong supporter of the Heart Walk, and has so far garnered 925 walkers on 168 teams that as of Sept. 30 have collectively raised more than $101,000 toward the institutional fundraising goal of $150,000.
“Just like Sharon and her daughters, it seems everyone at Johns Hopkins has either been touched by heart disease themselves, or knows someone who has,” says Shereen Jahed, JHM Heart Walk chair and a senior performance improvement specialist in the health system’s patient safety department. “As an international leader in cardiovascular health, it’s important that Johns Hopkins is always one of the top teams in the Heart Walk.”
There’s still time to join a JHM Heart Walk team, or to sponsor a walker and help reach fundraising goals. Visit the Heart Walk website, look for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and select a team to join or a walker to sponsor.
Looking back, Sharon notes that Greg didn’t always eat right or exercise enough, but he was pretty healthy overall. Still, he had a family history of heart disease, so she urged him many times to get checked out. A decade after his death, she is haunted by the thought that if Greg had been diagnosed he might still be alive, that she would have had more years with her “best friend,” and that he might have witnessed graduations and milestones and even walked Carrie down the aisle at her wedding last November.