Jamaica Plain resident Ashley Girard was a Northeastern University (NU) student in 2006 when she walked into the campus health center with flu-like symptoms. She left with a recommendation to visit a heart specialist and was soon undergoing open-heart surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“I was really nervous. I had to write out my last will and testament. It was pretty scary,” said Girard, who would go on to graduate from NU.
But now she has completely recovered and is running long-distance races to help raise money for the American Heart and Stroke Association. She does the fund-raising as part of “Tedy’s Team,” which is named after former New England Patriots player and stroke survivor Tedy Bruschi.
“It makes me feel really great to be able to give back to society, said Girard.
To train, she often takes the T to Massachusetts Avenue and runs the Southwest Corridor Park to the Arnold Arboretum and back to her apartment.
Girard was just 22 years old when she went under the knife in 2006 to fix a heart defect called total anomalous pulmonary venous return. It is a condition in which the blood does not flow correctly between the lungs and the heart, and it is oftentimes fatal. Girard’s heart was stopped for eight hours during the surgery.
She said she had about eight weeks of bed rest after the surgery before beginning strength training. Six months later, she was running in her fist half-marathon. Her doctors have told her she has completely recovered, but she says it is still nerve-wracking sometimes when she is running and has a cough or sneeze.
“What is that? Is that something else wrong?” Girard said she asks herself.
Girard, who has already raised $20,000 for the American Heart and Stroke Association, hopes to raise another $10,000 through three races. She ran the Falmouth Road Race last summer and the Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in the fall, and will run the Boston Marathon in April.
To donate, visit tedysteam2014.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1073680&supid=318637829.