‘Red Caps’ count blessings

Published 6:18 am Friday, February 10, 2012

Otis Stone and his daughter, Wendy Betts, are members of the Red Cap society and to become a member, one has to have been richly blessed.

“And, we are blessed.  Both of us,” Betts said. “My dad in one way and me in another.”

Stone and Betts are survivors of heart disease. He had congestive heart failure in 2000 and she had several “small” heart attacks over a three week period in 2010 and then triple bypass surgery.

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“It’s because of the work done by the American Heart Association that we are here,” said Stone, who is a member of the Pike County Chapter of the American Heart Association. “We will wear our Red Caps proudly on Saturday.”

The Pike County Heart Association’s annual “Red Cap” Survivors Breakfast will be at 8 a.m. Saturday in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church and all survivors of heart disease and strokes and their caregivers, past and present, are invited to attend.

Stone and Betts will be there, and like so many others, they will have stories to share about how advancement in the diagnosis and treatments of heart disease saved their lives.

Stone said the fluid that collected around his heart was successfully removed.

“That was nearly 12 years ago and only have to take one pill a day,” he said. “I know how blessed I am.”

Having been involved with the American Heart Association, Stone was keenly aware of the dangers of heart disease and stroke. He knew that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, so when his daughter was found to be suffering from a series of small heart attacks, he knew the seriousness of the situation. And, so did she.

“My dad had the heart problem and he was involved with the Heart Association, so I tried to eat healthy. I would leave half of the porkchop on my plate,” Betts said. “Buttter and mayonnaise are not a food group but that’s the Southern way.”

In February 2010, Betts’ energy level hit rock bottom. She experienced flu-like symptoms but attributed what was happening to her body with the after-effects of colon surgery some months earlier.

“When I went to see the doctor, he asked me how long I had been having those small heart attacks,” she said. “I had not even thought about my heart so it was a shock.”

Betts was kept overnight in the local hospital and sent by ambulance to a Montgomery hospital the next day.

“I was to have triple bypass surgery on Friday but was bumped to Monday,” she said. “It was hard having to wait but many prayers were said on my behalf from family and friends and First Baptist Church. I felt the power of prayer like I had never felt before it was awesome. I knew I was going to be all right.”

Betts made it through the surgery and the surgery was successful to to point that she only has to take asprin to help keep her blood thin.

Like her dad, Bett is blessed.

“The doctor told me that I’m good for another 45 years,” she said, with a smile. “I know that the research the American Heart Association does is making a difference because it made a difference in my life and in my dad’s.”