Henry's Heartlings Walking Team

Team Members: Henry, Katherine, Greg and Jason Schmitt, Danni Jones, and Amy Gilligan.

Join Henry's Heartlings

If you would like to walk with us in the Pittsburgh Heart Walk, or would simply like to help us in raising funds, you can join us from our team page on the Heart Walk fundraising site.

Picture of Henry


The eponymous Henry wears a Red Cap while participating in the Heart Walk. This means, like thousands of other participants across the nation, Henry is a Heart Disease Survivor. (Stroke Survivors wear a White Cap).

In 2006 Henry was diagnosed with severe Mitral Valve Prolapse, a disease in which the valve between the two left chambers of the heart does not close. In July of that year, he had minimally invasive surgery by Dr. David M. Haybron at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital to repair the valve. The official name for the procedure is a Partial Upper Sternotomy with a Quadrangular Resection and Annuloplasty, which is probably more than you want to know about Henry's chest! During that time, he was under the care of Cardiologist Dr. LeRoy Moore. He now sees Cardiologist Dr. Ritu Thamman. He was also supported before, during, and after the surgery by his primary care physician Dr. Bernadette Harris.

While researching his condition, Henry ran across information about the American Heart Association's Pittsburgh Heart Walk. Shortly after his surgery, he read Daniel C. Dennett's essay Thank Goodness which is about his thoughts on having a "dissection of the aorta." It includes the following paragraph:

To whom, then, do I owe a debt of gratitude? To the cardiologist who has kept me alive and ticking for years, and who swiftly and confidently rejected the original diagnosis of nothing worse than pneumonia. To the surgeons, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and the perfusionist, who kept my systems going for many hours under daunting circumstances. To the dozen or so physician assistants, and to nurses and physical therapists and x-ray technicians and a small army of phlebotomists so deft that you hardly know they are drawing your blood, and the people who brought the meals, kept my room clean, did the mountains of laundry generated by such a messy case, wheel-chaired me to x-ray, and so forth. These people came from Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Haiti, the Philippines, Croatia, Russia, China, Korea, India—and the United States, of course—and I have never seen more impressive mutual respect, as they helped each other out and checked each other's work. But for all their teamwork, this local gang could not have done their jobs without the huge background of contributions from others. I remember with gratitude my late friend and Tufts colleague, physicist Allan Cormack, who shared the Nobel Prize for his invention of the c-t scanner. Allan—you have posthumously saved yet another life, but who's counting? The world is better for the work you did. Thank goodness. Then there is the whole system of medicine, both the science and the technology, without which the best-intentioned efforts of individuals would be roughly useless. So I am grateful to the editorial boards and referees, past and present, of Science, Nature, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and all the other institutions of science and medicine that keep churning out improvements, detecting and correcting flaws.

This made him realize he could begin to repay this huge debt by raising money via the Heart Walk.

Supported by contributions by family and friends, three months to the day after his surgery, Henry participated the the 2006 Pittsburgh Heart Walk. Four months after that, he and his wife Katherine joined his two black-belt sons in taking karate at USA Professional Karate. Henry and Katherine earned their black belts on March 13, 2010. In 2007, the family formed Henry's Heartlings to help repay Henry's enormous debt to all those who helped keep him alive.

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Picture of Katherine


Katherine will not be walking with Henry's Heartlings in 2013. She is the Captain of her company team and will be walking with us again in 2014.

In April 2009, my mother passed away due to a combination of stroke and heart attack. While I miss my mother deeply, I am comforted by the last 20 years I had with her. My mother had heart disease all her adult life, and came close to dying on a tube station while traveling in London in the mid-1980s. That she survived that episode and went on to live a full, active life, witnessing the birth and growth of her grandchildren, is due, in part, to the research and outreach of groups like the American Heart Association. Please join me in supporting the AHA so that crucial research in the prevention, maintenance, and cure of heart disease can continue.

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Picture of Greg


Greg walks in the Heart Walk, because his father has had, and survived, heart surgery.

Not only does his family walk together they also take karate at the USA Professional Karate Studio. Gregory himself is a second-degree black belt and enjoys helping his father learn Karate.

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Picture of Jason


Jason walks in the Heart Walk because he's happy his Dad survived heart surgery when Jason was in fourth grade. He also wants to make sure other Moms and Dads survive heart surgery.

In the Fall of 2008, Jason took a poetry class at the Pittsburgh Gifted Center, where he wrote this quatrain:

Hospital Doors

Behind these hospital doors
lays a father who is in pain.
He has had heart surgery,
His life is a bane

He is as cranky as can be
for he has had pain drugs.
He has tubes in him which
make me feel like a thousand bugs

In the waiting room
I feel the worrying
rise inside me.
To the waiting room, I was sadly scurrying

I felt my father might die
As I waited to go home
But as I soon found out
He would come home without a tomb

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Picture of Danni


Danni walks in the HeartWalk to support Henry, the father of her boyfriend Greg.

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