Close to the Heart

The numbers are staggering: More than one in three Americans suffers from some form of cardiovascular disease, approximately 83.6 million people. Every 34 seconds, someone in this country has a coronary event. About 795,000 suffer a stroke each year. It all adds up to heart disease as the nation's No. 1 killer.

So it's no surprise we've devoted our Best Doctors issue to heart health. As a community, our reputation in cardiac medicine is unmatched. The Cleveland Clinic has been named best in heart care for 19 straight years, and University Hospitals Case Medical Center ranks among the top 20, according to U.S. News and World Report. Innovative doctors and new research blanket the region, including 42 American Heart Association projects in Cleveland alone.

The issue also has special meaning in our offices.

A decade ago, Cleveland Magazine was an early supporter of the Go Red For Women campaign. And we don't have to look beyond our hallways for inspiration. Design director Kristen Miller is tall, thin and wears stylish glasses. Just by looking, you'd never know she has Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that contributes to her height, build and nearsightedness. The ailment also puts Kristen at risk of an aortic dissection, in which the main artery tears away from her heart. It's what took her mother's life at age 43 Sept. 9, 2000.

For years after, Kristen lived in fear. "I was afraid of every chest pain, every weird beat and that slowly took over my life," she told the crowd at the 2010 Go Red luncheon. So at age 26, she had aortic root replacement at the Cleveland Clinic. Complications three days later forced an emergency triple-bypass, five days on a balloon pump with her chest open and 62 days in the hospital. In 2009, she had a third surgery to replace a leaking valve made worse by the trauma of that first experience.

Despite all this, she has taken charge of her life. She and her husband, Jason, adopted a daughter, Emerson, in 2010. Working on this issue has brought back many of those memories, including thoughts about all the nurses, doctors and therapists who aided her recovery. "It has hit home in so many ways," she says now.

In fact, Jason, a photographer, accompanied associate editor Jillian Kramer for our story of Garlan McCruter's heart transplant at the Clinic.

"I was elated when we were able to capture images of him walking out the Clinic doors post-surgery," Kristen says, "because I know that walking out those doors feels amazing."

Share this story: