Tab Lassiter spent eight months resting anxiously in a hospital bed with cardiomyopathy, a condition that can lead to heart failure. Family, nurses and volunteers kept him company while he awaited a new heart, everyone wishing they could make the calendar jump by days and weeks instead of watching the clocks tick through the seconds, minutes and hours.
Lassiter, now a warehouse Shipping/Receiving Team Leader for influenza vaccine leader Seqirus, remembers the long days stuck in a bed that was not his own at Duke University Hospital. What was going on in the outside world? He looked to visitors to fill him in.
One forthcoming event caught his attention: a Heart Walk to raise awareness for cardiovascular conditions like his with donations going to research new treatments. Lassiter thought at the time: If I could just get out here and just talk to people – then maybe I could prevent others and their families from enduring the emotional and physical pain that we experienced.
In July 2015, Lassiter did get out of Duke University Hospital with a new heart and an eagerness to speak out about cardiac health, especially to encourage good habits and prevention. Over a six-year period, he experienced pneumonia, congestive heart failure, the failure of several heart pumping devices and two strokes.
“Many don't understand the magnitude of how heart disease can contribute to the deterioration of your lifestyle, something as mindless as taking a shower or going to the mailbox becomes a challenge,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization, Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the global leading causes of death. An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, representing 32% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attacks and strokes. Understanding that many of these diseases are preventable, Lassiter made it a goal to get out of the hospital, get healthy and walk a mile with his community in the Heart Walk.
“I remember when I couldn’t take 100 steps, let alone walk a whole mile,” said Lassiter, based at the Holly Springs, North Carolina manufacturing site for Seqirus, which is part CSL, a global biotech.
Joining together for a Heart Walk makes an impact on those who attend, he said.
“Just within Seqirus, I’ve seen how the walk has impacted people,” he said. “I even had a coworker learn that they had an underlying issue and got the proper help because of this event. We have to start with just one individual, that’s all it takes to make a difference.”