Brandy Dudley is motivating Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital employees to step up for a good cause.

Dudley, a 37-year-old from Rocky Mount, has been battling heart disease for more than a decade and is now asking employees at CFMH to join the fight by participating in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk in October.

Back in 2006, Dudley had been working with the homeless to help provide them with food, shelter and work. “I noticed the job was getting pretty hard, and I couldn’t figure out why, and then around 2006-2007, I was diagnosed with heart disease — cardiomyopathy,” she said.

For that first year, she said she continued to work out and was the smallest she had ever been. “I had abs, I was just doing everything right, and I was like ‘how did I get heart disease,’” she said. But in 2014, she was diagnosed with heart failure.

Dudley received her first pacemaker in 2016 and her second a year later. In 2018, she received a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line so she could undergo intravenous treatments until January, when she received an intra-aortic balloon pump, a device that helps the heart pump more blood. It was only a matter of time until Dudley needed a heart transplant.

In February of that year, Dudley had a heart transplant at University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. She has been doing cardiac rehab at CFMH twice a week since then. The rehab is an exercise gym, but Dudley’s heart is monitored while going through various exercises that are designed to make it stronger.

Also in 2014, Dudley was diagnosed with kidney disease. She is currently at stage 4 and is awaiting a kidney transplant.

Clarice Goulart, a registered nurse at CFMH, has worked with Dudley throughout her cardiac journey and was inspired by her story. She explained that the American Heart Association’s motto has been “tell us your why,” and the Roanoke Regional Heart Walk’s motto is “Life is why we walk.”

“A lot of people don’t even know what the American Heart Association does,” Goulart said. “It’s kind of one of those things where [people think] if I do give them my money what is really doing?”

She explained that AHA has developed anti-rejection drugs for transplant patients, robotic surgery and made advances with pediatric hearts.

“I thought of Brandy [Dudley] because she is in our program, and I think it would help for people to see a person who has benefitted from things the American Heart Association has done,” Goulart said. “The hope is to have a really big team at the Heart Walk.”

CFMH holds various fundraising activities throughout the year such as an ice cream social, a silent auction and paint nights for the AHA. Goulart added that all the funds that are raised will stay in CMFH’s fund.

“Money raised in Franklin County, stays in Franklin County,” she said.

The Heart Walk will be held in Roanoke at Rivers Edge Park South at 302 Wiley Drive on Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. Participants can walk 1 or 4 miles.

For more information on joining the CFMH team, call the cardiac rehab office at 489-6531.

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