heART event in St. Catharines to highlight the burden of heart disease
Our bodies have been through a lot in recent years, but no more than our hearts.
In recognition of this, Dr. Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy will be at Brock University’s Sean O’Sullivan Theater next month for a free presentation on heart disease.
O’Keefe-McCarthy is a registered nurse and expert in adult cardiovascular intensive care. She conducts research in the area of cardiovascular and pain sciences.
The event, which will take place on February 8 at 7 p.m., is organized in collaboration with Heart Niagara as part of Heart Month.
Titled “HeARTistic Journeys: The Heart-DIS-ease Play,” O’Keefe-McCarthy’s presentation shares stories and research through poems, songs, and artwork.
“We take it to a different level of interpretation and representation,” she said. “So we take people’s stories. They show early warning signs of heart disease. We hear them, we listen to them and we reflect on them. Me, I am a poet. So it seems like I’m taking and interpreting the actual textual data of these stories and how they talk about their lived experience and translating it into a kind of free poetry.
In previous presentations, O’Keefe-McCarthy said she’s used oil paintings, mixed media, and photography to understand “that kind of journey of the warning signs of heart disease.”
“So we used different artistic mediums to bring this real-world heart health knowledge into the hearts, hands, and minds of people who need it,” she said.
This presentation will focus on three research projects she is currently conducting.
“There are two projects that definitely deal with the emotional burden of heart disease and the social situation of someone dealing with heart disease, it doesn’t totally involve COVID,” she said. “But the one in the middle who (talks about) what nurses went through caring for and educating healthcare workers in long-term care homes and what it was really like in terms of lived experience .”
After a series of heart-related deaths in her own family, O’Keefe-McCarthy dedicated her life to heart research and awareness.
“A lot of my research is guided by people who came before me and I say literally disappeared because they died of heart disease,” she said. “My sister died of a silent heart attack at the age of 44. We didn’t really know she was showing warning signs. She was extremely tired. She had increased bouts of heartburn, lots of sweating, and then unexplainable unprovoked anxiety. And these are the precursors for some people in the weeks, months and days leading up to a heart attack that we as family and other health care providers may not be aware of. She died of a silent heart attack in her sleep.
That’s why it’s so important to her to help spread awareness of heart disease and the warning signs.
For those attending the Feb. 8 event, O’Keefe-McCarthy said she thinks people will be pleasantly surprised.
“It’s more of an overview of the three projects where we tell you a bit about how they came about and what we found. But we do it through art,” she said. “We have a bit of a scene from a play. We have a lot of different poetry in different kinds of emotional contexts because of the data and we also have songs. So it’s artistic and it’s literally sincere. It’s a fun way to approach heart health literacy.
Those wishing to reserve a place can do so at eventbrite.ca.
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