EMPAC heart monthChristie Tolosky was 24 when she died suddenly of undiagnosed long QT syndrome, a cardiac arrhythmia. After her death, several family members had EKGs that revealed long QT. Her sister, Melissa Tolosky Russom, has long QT and wears an ICD, an implanted cardioverter defibrillator that has a pacemaker in it. Russom’s 9-month-old daughter, Cora, also has long QT and has been on medication since birth to treat it.

On Feb. 5 at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), Melissa and Cora helped to “flip the switch” that turned 29 buildings in the Capital Region red. EMPAC, which is illuminated red in such a way that it beats like a heart, will glow red through February.

Feb. 5 was the eve of National Wear Red Day, when people wear red to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women in America. In the Capital Region, staff at some 500 work sites wore red and donated to the American Heart Association.

Melissa and Cora

Melissa and Cora helped to “flip the switch.”

Guohao Dai is an American Heart Association-funded researcher at Rensselaer. His research focuses 
on developing methods to utilize stem cells to treat 
cardiovascular diseases.

“The American Heart Association is the largest funder of heart disease research, second only to the U.S. government,” said Dai, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “Heart disease requires an aggressive response, and Rensselaer is proud to stand with the American Heart Association and all of its supporters to make a difference as we continue to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.”

“Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable,” said Dr. Adanna Akujuo, a cardiac surgeon at Albany Medical Center. “All of the illuminated buildings are a good reminder to take positive action to keep our hearts healthy.”

“The Capital Region should be proud of the way it embraces National Wear Red Day,” said Barbara Hess, chief marketing officer at SEFCU and chair of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association. “We raise about $1 million each year in the Capital Region, and about $2 million is currently invested in research. We certainly shine a bright light in the fight against heart disease.”