The American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk in Lake Charles holds special meaning for the Wright family.

"We love events like this, especially since we were touched personally with it," Teneisha Wright said. "That's why we always support things like this."

The past year and half have been a trying time for the family, but today Wright said they are blessed beyond measure.

"My daughter started having heart problems at the age of 11 months," Wright said of her now 2-year-old daughter, Tia. "We were on a cruise and she collapsed. The doctor on the cruise thought she was just dehydrated and she was fine the rest of the trip."

When they returned home, however, it happened again.

"Her pediatrician sent her to a heart specialist to wear a 24-hour heart monitor and they called me and said she needed to go to New Orleans the next day because her heart was stopping for five to six seconds at a time every day."

Once in New Orleans, the heart specialist implanted a loop recorder under Tia's skin to monitor how often her heart was restarting itself.

"They wanted to see if she would outgrow the condition," she explained.

But after a year of monitoring Tia's heart and conducting tests to rule out sleep apnea and seizures, the doctors determined more needed to be done.

Wright said a pacemaker was implanted in Tia's heart in March of this year and since then, her daughter hasn't had and more "episodes."

On Saturday, Tia was joined by eight family members who took turns pushing her around in a stroller near the Civic Center seawall as part of the three-mile walk.

Wright said doctors initially thought Tia's heart would be dependent on the pacemaker at least 50 percent of the time, but an appointment earlier this week proved them wrong.

"After running all the necessary tests, they told us she's had great improvement and she's only dependent on her pacemaker 1 percent of the time."

"That's God," Tia's great-aunt, Prella Peron added. "We're so excited and so grateful to God."

Wright said the battery on Tia's pacemaker is not due to be replaced until she is 11.

"At that time, they'll see how strong her heart is and see if there is a possibility the pacemaker can be taken out," Wright said. "But right now, things are great."

Devan Corbello, regional director of the American Heart Association, said nearly 1,000 people – many affected by heart diseases themselves – participated in Saturday's event.

Corbello said the walk is the premier event for raising funds to save lives from the country's No. 1 and No. 5 killers – heart disease and stroke.

"We're close to our goal of $110,000 raised for Southwest Louisiana," Corbello said. "All that money comes back into the community through CPR kits in schools, smoke-free initiatives, healthy gardens for students and great education on heart health through Christus Ochsner and Lake Charles Memorial."

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