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Catherine Bouthillier’s Story

Catherine is a Director of Strategic Solutions in New Haven. Her brothers, Matthew and Michael, are the reasons she walks with us at the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.

Catherine’s brother Matthew was a beloved nurse who, after Haiti was struck by a deadly earthquake in 2010, went on an exhausting medical mission to provide critical care in Port-au-Prince. He quickly earned a reputation for being gentle and loving.

“I watched him gently manipulate the shoulder of an older woman who had a wall collapse on her in the earthquake. She had suffered with a broken clavicle for six weeks before being able to get medical care at our clinic,” said a volunteer who worked with Matthew in Haiti. “[…] we swiftly started calling him the Gentle Giant…”

The mission, however, was physically and mentally demanding. Within a week of being in Haiti, the team started complaining of dehydration, diarrhea, and extreme heat. At one point, Matthew was given intravenous fluids to help keep him hydrated. Yet, nine days after being in Haiti, he suffered a terrible heart attack that took his life.

Matthew, who was just 36 at the time, had never been diagnosed with any heart problems, and now his sister Catherine speaks on why it’s important to educate ourselves on heart conditions and proper care.

“Had Matthew been more cognizant of his hydration, he may still be with us today. Heart health/awareness is so much more than the typical heart issues,” says Catherine.

Similarly, Catherine’s other brother Michael died of preventable heart complications. “It was the stress of the flu on his weak immune system, coupled with not getting the care he needed sooner, that led to his heart attack.”

“I just wanted to let you know your awareness to this issue is very important. Had these things been talked about more, they might be with us today.”

An important part of the American Heart Association’s mission is providing education for all on heart health, including information on heart disease prevention and early warning signs. Read through this vital information on the AHA website.