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Turning loss into action


Rhonda Ahern knows personally the heartbreak of losing someone from a heart attack, and she and her family are working to help others avoid that pain. 

Bill Morris, Ahern’s stepfather, whom she “truly loved like my dad,” died suddenly and unexpectedly at home Dec. 17 from an apparent massive heart attack. Because of Ahern’s involvement with the Bothwell Foundation’s Wear Red Committee, which raises funds to place life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in and around Sedalia, the family designated the cause for Bill’s memorials.

Ahern said her family’s goal is to collect enough memorial funds to place at least one additional AED that may not get placed through the committee’s fundraising efforts. Most devices cost between $1,500 and $2,000. 

“We would love to remember Bill in this way,” she said. “I think he would be honored that we chose something so personal. He also lost his dad to a heart attack when his dad was just 50. So many lives are impacted by heart disease, and the use of an AED may just offer a family more years together … years he didn’t get with his dad and that we didn’t get with our loving Bill.”

Use of an AED when someone is having an out-of-hospital heart attack can mean the difference between life and death. According to American Heart Association (AHA) research, survival from cardiac arrest doubled when bystanders stepped in to use a publicly available AED before emergency responders arrived. 

“We realize that most homes are not equipped with AEDs; however, we hope that by adding more around our community, it may just save one family from feeling the incredible heartbreak we are feeling right now,” Ahern said. “Our lives completely changed in a matter of minutes.” 

In addition to knowing the benefits of having publicly available AEDs, Ahern wants people to understand the signs of a heart attack and that they can look different for each person, even in someone who’s already had a heart attack, like Bill.

“Bill had a past history of heart attacks in the 1990s,” she said. “On the day he died, he experienced some common symptoms like dizziness and vomiting, but they were different from his previous attacks and he didn’t recognize them and he went to bed. Symptoms can be different … even in the same person.” 

Ahern said her family’s loss has been devastating and they are all searching for their “new normal” without Bill in their lives while finding ways to remember him. 

“As you would expect, my mom is definitely missing him. Bill was so kind and loving to her … even after 39 years, he still brought her coffee every morning. He doted on her, and we all miss him so much,” she said. “Donating to the Bothwell Foundation to help purchase AEDs is a local cause, and 100% of the money raised will go directly into our community to add AEDs. It just might save your life or that of someone you love.”

To make a donation to the Bothwell Foundation to purchase AEDs in Bill Morris’s memory, visit www.brhc.org/2021wearred or call 660-829-7786.


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