To highlight the 2020 American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart and Stroke Walk, we thought it would be nice to share a heartwarming story from someone who holds this cause near and dear to her.

Rachel’s Story

Meet Rachel McCaslin, mother of two, and IT manager of asset management and infrastructure here at Nelnet. Rachel has a passion for enjoying life to the fullest and helping others, especially after having multiple heart attacks that put her life in jeopardy.

“After having your life flash before your eyes twice, it makes me truly grateful and blessed that God continues to give me an incredible life here on earth,” Rachel said. “In 2012, I had my first heart attack. I went approximately five days thinking I was just having heartburn, only to finally go to the ER and be told I had a heart attack with two blockages.”

Rachel bounced back from this trauma and went about her life with a newfound appreciation, along with her husband and son. Unfortunately, tragedy struck again five years later while Rachel was pregnant.

“On October 11, 2017, I was pleading with God to let me have one more day with my husband, Josh, and son, Eli,” Rachel said. “I was scared out of my mind not only because I had a massive heart attack but I was also 20 weeks pregnant with our daughter.”

Moving Forward Together

Thankfully, Rachel and the baby endured an even scarier hardship, and she was able to successfully bring a new life into her loving family, safe and sound.

“I am pleased to share that today both Abby and I are healthy, happy, and incredibly grateful to be alive!” Rachel said. “I am also very blessed and thankful to have such amazing family and friends in my life who have supported us through these times.”

It’s no surprise that Rachel doesn’t take life for granted, and one major takeaway from this experience is that you need to appreciate what you have. One way Rachel appreciates what she has is by doing her best to give back to causes that helped her, and will help countless others in the future, like the AHA.

“I would likely not be here today if it were not for medical research and modern medicine,” Rachel said.  “The AHA funds a lot of this research and education that have led to advances in things like heart valves, CPR, pacemakers, cholesterol inhibitors, lifestyle changes, information, and awareness of heart disease and stroke.”

Paying It Forward

At the time of publication, Rachel has raised over $4,000 for this year’s Heart and Stroke Walk, which was held virtually in Lincoln on May 30, to ensure walker safety. Special social distancing circumstances didn’t slow down the heart of this champion.

“One of the things that I love about the heart walk is to be able to visually see all the people coming together to support the AHA, survivors and those who have lost the battle with heart disease and stroke and have gone before us,” Rachel said. “With the event being virtual this year, we are going to try new things using social media and taking pictures of folks that are walking to give the same impact that we’re all in this together. Another benefit of being virtual is that you can do it anytime and anywhere. So friends and family in another state can join in and be just as involved as your neighbor down the street.”

If you’re interested in contributing to the Heart and Stroke Walk, think about taking a page from Rachel’s book and helping out next year.

“Others can always help by joining a team to walk or giving a donation to the AHA,” Rachel said. “In addition, I always tell people that the best thing you can do for yourself and for others is to listen to your body. Heart disease is treatable if you listen to your body and watch for signs that things just don’t seem right. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

If you want to learn more about the AHA Heart and Stroke Walk, contribute, or sign up to walk, you can check it out right here.