Girl's heart defects prompts Heart Walk participation in Eau Claire

September 18, 2015

Born with serious heart defects, Lauren Hoel of Eau Claire and her family will walk in the Eau Claire Heart Walk on Sept. 26 in Carson Park to support the American Heart Association.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Anne Hoel, a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, works with patients with heart disease every day. But that care took on a whole new meaning when her daughter, Lauren, was born with multiple congenital heart defects.

Lauren is the reason why Hoel will serve as a captain for one of multiple teams in the Eau Claire Heart Walk on Saturday, Sept. 26, at Carson Park. The 1- or 3-mile noncompetitive walk supports the American Heart Association’s mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the walk begins at 9 a.m.

Lauren appeared healthy when she was born in 2011. But at her first checkup, doctors found multiple heart defects, including transposition of the great arteries, atrial and ventricular septal defects, and an interrupted aortic arch. At 12 days and at 6 months old, Lauren underwent open-heart surgery, as well as cardiac catheterization, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“You would never know she has heart issues,” says Hoel of Eau Claire. “She’s a smart, energetic 3-year-old who is a ray of sunshine when she walks into a room.”

Lauren, now age 3, will have more surgeries in her future. “It’s important to get involved with the Heart Walk to raise awareness of heart disease, raise money for research and to help educate people,” says Hoel, who will walk with her husband, Luke, and Lauren, and a team of co-workers, friends and family.

The Eau Claire Heart Walk is sponsored by HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and Mayo Clinic Health System. The event also offers free refreshments, music, face painting and blood pressure checks. Local heart and stroke survivors will share their personal stories.

To register or donate online, go to

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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 60 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.

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