Pensacola’s Queen of Hearts Monica Sanford | By Magi Thomley Williams | February Bella Magazine
Thirty-one years ago, Monica Sanford’s son was born with a severe congenital heart defect, requiring five heart surgeries before he was 10 years old. The event changed the trajectory of her life forever–from business to healthcare. She went to nursing school to learn how to take care of her son. Sanford Says, “I tell him that his life changed the purpose of my life and that he has saved so many patients through me. My healthcare advocacy stems from wanting every cardiac patient to be educated about their heart and have access to care.” Now her son, Michael, is a thriving, successful poet who sells his book, If My Heart Could Talk, on Amazon.
Sanford says one in 100 infants is born with congenital heart disease. That’s about 40,000 babies each year who will need lifelong healthcare management. Surgery is not a cure; they must be followed by a heart specialist at least every one to two years. Thanks to all the medical advancements in the last 50 years, these infants and children are thriving into adulthood. There are many minimally invasive strategies now, and even pre-procedural planning with 3-D models and virtual reality; living with a “repaired” heart into adulthood is the norm not the exception. Now there are certified accredited congenital heart specialists and facilities throughout the country available for specialized care.
Sanford works closely with other champions of heart health including Inger Berg, local director of the American Heart Association, and Dr. Brent Videau, cardiologist at Baptist. She emphasizes, “There are many social determinants of health, including transportation, insurance, geographic location and even race and sex disparities that we all fight to overcome to get these patients access to care. I am on the ACC Legislative Affairs Committee and have attended multiple ‘storm the hill’ opportunities in Florida and in DC to advocate for education, awareness and continued research and funding for heart disease. I have presented at local, state, and national cardiology conferences and seminars teaching on blood pressure, cardiac and stroke awareness.” As a Nurse Practitioner, she has served inpatient cardiology patients for almost 10 years and now works with patients at both Ascension Sacred Heart and Baptist Hospitals. She also sees cardiology patients at the Health and Hope Clinic, providing access to care to the uninsured and the underserved. She explains the need, “so many people during Covid lost their jobs and insurance. With a looming recession some patients have to decide on food or medications. It is truly my honor to provide care.”
“I get calls or emails every week with a new baby being born with a heart defect requiring surgery. These patients and families must travel for the heart surgery to a large center. The nearest being about five hours by car. I am a huge supporter of Ronald McDonald House; my family used it for my son’s first surgery. So please support RMH.” says Sanford. She is the education director of Mended Little Hearts of Pensacola, Facebook.com/MLHoP. This group depends on community financial support to send families a Bravery Bag containing resources and support.
Read the full article: February Bella Magazine :: Pages 26 – 27
Magi Thomley Williams is Founding Principal at Thomley Consulting. She can be reached at Magi@ThomleyConsulting.com