From the Heart: Mary Elizabeth Thornton

by Courtney Chaffin in Impact

February is American Heart Month, a time to pay special attention to understanding, preventing and raising awareness about heart disease. 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. Alpha Phi Foundation cares deeply about this cause, and has supported women’s heart health research and education since 1946. For many, joining the fight to raise awareness and funds to combat heart disease is deeply personal. Mary Elizabeth Thornton, much like numerous other sisters, has a personal tie to this cause.

“I have been directly impacted by a heart condition, so the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for women’s heart health through Alpha Phi Foundation feels very personal to me”
– Mary Elizabeth Thornton (Gamma Xi – Wichita)

Mary Elizabeth’s heart health story began in the Spring of 2022 when she fainted for the first time during class. At the time, she attributed it to the bustle of her everyday life, which included a full course load, 4 jobs, multiple positions in student organizations, and just overall stress. Over the next few months, Mary Elizabeth went through extensive lab testing and doctor visits, and was eventually diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). POTS is a heart condition that causes your heart to beat faster than normal when you change elevations (i.e. sitting to standing, lying to standing, etc.). Although there is no known cure for POTS, the condition can be managed in most patients by making heart-healthy lifestyle changes. Following Mary Elizabeth’s diagnosis, she started taking heart medication to help regulate her blood volume. She also makes an effort to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and share her story with others.

“To me, heart health means living a healthy lifestyle so that I can be here for my family, my sisters, and myself. I encourage a heart-healthy lifestyle because you never know when it’ll impact you or someone you love”
 – Mary Elizabeth Thornton (Gamma Xi – Wichita)

When asked about her favorite Alpha Phi memories, Mary Elizabeth looks back fondly at the opportunity she had to initiate her mother as an alumna this past year. This moment was especially meaningful to her because her mother has been impacted by heart disease in addition to supporting Mary Elizabeth through her own heart condition.

Mary Elizabeth also feels fortunate to have been trained, supported, and empowered by a variety of leadership opportunities sponsored by Alpha Phi Foundation.

“Seeing just how much the Foundation has raised feels so impactful and encouraging for my journey through Alpha Phi as well as through my medical process.” –Mary Elizabeth Thornton (Gamma Xi – Wichita)

Through leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, spreading awareness by educating others, and supporting Alpha Phi Foundation, Mary Elizabeth truly lives out what it means to lead with heart. We are grateful to have sisters like Mary who are paving the way for the next generation of Alpha Phi leaders and philanthropists. Thank you!

Women’s Heart Health Program

Through the generosity of donors, Alpha Phi Foundation has granted over $1.58 million in critical cardiac research and education programs. Through our Women’s Heart Health Program, you advance the lives of your sisters and women everywhere. Interested in investing in Alpha Phi Foundation’s Women’s Heart Health Program? Consider making a donation today!

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