Annual Hearts of Hope ceremony shines light on advances in cardiovascular research

Annual Hearts of Hope ceremony shines light on advances in cardiovascular research

February is American Heart Month. In observance, St. Mary Medical Center is inviting the public to view the annual Hearts of Hope celebration and tree lighting ceremony virtually. The special event helps shine a light on advances in cardiovascular research across Community Healthcare System. Previously recorded, the link will be available Feb. 11 for participants to view online.

Led by St. Mary Medical Center CEO Janice Ryba, the pre-recorded ceremony will feature remarks from interventional cardiologist Anas Safadi, MD, affiliated with the Community Care Network. Cardiovascular patient, Marlene Gikas, a retired Merrillville elementary school teacher, will give a personal account of her experience explaining that her treatment dramatically improved her health and quality of life.

Gikas’ account is an emotional one, which she described as life-changing.

Before Gikas was treated by Safadi, she had undergone numerous procedures outside of Indiana for swelling and pain in her legs. She was short of breath, fatigued and struggling with pain so excruciating it was difficult for Gikas to walk, stand, sit or sleep. Her condition was readily diagnosed and she underwent prompt treatment.

The minimally invasive procedure, known as deep venous intervention, to help improve blood flow to Gikas’ lower extremities, led to rapid, significant relief of her leg symptoms.

“I had so much discomfort before that, and I didn’t know how to pinpoint it,” Gikas said. “Once the pieces of the puzzle were put together, it changed my life.”

Safadi said we now have treatment for deep venous syndromes that weren’t available before. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved several venous specific stents that have led to safe, effective and accurate treatment of venous blockages.

This technology and treatment is among many cardiovascular and endovascular procedures available by Community Healthcare System as a result of important cardiovascular clinical trials and research for advanced treatment in Northwest Indiana, close to patients’ homes.

“Amazing, life-changing moments for patients like Marlene happen here day-by-day,” Safadi said. “This is due to the proactive work of Community Healthcare System cardiologists, interventional cardiologists and the Cardiovascular Research team.”

Now in its 16th year, funding from the annual Hearts of Hope campaign helps improve local access to treatment options only available through research. Each crimson light placed on a beautifully decorated, 12-foot tree in the West Patient Tower Lobby is lit during the event in honor or in memory of someone who fills our hearts with love and joy. The lights also represent donations to fund vitally-needed clinical trials that advance the quality of healthcare available to our communities.

For a $15 donation, the honoree is sent a Hearts of Hope lapel pin. For a $5 donation, a light shines for a special person in ones’ life.

Music by Hobart High School choir, Wolffgang, will be part of the virtual event. The choir, directed by Dean Wolff, selected the song, “Back Home Again in Indiana,” as their way to convey the message of hope and healing for residents of Northwest Indiana. Wolffgang members include Olivia Aichner, McKenna Beck, Aubrey Good, Meghan Horn, Kaylie Johnson, Amelia Marshall, Madeline Olson, Adriana Serrano and Kayla Walker, all of Hobart High School.

The public is invited to make a donation and participate in the event. Visit for an honoree and donation form. Donors and honorees will be among the first to access an online link to the pre-recorded Hearts of Hope program benefiting Cardiovascular Research on or after Feb. 11. Donors submitting names of honorees before Feb. 4 will be listed in the program, as part of an event planned for the safety and health of residents and patients in mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on the event, call 219-947-6041.

To learn more about cardiovascular research at St. Mary Medical Center and the hospitals of Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center in Crown Point, visit