POSTED ON JULY 4, 2012:
Straight From the Heart
Ashley Patty's health advocacy is reinforced by experience
After a busy day with her family, Ashley Patty decided she wanted to take a run. She headed out to the local fitness center and started to pace herself at the treadmill. All was fine; it was another day, another workout and another breath -- until suddenly everything changed.
Growing up, Patty went from having the bottom of her shoes stained red to receiving a diploma dripping of burnt orange. After graduating from Manford High School, her family relocated to Texas, where she earned her degree out of the blue-bonnet and rose covered town of Tyler. Four years ago she planted herself in Tulsa when she married the love of her life. But no matter how old she was or where she was, Patty was always followed by her music.
"I began singing country music at the age of seven," Patty said. "Through middle school I spent weekends singing at opry's all over Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. I recorded my first country album when I was 14, and at the age of 17 I was going back and forth to Nashville to finish recording a second album." Music has always been a big part of Ashley's life, and that fateful day only encouraged her.
When Ashley was 21, she experienced sudden cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest is "the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease." Patty was young, healthy and saw no red flags, so this experience came as a complete shock.
"I had never experienced issues with my heart prior to that evening," Patty said. "Tests proved that my heart was in healthy condition but because there wasn't much of an explanation for what had happened, the doctor suggested that I have an Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator, or ICD." This unique device is tiny but powerful. They are small enough to be implanted in the shoulder, and their battery power uses electricity to keep the heart from entering irregular rhythms or from entering cardiac arrest. When the device senses that something is wrong, it will shock the heart muscle to keep it pacing correctly. These shocks can be painful, but thankfully, Patty has yet to experience one.
"I have never experienced a shock from my ICD, and today I'm still running on treadmills and my heart is in healthy condition," Patty said. This dramatic experience had a profound effect. "That experience forever changed my life physically and spiritually," Patty said. I know God has given me a second chance at life to share this story with others." Since then, Patty's music career has skyrocketed.
"I decided to slow down with music when I was 20 so that I could focus on my 'college life,'" she said. "During this few year break, my life completely changed. I survived sudden cardiac arrest, got engaged, graduated college, became an aunt, moved back to Oklahoma, and got married." Little did she know that soon enough, she would be part of a new extremely talented and highly successful band by the name of November Lily.
Founded by Patty and her new-found friend Matt Williams, November Lily was named as a combination of Willams' birth month and Patty's favorite flower. The pair met after Patty found a listing under the talent section on Craig's List, and the two clicked instantly. The duo originally paired up with Williams' current project, the Christian group Joshua's Crossing, yet something just didn't sound right.
"After four weeks with Joshua's Crossing, [Matt's] wife, Tara Williams, kept telling us that our harmonies sounded a lot like what you hear on country radio today," Patty said. "Although I was reluctant at first to get back into pursuing that dream, I just knew it was different this time. We parted ways with the band and started our new project the next day." Since then the band has seen success, performing shows in Oklahoma and Texas, which only furthered their progress.
"During a show we did in Mesquite, TX, we met an extremely talented singer/song writer named Jill Welch," Patty said. "A few months after the show, she came to Tulsa to write some songs with us. In a total of five days, we wrote seven songs with her. We recorded these songs in Nashville a few months ago with producer Jim Kimball."
The duo also prospered when they attended the 2012 Country Music Awards in Nashville. Patty also included music in an event that was very personal to her this year, when November Lily performed a beautiful duet at the Go Red for Women Luncheon, the American Heart Association's gathering to educate and encourage women. Before going live, Patty delivered her amazing testimony to those in attendance. Patty explained that this calling also had an interesting way of revealing itself to her.
"A little over a year ago," Patty said at the luncheon, "I was working at Bridal Palace in Tulsa when Sharon Reed came into the store. She wanted a one-shoulder dress to cover up a scar she had. I just happened to be the sales associate who helped her. When she told me that she wanted to cover the scar she had from having an ICD, I immediately knew she came into that shop for a reason.
"I shared my story with Sharon and we decided that day that we were 'scar sisters.' She was already part of the Go Red for Women campaign and was who connected me with their director. A few months later, I was sharing my story at the Women's Expo." Patty had amazing courage to turn what some may see as a tragedy, into a life-changing experience.
"The whole experience has made me appreciate this life and understand that I am still here for a reason," she said. "The biggest challenge I have overcome would be learning to accept the fact that in order to inspire others and show them what God has done in my life, I will have to be an open book."
The group's manager, Jill Welch, has also recognized Ashley's strength. "I believe that for the rest of Ashley's life, she will sing from a very different place after that experience. Facing mortality at the level she did ... changes a person's perspective forever." Along with November Lily, Ashley will continue to share her story and sing her heart out.
Patty concluded that, "if only one person walks away feeling an impact, then the mission is accomplished."
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