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More than just another pretty face
Conway resident Laine Berry, Mrs. Arkansas International 2005, takes wellness to heart

By Ellen Withers PROMOTIONS CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Laine Berry of Conway is a woman who wears many hats or more accurately, many crowns. She is a businesswoman, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a community activist, a former state pageant winner and currently Mrs. Arkansas International 2005.

When most women first look to competing in a local pageant, they choose a platform. Berry is unlike most women, as her platform chose her.

Berry's mother, Cheryl Hatfield, began to suffer from a feeling of general malaise several years ago. Her symptoms also included migraine headaches and sleeplessness. After several tests on Hatfield produced inconclusive results, her family convinced her primary care physician to order an arteriogram for Hatfield. The arteriogram found more than 90 percent blockage in three of Hatfield's arteries.

Berry's experience with her mother, as a patient in a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the age of 47, profoundly affected her.

"My mother was young, yet had to have triple bypass sur gery," said Berry. "If our family had not pushed so hard for this test, we might have lost her to a sudden heart attack. When something like this occurs, you look to educate yourself and your loved about the disease. I was shocked to discover the statistics related to women and heart disease.

"One out of every two women die of heart disease. Women are 10 times more likely to die of heart-r lated problems than breast cancer and this fact causes women to be stunned, shocked and even angry. Most women know they need to have a mammogram, but they don't know what to do to have a healthy heart. Recently, women's health treatment has made great strides, but the largest threat to our lives still remains our hearts."

Berry's research into heart-related studies found there is a disparity between men and women's symptoms. Early tests didn't include women, so women's symptoms weren't studied.

"The Veterans Administration conducted a large number of these tests and most veterans are male," said Berry with the confidence and knowledge of one who has made this her mission in life. " Women were not included in the majority of these tests until 1993 when the government mandated it be so, so research about women in this are is relatively new."

To take her message about heart health to women, Berry turned to pageants to broadcast her findings. It was then that the Mrs. Arkansas International pageant recruited her. Berry found this pageant very appealing.

"Its focus is on the whole woman. Fifty percent of your score is the interview, where you explain your community involvement. If you win the international competition, your platform becomes the ational platform of the pageant for your entire year as the national titleholder." In the Mrs. Arkansas International 2005 pageant, Berry won in the photogenic and evening gown aspects of the competition, before she received the crown. Her win led her to Chicago, the location of the Mrs. International 2005 competition. Berry was one of the top five finalists out of the American and International competitors. "I'm very proud to have been chosen fourth runner-up in the finals," Berry said. Berry acknowledged that her pageant experience has been delightful. "Bernee Thurow, the Executive Director of Mrs. Arkansas International, is a real go-getter," said Berry. "She is also in charge of the Miss Arkansas International, Miss Teen Arkansas International and Little Miss Arkansas International. She understands the real reason for the commitment and passion of the women contestants."

In turn, Bernee Thurow had many wonderful comments about Berry.

"There are just not enough words to describe her dedication and support for the Mrs. Arkansas International pageant system," said Thurow. "So many lives have been touched by Laine Berry's hard work and her continued education of women [regarding] heart disease. We are proud of her and [her placement] at the Mrs. International pageant in Chicago in July. Laine did a remarkable job as Mrs. Arkansas International with her platform, style and presence. Everyone in Arkansas should be proud of her dedication and hard work."

In 2001, Berry was the state spokesperson for the American Heart Association, which raises a million dollars in central Arkansas. In 2000, Berry organized her own nonprofit corporation, "Taking Wellness To Heart."

Berry's conviction for this organization is obvious to anyone who listens to her passionate edification.

"We alert women about the risks of heart disease and raise money for automatic defibrillators," said Berry. "We buy them for use in high-traffic areas at both private and public facilities in Conway. Recent re-designs of defibrillator technology has transformed them into machines that weigh five pounds, with 'as-you-go' instructions when used in an emergency. They increase a victim's survival as much as 90 percent if available within three minutes of a heart attack. They have the potential to make a tremendous impact on saving lives here in Conway, and around the nation."

The portable machines cost from "$1,600 to $1,900 each," Berry explained. "Most public or private areas in Conway don't have them. My organization is working to correct this deficiency. If there are businesses interested in working with us on this project, we would welcome them with open arms. A business sponsorship would be a wonderful addition to our fundraising.

"The best way for women to avoid cardiovascular problems is to keep your heart active, walk at least 10,000 steps per day and limit your fat intake," Berry said. "It is best to be your own advocate when it comes to medical decisions. Women are intuitive and know their own bodies. Don't accept mediocre treatment for yourself. Fatigue is a primary symptom of early cardiovascular problems. In many cases, no chest pain can be felt." Berry recently was diagnosed with bypass tachycardia and arrhythmia, after years of problems and medical treatment that didn't pinpoint her particular malady. Now she limits her diet to low-fat foods and makes it a priority to stay in great physical shape. "High cholesterol manufacturing runs in my family," said Berry.

Berry co-owns Adworks Concepts and Design of Little Rock with her husband, Kevin. Her parents are Rev. David and Cheryl Hatfield.

"I've had the most phenomenal, supportive parents in the world," said Berry. "I'm proud to have such a wonderful family. My father has been the pastor at Woodland Heights Baptist Church for 17 years. My sister, Leigh Middleton, is a dental assistant and her husband Michael is a videographer. We all love Conway. My parents live two blocks away and my husband's parents live here, too. I wouldn't have it any other way. And I cannot say enough about the support I get from my amazing and loving husband. He is my biggest fan, and I am his. All we do, we do as a team."

For more information about heart health, or to make a defibrillator donation, you can contact Berry online at MrsArkansas2005@yahoo. com or go to the Taking Wellness To Heart website at www.TakingWellnessTo Heart.org.

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