Golf tournament raises funds, awareness for heart health

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July 19 was a bittersweet day for members of Benjamin Bradford’s family.

It marked almost six years to the day since the Katy resident died as the result of an aortic dissection.

Family, friends and those who wanted to support the cause gathered at Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club to raise money at the second annual Remembrin’ Benjamin golf tournament.

“Remembrin’ Benjamin supports and promotes the continued genetic research and education of the medical community and the public that they serve about aortic and vascular disease and related medical conditions,” states the website built in Ben’s honor after the 24-year-old passed away on July 20, 2012. “We want to reduce the impact of genetic factors on sudden and early death through research and broader education of communities at risk.”

Last year the tournament brought in $40,000.

Ben’s cousin, 30-year-old Chanel Quinn, said she and Ben were “super close,” not only in age as they were born just three months apart, but as friends. They were college roommates and vacationed together with their common group of friends.

“He was easygoing,” Quinn said. “He could get along with anybody.”

The family spent the day on the golf course in the scorching heat to remember Benjamin, who loved to golf.

“It’s to build awareness and educate,” Quinn said of the reason why the family gathered at the golf course. “It happens so suddenly but he was sick for six months. Doctors were checking for ulcers.”

Ben, simply put, was misdiagnosed because not many people really know much about aortic health. It’s the same thing that took the lives of actors John Ritter and Alan Thicke, but in news stories it’s usually chalked up to a heart attack. And it can’t be treated if you don’t know what it is, family members say.

Another of Ben’s cousins, Heather Gage, said she reached out to a survivor of aortic dissection and met with the woman to learn more about it. The woman, Carmen David, joined the family at the golf tournament last week. David was pregnant at the time of her health scare and learned later that’s a high risk factor.

“The same thing happened to me three years ago,” David said. “Most people haven’t heard of this until it happens to their family or friends.”

David’s issue was identified by a radiologist during a CT scan.

“It took a while to figure out what was going on,” she said. “Awareness is critical. You’ve got to push and ask the right questions so doctors can get you the care you need.”

During her third hospital referral, David knew something was “very wrong.”

“You knew something was wrong and you wouldn’t let up,” Gage added.

Gage also noted that even though Benjamin has been gone for a while, he still has a very strong presence in the lives of those who loved him. When Gage and her now-husband Jesse were dating, they went out for a beer so Ben could meet her new boyfriend.

Shortly after Ben’s death, the couple was carrying a six-pack of beer up the stairs to their apartment and one bottle fell out. They smiled at one another and felt certain that Ben was there with them.

The loss of Benjamin has already saved lives, said his father, Bruce Bradford. After Ben’s death the entire family was tested for a genetic mutation that leads to aortic dissection. Ben’s brothers Robby and Austin didn’t have it; his mother Carol didn’t have it; his father did.

“In 2012 at the age of 24, my baby boy Benjamin lost his life and saved mine,” Bruce Bradford said. “These are words no father should have to even imagine. This is the truth our family has to face every day for the rest of our lives. Remembrin’ Benjamin Inc. was formed to try and ensure that no other family will have to endure the kind of unspeakable loss that wounded our family.”

For more information, visit remben.org.

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