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Congressman Andy Barr working to fight heart disease in honor of his late wife

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 3:35 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Many of us in central Kentucky would often see Carol Barr standing beside her husband Congressman Andy Barr, but the wife and mother was so much more.

Her sudden death last June from a heart condition has left a huge void for many.

WKYT’s Amber Philpott sat down with Congressman Barr to talk about how he is turning to action and joining with some of his wife’s closest friends to honor his wife’s legacy and save lives.

“Doctors told us her heart gave out, but really she had such a huge amazing heart, she was a loving person, she was a selfless person and that’s what a heart symbolizes is selflessness,” said Rep. Andy Barr. In June of 2020 Congressman Andy Barr lost his best friend, his wife Carol.

“She was the best mother and wife, friend and daughter that anyone could possibly have. She was a go-getter,” said Rep. Andy Barr.

Carol Barr, who many saw supporting her husband through his many campaigns, was someone who he says lived a life of impact and purpose.

Those who knew her closest all use the same word to describe her-- intentional. “She made all of us feel very special,” said Jenny Carman.

“If you were in contact with her in a conversation you were the only person in the room and I think we’ve noticed that more now in her absence probably than we appreciated while she was here,” said Jennifer Harris.

Healthy and active, Carol Barr, like a lot of Kentuckians, had an underlying health condition.

She was diagnosed in the seventh grade with mitral valve prolapse or MVP, it’s an abnormal movement of the valve into the wrong heart chamber. “We did not appreciate that this was a life-threatening situation,” said Barr. MVP is a typically benign condition that results in sudden cardiac death in only .2% of people.

25,000 Americans lose their lives to valvular heart disease each year, most young women. “The difficulty that we have in cardiology right now is that we don’t know what risk factors make a valvular heart disease that life-threatening condition versus something that is not particularly serious,” said Barr. Still reeling from that sudden loss, Congressman Barr is now turning his grief into action for his wife. “We want to turn this tragedy into something positive,” said Barr. Just this week Barr introduced new legislation in the CAROL Act, Cardiovascular Advances in Research and Opportunities Legacy.

Barr says the bill aims to direct $100 million over five years to spur more research into valvular heart disease. “We believe that with earlier detection and with preventative care and with interventions and a treatment program that many of these individuals like Carol can live long healthy lives,” said Barr. But Barr isn’t alone in his efforts to keep his wife’s legacy alive.

He turned to those closest to her for even more help, her inner circle of lifelong friends. “I think it’s helped us have a way to channel our grief into doing something because we have a bigger platform to share her story,” said Ty McBrayer. Carol’s group of friends shared a lifetime of memories with her, but now in her absence, they are an even tighter group.

Each says it’s an honor to be asked by Congressman Barr to help with the Carol Barr Fund and support the American Heart Association. It will focus on research and fund STEM programs for young girls in Kentucky.

Several women-owned businesses in Lexington have joined in to donate as well.

“Our goal is really to help advance heart research and find a cure for heart disease and if just one family can save their wife and momma from the experience the Barr’s have gone through than it’s worth it,” said Nancy Boatman.

So what would their friend think of her friend’s efforts? “Oh I think she would be proud of us and very pleased to know that we are doing what we can to raise awareness for other women, “said Jenny Carman.

No one can fill the void that Carol Barr left behind, but those who miss her dearly will spend every day fighting heart disease in her name and making sure others know just how big her heart really was. “She gave all of her heart in just 39 years and that’s a tragedy in one way, but it’s also one heck of a legacy,” said Barr.

Carol Barr will be honored at this year’s Go Red for Women event, being held virtually this year on April 23 noon-1:00.

Congressman Barr will speak at the event.

For more on the Carol Barr fund and how you can help click on the link or see the flyers below.

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