By Keith Yarber


Hello TOPS reader,

If I ever had a year that I am glad is behind me, it was 2018.  Four heart procedures, a diagnosis of sarcoidosis, and a debilitating withdrawal reaction to Prednisone. I missed out on a lot of life, family, friends, and work.  2019 HAS to get better, right?

With that as a starting point, I am reaching out for your help, so read on, hearty reader!

You may know me as the founder of TOP Marketing Group, the company that brought you the magazine you’re holding your hands right now, TOPS in Lexington, our city’s #1 read publication. But what you may not know is that I am a proud – and very lucky – survivor of heart disease.

Growing up in eastern Kentucky as a kid, my eating habits weren’t the best (I reached for far more Moon Pies than salads). Heart disease runs in my family, but I thought if I exercised and stayed in athletic shape, it would be enough. That I could outrun my genes.

I was wrong.

At the age of 44, I volunteered for a cardiac screening. I aced a treadmill stress test and thought I was fine until more extensive test results revealed I needed double bypass surgery. I had 99% blockage in two arteries. My doctor said, “You’re a lucky one who caught it just in time.”

Like most people would, I thanked my lucky stars and went on with my busy life. My wife and I raised two wonderful children and I stayed active. I even started a little business called TOPS out of the original American Heart Association office on Malabu Drive in 2005.

Luck can only take you so far. A decade later, I began having trouble breathing. My employees noticed that I was turning gray. I was garbling some words. After multiple tests, it was discovered that my resting heart rate had dropped to 41 beats per minute – the average healthy resting heart rate is more to the tune of 60 - 70 BPM. I received a pacemaker (which I joked basically made me Ironman). To add to the fun, a few years later, I received a few stents in my heart.

I was back to exercising a lot, doing well and feeling good after that. In that time, my wonderful kids had grown and were ready to enter college. TOPS had evolved into the company you know today. I thought I was out of the woods.

Until two years ago. My breathing once again grew more and more labored. It was a chore just going up a flight of stairs. I was in the process of helping TOPS Louisville get off the ground. While there’s no good time for a small business owner to not feel well, it was a stressful time to feel so ill.

As it turns out, what was originally diagnosed as asthma was instead Sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can affect any major organ. A disease that has no cure and usually affects the lungs, but in my case, also affected my heart.

My treatment is a consistent regiment of steroids, Methotrexate and Remicade, three powerful, potent drugs with awful side effects. One of those side effects? My heart was staying in AFIB, or “out of rhythm”, for most of 2018 in spite of my pacemaker. And for more fun, I experienced weight gain and and had a puffy face – I certainly didn’t need that!

Just in the past few months, I had two procedures called cardioversions, and I received a brand-new pacemaker with a built-in defibrillator. The game changer for me was getting a heart ablation, which kicked my heart back into rhythm. I was finally able to get back to almost normal. Although my breathing is still somewhat labored, I’m now ready to climb some stairs!

Why am I telling you all of this? I am a proud survivor, and I am grateful.

I am also asking for your help, which is the main reason I agreed to share my story and air all of my medical laundry for the world to see!

Many people wonder where the money goes when they support a charity like the American Heart Association.

I’ve been an active volunteer and supporter of this organization in Lexington for many years. Through my work with them, I’ve seen firsthand that so much of what they are given stays right here close to home.

Each year, they fund research that is conducted in Kentucky, helping to make huge medical advances that save lives like mine.

Without medical research and without the efforts of the American Heart Association, I and so many other local community leaders wouldn’t be alive today to tell our stories. We wouldn’t be able to take care of our families, our loved ones or our clients, who we love like family!

2018 was – by far – my worst health year yet. I spent most of the year very ill, missing out on work and life, feeling rock-bottom miserable that I couldn’t fill all the roles in my busy life with 110% focus. But it’s 2019, and I’m thrilled to say that I am alive, well and more than ready to welcome this new year with new energy!

I am so deeply humbled to be the 2019 Honoree of the American Heart Association’s Annual Heart Ball. I’m ready to join you in celebrating LIFE with some of Lexington’s most influential, powerful and inspiring leaders in one room on February 1st.

I invite you to join me at the Heart Ball, and also ask for your kind and generous donation to help fund the research efforts of Kentucky’s #1 Killer of Women and Men.

Trust me: it truly makes a meaningful difference.


Thank you for your support,

Keith Yarber, President & Founder of TOP Marketing Group and a Heart Survivor

You can help support this important mission!

Visit topsinlex.com/heartball to buy tickets to the heart ball or to make a donation to the American Heart Association.