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Kristy Sidlar Michigan

So there I was on the side of the road by myself, lying next to my bicycle. I was fading in and out of consciousness, honestly wondering if these were going to be my last moments. My plans to compete in the triathlon I was training for were far from my mind. What I was thinking was, “Why is this happening? Why today?” It was my 31st birthday.

After about 40 minutes of my heart racing at 280 beats per minute, another cyclist finally rode by and called 911. Paramedics arrived and used an automatic external defibrillator (yep…the shock paddles) to normalize my heartbeat. I was rushed to the hospital where doctors spent 10 days trying to find a diagnosis for my erratic and very fast heat beat. The doctors said, “We can’t fix you, but we can save your life.”

They planned to do a relatively standard procedure called radiofrequency ablation but once they “got in” they realized my heart was riddled with cells that conduct extra impulses, causing rapid heartbeat. The best option available to me at that point wasn’t the ablation; they decided to install an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). It’s a device about the size of a pager that is essentially a set of shock paddles inside my chest. And they prescribed a bunch of meds to get my heart rate under control.

I can hardly believe it’s been almost 15 years since I was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia. At the time I wasn’t really worried about the surgery or the shocks from the ICD. What really tore me up was when the doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to train again. I was a bit of a fitness-crazed young woman, and I couldn’t imagine living without this part of my life.

 I didn’t listen at first. I couldn’t let it go. Finally, after I went flying off a treadmill and into the mirror at the gym when my ICD went off during a running workout, I realized that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Now I walk, workout at a moderate pace on the elliptical and do yoga. My big mindset shift was: “I don’t have to be competitive. I need to do what keeps me healthy.”

 For 13 years now I have been a volunteer and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. These are my two core messages:

 • You don’t have to be old or fat or eat fried food to be at risk for heart disease.

 • Be proactive with your doctors.

Too often people (women in particular) get dismissed by doctors saying that their irregular heartbeats or high blood pressure are stress related or caused by other factors like pregnancy. Maybe they are…but maybe they AREN’T! My experience with this was a six-month-long pursuit for answers after a fainting episode in my late twenties. I was told I was dehydrated. I was told I hadn’t eaten enough, I was told it was the caffeine. Finally, doctors ran the right tests and determined I had a problem with my right ventricle and they treated me accordingly.

Living a heart healthy life can be both easy and hard. It’s taking those first few steps that are the hard part, but healthy habits can become so easy to live by. Please check out the many resources at heart.org to see how you can know your risks, know your numbers and take the right steps to great heart health. And pass this information on to your friends and family. Every little bit of education helps…everyone!

Dr. Ray Castle has volunteered for the American Heart Association for many years.  He has been active with the Heart Walk and within the Advocacy Department.  In 2012, he joined the Louisiana Advocacy Committee.

As a member of the Advocacy Committee, he has worked tirelessly to help the American Heart Association pass policies surrounding AED liability, joint use agreements and ensuring that all schools have AEDs on campus.  He has testified before legislative committees as a subject matter expert and a strong voice for the organization.  He currently is the Athletic Training Program Director and Associate Professor of Professional Practice in the School of Kinesiology in the College of Human Sciences and Education at LSU.  He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and CPR Instructor.

Dr. Castle has an extensive background in education, clinical practice and professional service. His clinical practice background includes experiences at the clinic, high school, college and international levels.  In 2013, he was recognized by the Louisiana Legislature for providing volunteer emergency medical assistance to the victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombing.  Most recently, in September 2014, he was invited to join the LSU Stephenson Disaster Management Institute as one of their Senior Fellows.

 

Dr. Joshua Wynne North Dakota

Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H. has been an advocate for cardiovascular health and wellness for decades. But in addition to helping thousands of patients with heart problems over many years in his role as a clinician, he also practices what he preaches!

As Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of North Dakota and Dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, he has sponsored “Joggin’ with Josh”, an annual walk, jog, or run involving the UND and Grand Forks community. He has served as the 2010 Heart Walk Chair in Grand Forks, N.D. And he has ensured that the new medical school building that will be completed in 2016 is designed to encourage walking.

A New York native, Dr. Wynne’s medical education was in Boston. He has functioned as an academic cardiologist throughout his career, first at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, then at Wayne State University, and most recently at UND. He is a longtime American Heart Association volunteer with leadership roles in Michigan, North Dakota, and the Midwest Affiliate, where he was a long-standing board member.

As a member of the Health North Dakota Strategic Visioning Committee, Dr. Wynne helped identify improved hypertension identification and treatment as an important public health initiative to reduce the rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke in North Dakota, since optimal blood pressure control remains elusive for many patients.

Heart disease treatment is a personal matter for Dr. Wynne; he is married to fellow cardiologist Dr. Susan Farkas, who is director of the Echocardiography Laboratory at Sanford Heath in Fargo and Governor of the American College of Cardiology for North Dakota.