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Sara Beckwith, District of Columbia

Why is advocacy work so important? To Sara Beckwith it is about passion, and because she “truly believes that we have a voice and it is imperative to use our voice to work on programs such as the Healthy Tots Act and the Workplace Wellness Act.” Sara has worked hard with You’re the Cure and the American Heart Association to be an advocate for heart healthy legislation because she has witnessed the benefits firsthand in the community.

Sara is also passionate about food. One of her favorite activities is trying different restaurants in the District with her husband and when she cooks she experiments with different recipes. Food is also an essential part of her career. She first became interested in improving heart health when she worked as a cardiopulmonary rehab dietician in North Carolina. This position allowed her to help patients recuperating from heart surgeries and teach them how to take care of their hearts by eating healthy.

For the last five years, Sara has worked as a dietician teaching low-income families in the District to make healthy choices. It is through these experiences that she has come to see the direct impacts of advocacy work on the health of families. She has worked hard to support the funding for tobacco cessation programs so that families in DC can receive the help that they need.

As a dietician, Sara has been able to council women about their high blood pressure and knows that many people do not understand the consequences of these health problems. These experiences have driven Sara’s passion to advocate for legislation that will impact the health of the community.

What Sara finds as the most satisfying about advocacy work is “being a part of the public policy process and having a voice” and to others out there sitting on the fence about advocating for healthier lives she would say “Never doubt the power of one voice, our personal stories, passion, and conviction have a tremendous impact on policy makers.”

 

Ryan Radermacher North Dakota

The rural Casselton farmer, Ryan Radermacher, was only 45 years old when he experienced a STEMI, the most deadly type of heart attack also known as a widow maker. 

Ryan’s first symptom was heavy sweating followed by not feeling well and shortness of breath, and heat exhaustion.  When his wife, Kim, saw how gray/pale Ryan looked she thought it may be his heart and knew they needed to call 9-1-1.  

Calling 9-1-1 activated a team that worked together in a coordinated effort to quickly connect Ryan with the high-level care needed to open the blocked artery in his heart.

The rapid, well-coordinated response to Ryan’s heart attack exemplifies Mission Lifeline, a collaboration of the American Heart Association to improve response to ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI).

Ryan reflects on the rapid response that saved his life. “It’s pretty amazing,” he says. “From the EKG in my driveway to the stent in the cath lab, it took just 38 minutes. Because of that, I’m here, I’m feeling great and I have no heart damage.

Ryan and Kim willingly share his story to encourage others to know the signs of a heart attack and take action by dialing 9-1-1 at the first sign.  Their hope is more lives will be saved and heart damage prevented as more heart attack patients dial 9-1-1 at the first signs. 

Ryan’s story was recently featured in the Farmer’s Forum. Public Service Announcements (PSA) were filmed at their farm for release later this summer.

Ryan and Kim support the Red River Valley Heart Ball and look forward to enjoying the evening with friends each year.  They have the date saved on their calendars for Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the Holiday Inn, Fargo.  

Libby Char, Hawaii

Despite her extremely busy work schedule as an emergency physician, as the Medical Director for EMS and several of Hawaii’s first responder agencies and the  American Heart Association Hawaii Division Board President Libby Char, M.D. still finds time to support American Heart Association policy efforts to make Hawaii healthier.

She sees the value of using policy change as a way to more quickly and efficiently change public norms that will result in improved public health.  Dr. Char has supported our efforts this year to require all newborns to be screened for congenital heart defects, requiring all high school students to receive CPR training prior to graduation, and development of policy aimed at improving Hawaii’s stroke system of care.

Just one example of the great work Char has done was earlier this year when she, along with other AHA volunteer advocates, met with the Hawaii Dept. of Education assistant superintendent of the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, Leila Hayashida, to propose changes to the high school health class curriculum that would require CPR instruction to be included. Completion of a health class is required for graduation.

AHA volunteers also worked with Hawaii Department of Health representatives to provide funding to the DOE to purchase CPR manikins and training equipment for health classes. AHA CPR trainers also taught the DOE’s health class resource teachers in how to implement simple “hands-only” CPR training, so that they can train the classroom instructors.

The AHA’s “hands-only” CPR can be taught in just one class period. Dr. Char believes that every student should receive that life-saving lesson prior to graduation. In places like Seattle where this type of policy has been mandated survival rates from cardiac arrest have risen to above 60 percent, while in Hawaii survival rates remain below the national average of approximately 30 percent. Imagine if every high school student going forward learned CPR in school how many more people in our communities could be prepared to save a life.