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Volunteerism provides me with a deeper connection to my community. The American Heart Association holds a special connection for me. My father died at home of a heart attack at the age of 47. I was 14. While this influenced many areas of my life, it most certainly affected my choice of profession. My first role out of nursing school was on a pediatric unit which provided cardiac care.  The AHA has promoted many advances in cardiac care that have delivered real and significant positive impacts to many families.

I have had the pleasure of being involved on a national level with The AHA Teaching Garden program. This program partners sponsors with schools to create gardens and provide curriculum on healthy eating for both students and their families. The opportunity to build the garden, plant and harvest with the students have been some of the most rewarding activities I have ever been involved in. To see children truly excited about fruits and vegetables is amazing!

I have been on the board of the Connecticut chapter for a few years and have taken on the role of chair this year. A benefit of volunteering is the opportunity to collaborate with the accomplished and talented members of the CT AHA Board and the staff of AHA. I  am excited to advance the great work already underway including increasing the number of Connecticut towns that are designated Heart Safe and continuing to educate on the benefits of CPR in schools and workplaces.  

Peter Evans, Christina Cahill and Lana Khuong know there is more than one way to save a life. They’ve organized CPR trainings, worked on tobacco cessation counseling protocols, coordinated cardiovascular research and fundraisers, and helped create healthy living lessons for adolescents.

They’re studying to become physicians at the University of Vermont’s Medical School, but they know that passing policy can also save lives. Lana said she was eager to become a part of a movement in which the government and civilians join to promote the well-being for all. So, all three have joined the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee.  

And we’re glad they did. Just recently, they talked about the dangers of sugary drinks and urged volunteers at the Vermont Heart Walk to sign petitions to Vermont legislators to pass legislation improving the availability and pricing of healthy food. They had a great time doing it and are eager to help us spread the word. Go team advocacy!

Michelle Meier knew she needed to make some changes.  She had battled obesity for several years, which led to other medical issues and depression.  She took medication to control high blood pressure and had to use an inhaler.  Michelle was in her late 20’s and recognized she was headed along a dangerous pathway. 

Michelle made the decision to change her life.  Together with her physician, they made the decision to try gastic bypass.  Michelle had done her research and knew that the only way this procedure would work is if she also made a commitment to permanently changing her lifestyle habits.  She learned that exercise and diet were important components to long term weight management success.

Before she could have the surgery, her doctor told her she needed to lose 10 pounds. Michelle cut greasy, processed foods and soda pop from her diet and she started exercising. It took 4 weeks, but she lost the 10 pounds.  She already noticed a difference in how she felt – both physical and mentally.  Michelle was ready to start her new journey in life. 

Her surgery was successful and Michelle knew it was now up to her to meet her goal.  She worked closely with her physician and kept her routine checkups.  Every month she lost weight; she was eating right and exercising.  Michelle’s life changed in other ways throughout this journey, but she was determined to meet her weight loss goal in spite of these challenges. 

One year post-surgery, Michelle met her goal.  She went from 300 pounds to a healthy and trim 150 pounds – and was no longer taking medications for high blood pressure. 

Four years later, Michelle has maintained her weight at 135 pounds and continues to not need medication for high blood pressure. 

Michelle shares her inspiring story to encourage others to be bold and make changes in your life.  The key to her success was motivation, inspiration, and support. 

“It will be hard work and it will not be a fast fix.  Keep working on it and you can accomplish anything,” said Michelle.