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Michelle Allen Rockford, IL

Ten years ago I lost my 37 year old husband to heart disease (at the time, our children were ages 1 and 3). Five years prior to that, I lost my father to heart disease. These losses compelled me to do all that I can to become involved in raising awareness about heart disease, ultimately leading me to return to school to receive my Bachelor of Nursing degree, seeking to inform and educate my patients and families about heart disease risks and preventative measures. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and it is my hope that I can utilize my education along with my life experiences to educate and advocate for those affected by this disease.

Sophia Foster Kansas

Cassandra is thankful for a simple screening test for newborns, not yet required in Kansas, as it saved her baby’s life.  That screening, called a pulse oximetry test, found the oxygen level in her first child, Sophia, to be dangerously low. It was the first step to discovering that Sophia had numerous critical heart defects that would put her in surgery.

20 weeks into Cassandras pregnancy, her daughter was identified as having heart issues.  After several tests, nobody could give them a clear answer.  Once Sophia was born, she was given a pulse oximetry test which identified her oxygen saturation level at 70%.  They quickly followed up with a heart echocardiogram test and found she was suffering from several critical heart defects.

If they did not perform a pulse ox test on Sophia, she could have died.  The pulse ox test assists in identifying CHDs that can easily be missed as some of them may not show up until days or weeks later when surgery is less effective and the damage may be irreparable.
 
In October of 2013, Sophia had surgery to repair her heart.  She is 13 months old now and healthy.  Cassandra wants to see to it that every newborn in Kansas gets the same test Sophia received.  She continues to assist and support the work the American Heart Association is doing in their fight to get every newborn screened.

 

Linda Dickson Missouri

As we travel down the road of life, we can choose the paths we would like to take but sometimes a path is chosen for us.  This path can look very scary at first but then you realize it has made your life even more meaningful.  The events on March 22, 2007 chose a path that I would have never chosen for myself but now 7 years later, I make it a way of life!!!
  
It started with a headache that just kept getting worse.  I had it through the day and I remember telling everyone I just wanted to lay down.  Luckily, I didn’t give up on my “important” meeting.  I arrived a little early so I could get my daughters who were 8 and 6 years old settled before the meeting started. I remember getting my 6 year old a piece of paper and that is it……..

I was told I passed out at the table!  Luckily, Dana, an ER nurse and Diane, also a nurse, were there at the meeting.  They noticed me and both knew I needed help!  The kids were rushed out.  Dana and Diane started CPR.  911 was called.  Dana and Diane continued CPR for about 8 to 9 minutes.   When EMS arrived, they tried to defibrillate me once and nothing happened.  They tried a second time and my heart started but I still was not breathing for myself.  It was estimated that I was without a heart beat for about 10 minutes.

 When I arrived at the ER, they worked to get me breathing again.  Once I was stabilized, I was transported to another hospital.  I was in a coma for about 24 hours and it was determined that I had myocarditis, an inflammation of your heart muscle.  It was likely caused by a virus.  My husband and family were told by the doctors that they couldn’t give them any idea of what was going to happen.  They just had to give me time. 

Once I woke up, I was having trouble with my short term memory not fun for my family.  Every time I woke up, I asked the SAME question over and over.  It was determined after much testing of my heart, that I needed an ICD, an implantable cardiac defibrillator.  Four days after my sudden cardiac arrest, I was taken to have my ICD implanted on the left side of my chest.  With this new addition to me, life was going to change a bit.  I have to watch magnets, metal detectors, and those anti-theft devices in entrances to stores, just to name a few things. 
Just five days after my sudden cardiac arrest, I was discharged from the hospital to start my new life!!!  The physical scars healed.  My heart functions came back to normal.  After 6 weeks, I could raise my left arm above my shoulder and I could finally drive again!!!  But emotionally, I was still struggling and even sometime still struggle with what happened!
 
I have found that my work with the American Heart Association, GO Red, and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association has made everything make more sense.  I have a new journey in life and I love it!  My family has embraced the path with me and we all find it so fulfilling!  With your support, we can change the 7% sudden cardiac arrest survival rate, and you can read about more wonderful stories like mine…..

Ardon Brandt Iowa

I was a first-time mom-to-be.  I was 11 days overdue.  I was impatient.  I wanted to meet my baby.

After 34 hours of labor my nurse came racing into my room. She was moving the baby monitor around and getting agitated; she could not find my baby’s heartbeat. The OB was called in and I was being prepped for an emergency c-section. When Ardon arrived, he was rushed out of the room. No one would tell me what was wrong. Once I was moved out of OR and into my room, a team of doctors came in to give us the news. We were told that they used “every resource they had” just to stabilize him. Ardon was facing a constant threat of cardiac and respiratory arrest and if he took even half a step back, they did not think they could save him. Ardon could not encounter any stimulation – not sight, not sound, not touch.  Stimulation could elevate his heart rate and send him into immediate cardiac arrest.  So, the question was – do they risk keeping him and hoping he stays stable or do they risk a helicopter flight to get him to a higher-level and more experienced hospital?  It was decided to call in the flight-for-life and transfer him immediately.

When a nurse asked me what she could do for me, I answered, “Please just take care of my baby.” Unknown to me at the time, it was then that my mother decided to take care of her baby. She pulled my doctor into the hallway and told her, “If want to do something for that mother, you will get her in to see her baby because she may never see him alive!”  The nursery was cleared out and my bed was rolled in so I could see my son before the helicopter arrived.

Two hours later Ardon was ready for lift-off. The EMT that would travel with Ardon came into my room.  When asked what to expect she responded, “Judging from his condition, if he survives the helicopter trip he will be in NICU for 3 to 6 months”.  My world collapsed in on itself; terror ripped through me like I had never felt before.  I heard the “IF”.  I might lose my baby.

I was transported by ambulance to join Ardon.  He handled the flight well and I was able to visit him in NICU the next morning. Whenever I visited, I would stand behind him so that he would not see my cry.  I wanted him to see a mom that was strong, not scared. One of his nurses asked me why I didn’t talk to him. I did not think I could without risking sending him into arrest.  She explained to me that low, quiet sounds were safe and that he needed to know I was there for him. I leaned over and whispered, “Hello, Sunshine…”  He opened his eyes and he tried to find me! What a moment that was!  We were then taught how to carefully place our hand on his head while watching his vital signs and, should he “crash”, how to remove our hand in a way so as to minimize stimulation. When Ardon was one week old I was able to hold him for the first time. It was absolutely amazing!  When Ardon was 3 weeks old we were able to bring him home.

During my follow-up appointment I learned what happened the day he was born.  There was a blood clot in the umbilical cord that cut him off from his oxygen supply and sent him into distress.  So many things went wrong when he was born but the vitally important things went right.  Without the research and professional training and education provided by the American Heart Association, Ardon would not have lived more than a few minutes.

Ardon is now a strong, healthy 17-year old and will forever be My Sunshine.

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