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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!

Malenda McCalister Kentucky

On September 18th, more than 300 advocates from over 100 organizations gathered on Capitol Hill to rally in support of ongoing funding for medical research, and You're the Cure advocate and heart disease survivor, Malenda McCalister, was excited to be among them.

In October 2008, at just 30-years-old, Malenda's life changed forever as she collapsed on the living room floor after giving birth to her son just 10 days earlier. She was rushed to the hospital cath lab where they  discovered she had suffered from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). She had a triple bypass and two stents placed, followed by 2 pacemaker/defibrillator surgeries and a lead revision surgery.

Today, Malenda (at right with singer/actress and congenital heart defect survivor, Laura Bell Bundy) is doing well, raising her two children alongside her husband, Jack, and speaking out wherever she can to raise awareness of SCAD and the need to listen to your body when you know something doesn't feel quite right. She was happy to share her story with her lawmakers on Capitol Hill to illustrate the need to adequately fund the type of research that ultimately saved her life.

Thank you Malenda, for taking time away from your family to share your story with lawmakers on Capitol Hill!

It was the hottest day of the summer—July 27, 2013. Scott had just finished up a few days of golf at Sugarloaf and was playing in a double-header softball game in Saco. Scott looped a single. The next batter hit the ball hard and Scott headed for home. After scoring, he said he did not feel well and went behind the dugout. Then, the 27 year old went down. 9-1-1 was called but since Scott had a pulse and was convulsing, his teammates thought he was having a seizure so no one administered CPR. Luckily for Scott, EMTs arrived in 5 minutes, recognized a sudden cardiac arrest and immediately began CPR and used their AED. They worked on him for 45 minutes in the field—shocked him 19 times and finally got enough of a pulse to get him to the local hospital. The local hospital was able to stabilize him and he was transported to Maine Medical Center where he was put into a coma to protect brain function. After a few failed attempts, they were able to bring him out of a coma after a few days and implant an

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). It took longer for his short term memory to return, but after a few days he could go home. Due to the memory loss and his healing body, Scott, who worked for Hannaford, was out of work for 3 months.

Twelve years earlier, Scott was a typical, athletic high school student. One day, during hockey practice, he had palpitations. He said something to his mom and she took him to his doctor, Dr. Linda Sanborn. The next day he wore a monitor during practice. The palpitations happened again and he was told "no more hockey". After further tests, it was determined that he had ventricular tachycardia. It was recommended that he get an ICD or limit his physical activity. Scott was worried about the ICD going off accidentally (he was told it would feel like a horse kicking him in the chest), so he opted to limit his physical activity. He could still play baseball, but could not do the full work outs. Hockey was not an option. Scott could also continue playing golf—something he continues to this day.

Scott’s ICD has gone off once, and yes it did feel like a horse kicking him in the chest, but it most likely saved his life. Luckily, this time, he listened to a co-worker, friend and fellow survivor and opted for the implant. Through all of his trials, Scott has found a new purpose—sharing his story in order to save lives. Scott has told his story at countless venues around the state for the American Heart Association—and is helping push for legislation that would require all Maine high school students learn CPR. He even went to Las Vegas to speak on behalf of the company who made his AED.

So, if you meet Scott on one of Maine’s many beautiful golf courses, or as he drives around the state for his new beer and wine distributing venture, please say hello and thank him for all he does for the American Heart Association.

Jennifer & Joel Griffin, Virginia

On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin, a 7th grader at A. G. Wright Middle School, collapsed in cardiac arrest.  Several critical minutes passed before her father, Joel, reached her. CPR had not been initiated. “There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to,” said Joel. Gwyneth’s mother, Jennifer, stated “It was after the results of the MRI, 3 weeks later, that we decided no one should ever have to go through what we were going through. What became evident was the need for CPR training in schools."

While the couple immersed themselves in caring for Gwyneth at the hospital, friends and family were busy back home in Stafford learning CPR. Joel and Jennifer’s daughter, Gwyneth, passed away Monday, July 30, 2012, not from her cardiac arrest, but because CPR was not initiated within the first few minutes. Their home community mobilized, and the Griffins report that by the end of the summer of 2012 nearly 500 people had become certified in CPR.

Jennifer and Joel involved themselves in working with the American Heart Association and their legislators to establish legislation that would assure every student was trained in CPR before graduation.  Through their efforts and perseverance, and in honor of their daughter, Gwyneth’s Law was passed in Virginia in the 2013 General Assembly session.  The law has three components: teacher training in CPR, AED availability in schools, and CPR training as a graduation requirement.

Here’s a look at how the Griffin's determination led to success:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Since passage of the Virginia law, the Griffins have continued to work to help other states accomplish the same goal.  They visited Maryland legislators during the 2014 General Assembly session, and were instrumental in getting a similar law passed there.  They hope their story will help inspire others to support CPR training in schools as well. 

The legacy that Gwyneth leaves behind is one that will save countless lives. Help honor her legacy. This quick video will help you become CPR smart (and might get you dancing too):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGpp6mStfY

 

Gwyneth Griffin

 

Special thanks to You’re the Cure advocate/writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for help crafting this story.

 

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