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2 Days Left and So Much to Do!

With only two days left before the legislators break for the summer we need a last push to get some critical legislations to help our kids passed. The House still needs to take action on legislation that would require all coaches to know CPR, restricting the sale and use of E-Cigarettes, and requiring healthy vending in State Buildings and the Senate has a chance to pass legislation that would provide quality physical education in our schools. We also have a chance to get some language in around setting up a stroke system of care and we are waiting for final approval on fresh food financing.

Your legislators are hearing from all advocates in these last few days, it is crucial that your voices is being heard too so if you have not already taken action please do so today! Send an email or call your legislators today and let them know that these issues are important to you! I  appreciate your help and your continued advocacy we only have a few days to pass some important legislative priorities, and I hope to be passing along some good news on Friday!



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Advocate Testifies about the Personal Toll of Chronic Diseases

You're the Cure advocate Stephanie Dempsey of Blairsville, Georgia, testified Tuesday in Washington about the impact of chronic disease.

The hearing was to begin a conversation on chronic care, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Oregon.

Dempsey, age 44, said she has suffered from multiple chronic conditions for most of her life.  She has coronary artery disease, lupus, a seizure disorder and arthritis. She told the committee that her chronic conditions have led to a loss of independence, financial security and family.

“I have always considered myself a middle class American. I had a well-paying job. I owned my own home and was happily married,” Dempsey said.  “Unfortunately, this is not the case today.”

Dempsey was diagnosed with hereditary coronary artery disease at age 21, which has affected all the women in her family. Her only sister died from it at 28.  At age 48, her mother had quadruple bypass surgery.  Dempsey herself had quadruple bypass surgery at 30 and since then has had another bypass surgery and received 27 stents.

She takes 19 medications a day, in addition to doctor-recommended supplements.

Due to her debilitating conditions, she lost her job and her home.  Fighting tears, Dempsey said that the strain caused by her chronic health conditions also ruined her marriage and that she had no choice but to move in with her parents, who take care of her. Her specialists are more than two hours away and due to her seizure disorder, she is unable to drive and her parents must take her to appointments.

The lack of coordination between her specialists caused one to prescribe a medication for lupus that can cause seizures.  He did not remember that she had a seizure disorder.  It took several days and “much persistence” to adjust her treatment.

Dempsey said she’s her own healthcare coordinator.  “Although I consider myself an educated person, navigating this maze is very difficult and very exhausting. But it is my life at stake, so I have no choice except to remain engaged,” she said.

It took two years, but she is now covered by Medicare. Yet, she said she still struggles to pay her medical bills.

Despite her struggles, Dempsey said she felt fortunate to be at the hearing to present her testimony.

“I am confident that you will not forget me and countless other people when you develop policies that will help all of us,” Dempsey said. “Our goals are all the same – to live long, healthy and productive lives.”

Sen. Wyden said at the end of the hearing that it was overwhelming to hear Dempsey’s story.

“My own judgment is that chronic disease has really gotten short shrift in the big debates. I don’t think it happened deliberately,” said Wyden. “What you heard today from Senators again on both sides of the aisle is that those days are over — when chronic diseases get short shrift.”

For more information:

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Pulse Ox Screening for Newborns: RI Department of Health Releases Proposed Regulation

Earlier this year, the American Heart Association, little heart heroes in red superhero capes, and families from Mended Little Hearts met with Governor Chafee to discuss the importance of screening all Rhode Island newborns for critical congenital heart defects using a simple, non-invasive and inexpensive pulse oximetry test.  We are excited to announce that the Department of Health recently released a draft regulation that would add critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) to the mandatory newborn screening panel in the Ocean State.

The Department of Health has been working with Rhode Island’s birthing hospitals over the past two years to implement pulse oximetry screening for CCHD.  We greatly appreciate the leadership of the Department and the many physicians, nurses and medical professionals who helped lay a strong foundation for this policy change. 

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the U.S. and the leading killer of infants with birth defects.  The evidence speaks for itself – wider use of pulse ox screening could help identify more than 90 percent of heart defects.  

To view the American Heart Association’s comments on the proposed regulation click here: (Please visit the site to view this file)

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Maine is one big small town....

Scott Nevers is an amazing guy. In the past year, he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, was laid off and started a new business venture. He also started volunteering countless hours for the American Heart Association. CPR, AEDs and a little luck saved his life and he is bound to make the best of it. I met Scott after he gave an impromptu talk about his experience at a Southern Maine CEO breakfast last winter. His friend, fellow survivor and mentor, Bob Hatem asked him to come speak. He was nervous but captivating. We caught up again as he followed the CPR bus (pictured) around Portland telling his story to hundreds of people learning Hands-Only CPR in Maine.

I asked Scott to come to the office so that I could get a handle on his story and see if he was interested in helping with any efforts we may undertake to require all high school students to learn Hands Only CPR before they graduate. He was more than willing.

He told me his story, which began when he was a hockey playing kid. When I asked him where he grew up he told me that he grew up in Gorham. I asked if he knew Representative Sanborn (see previous posts). He told me that Rep. Sanborn was his doctor when all of this started! Rep. Sanborn is one of our best allies at the state house and Scott is looking like he will be one of our best advocates. Gorham must be one special little town in the big town of Maine!

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End of Session Wrap-up

The NYS Session has wrapped up and we're happy to report substantial progress in many areas.  Here's a quick recap.

CPR in Schools bill passes both houses:  Thanks to the help of our dedicated advocates and the bill sponsors, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and Senator Mark Grisanti, we took a major step to ensure NYS students learn CPR before graduation.  The CPR in Schools bill will now be sent to the Governor.  The new proposal specifically calls for the following:

  • The Commissioner of the State Education Department would have 180 days to make recommendations to the Board of Regents regarding the adoption of CPR/AED instruction in the curriculum.  
  • The Commissioner would need to seek input from interested parties – teachers, administrators, parents, students and other interested parties; and consider time and financial impacts.
  • The Board of Regents would then have 60 days to accept or reject recommendations.

CPR “So Many Reasons” Campaign launched:  This May, the American Heart Association launched a heartwarming campaign entitled “So Many Reasons.  Starting in May and until the CPR bill passed both houses, we sent a “reason” to our state lawmakers about why the CPR in Schools bill should pass. The reasons were real stories about real New Yorkers - people alive because of CPR and/or AED use; or people who are not alive because CPR wasn’t started, or not started soon enough.

Brianna’s Law passes NYS Assembly:  Legislation to ensure all police officers are certified in CPR every two years passed the NYS Assembly.  

Our first ever CPR Rally:  On June 3rd the Capitol was a sea of red at our first ever CPR rally!  Approximately 100 volunteers traveled to the Capitol to show lawmakers how to keep the beat.  Following a press conference, volunteers from throughout the state all performed CPR together to the beat of Stayin’ Alive.  Volunteers then spoke directly with lawmakers.

Physical Fitness and Activity Bill to be sent to the Governor: We know how important physical activity is for our heart health.  The American Heart Association supported legislation to create a New York State Physical Fitness and Activity Education Campaign. This campaign would encourage physical activity which will improve the fitness of the people of NYS and will complement existing programs administered by the department of health that develop and promote nutrition and wellness activities.

E-cigarettes:  The American Heart Association is supportive of legislation to include e-cigarettes in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA).  Why?  Electronic cigarettes didn’t exist when we enacted the CIAA and we don’t know the impact that long term exposure has on cardiovascular health. Bills moved in both houses this session however it did not come up for a full vote by the Senate or the Assembly.

Trans Fat:  Legislation to eliminate the use of sneaky trans fat in restaurants moved in both houses however the bill couldn’t compete with the many other priorities of legislators and didn’t pass this session.  We will continue to push to take this dangerous fat off the menu.

Protecting your health - Funding maintained for Obesity prevention and Tobacco Control:  Despite attempts to consolidate funding for chronic disease programs, we were able to garner support to reject this approach and maintain transparency.  And funding for programs designed to prevent heart disease and stroke was maintained.

Not one, but two successful Lobby Days! For the first time ever, we held two NYS State Lobby Days.  And the results speak for themselves.  Our volunteers are just the best!  We maintained funding for heart/stroke prevention and passed a CPR in Schools bill! 

Thanks for all that you do!


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Jennifer & Joel Griffin

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):


Gwyneth Griffin


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


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CPR Matters

Sometimes you just need a lifesaver. Quickly. The American Heart Association is creating a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate from high school.  The goal is to teach lifesaving CPR skills to as many teens and young adults as possible in every state to help keep our communities safer.  Having a new generation of lifesavers will benefit everyone.  We have heard many stories about emergency situations where bystanders do not know what to do, but a CPR-trained person is the one to remain calm and save a person’s life.

The need is dire. Nearly 424,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, and only 10.4% survive, often because they don’t receive timely CPR. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates. Teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our communities with those trained to give sudden cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die, most likely because they don’t get CPR treatment within the first few precious minutes.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen any place, at any time. If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until EMTs arrive.  Teaching students CPR before they graduate puts thousands of qualified lifesavers on our streets every year.

In less than 30-minutes, students can learn the skills they need to help save someone’s life with CPR. With a short time investment, today’s students will become tomorrow’s lifesavers. Everyone benefits from having more lifesavers in our community.

Here in The American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, You’re the Cure advocates have helped us make great progress on this goal, by telling their legislators all students should be trained in CPR before they graduate:

DC:  We’re working on it… DC City Council is looking at establishing emergency medical response plans and training in DC schools.  AHA, through You’re the Cure, is working with the committee to include student training requirements for graduation. CPR training in DC schools would prepare roughly 3500 students annually to save a life. If you live in DC, watch your inbox for action opportunities to support this effort as it unfolds.

MD:  We did that!  Breanna’s Bill passed just this year and will soon become a reality for MD students. If you live in MD, take a moment to Thank Your Legislators for this big win.  Because of CPR training in MD schools, there will be over 58,000 new lifesavers in MD communities every year.

NC:  We did that!  We passed HB 837 in 2012 and its implementation is well under way.  Because of CPR training in NC schools, there will be close to 87,000 new lifesavers in NC communities every year.

SC:  The SC General Assembly adjourned without passing CPR in Schools, but we will introduce next year.  When we get this bill passed there will be over 39,000 new lifesavers in SC communities every year.

VA:  We did that!  Gwyneth’s Law passed just last year and is in implementation stages now. Because of CPR training in VA schools, there will be over 79,500 new lifesavers in VA communities every year.

Thanks to You’re the Cure advocate Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for developing this blog post!


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The Way to Help Virginia's Uninsured Get Coverage

Insured individuals are more likely to take their medication, more likely to control their blood pressure, and more likely to check their cholesterol levels.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s evaluation is  that access to health insurance is critical to the goals of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans and ensuring that as many people as possible receive high-quality, affordable medical care.

In Virginia, legislators have the opportunity to help provide insurance for up to 400,000 uninsured citizens by accepting federal dollars for this purpose. Insurance coverage would give these hard-working, low-income Virginians access to preventative screenings, treatment, and medication, which would improve their health and lower their medical costs.

Coverage would also lower costs throughout the medical system by identifying cardiovascular risks and diseases at earlier stages when they are easier to monitor and treat, as opposed to treating uninsured patients in emergency rooms, when their condition has become more serious and where it’s more expensive.

Chime in:  Please ask your legislators to help uninsured Virginians receive the coverage and care they need.

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Volunteer Named a Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts

I am always so excited when our volunteers and advocates are recognized for their hard work! Diane Pickles was named by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) as an Unsung Heroine. The MCSW is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance woman of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and promote their rights and opportunities. This was the 11th annual Unsung Heroine event to highlight woman who are performing unheralded acts of public leadership and volunteerism in our communities.

Diane has been a dedicated and tireless advocate for heart disease and stroke awareness and prevention for more than 18 years. She was inspired to take action after her son Jake was born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect. He had his first open heart surgery at just three days old, the second at six months and his third when he was two years old. Jake was diagnosed early and received excellent care and has happily just finished his first year of college. For the past two decades, Diane has been active with the AHA and has advocated on behalf of issues of health care access, insurance coverage, congenital heart, AEDs and CPR, tobacco and stroke. She was a driving force behind lobbying the Massachusetts legislature to pass An Act Relative to Newborn Pulse Oximetry Screenings for Newborns for Congenital Heart Defects in March 2014.I truly believe that without Diane's perseverance this bill might not have gotten done! Diane was also recently named on our 2014 Go Red for Woman Boston Spokesperson and is the Vice Chair of the MA Advocacy Advisory Committee.

I want to thank Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) for recognizing Diane's passion and dedication and nominating her to be an Unsung Heroine. I know we at the AHA truly believe that Diane demonstrates what an unsung heroine is! I was so proud to be part of her being recognized and I look forward to the next great advocacy victory we can achieve!

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Spend 30 minutes Learning Hands-Only CPR to Give the Gift of a Lifetime

A twelve year old girl learned CPR in school on a Friday, and only 8 days later she used that lesson to save her grandfather’s life.  A young man was shopping in a clothing store when a gentleman near him dropped to the ground.  He sprang into action using CPR skills he had learned not long before, and became a hero for a total stranger. 

These are true stories of people saving lives after learning the simple steps of Hands-Only CPR.  But everyone who experiences cardiac arrest is not so lucky.  Right now in our country, fewer than 41% of victims have a bystander respond with CPR, and fewer than 11% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive. 

Be ready when your true story happens.  Hands-Only CPR is easy to learn, and can double or TRIPLE a victim’s chance of survival. 

If you live anywhere near Richmond, swing by one of these locations for a free Hands-Only CPR training.  In only 30 minutes you can learn to save a life.  No reservation is needed. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Petersburg Southside Emergency Crew
                                            Central VA CPR Council Event
                                            425 Graham Rd
                                            Petersburg, VA  2380

                                            Free classes offered every half-hour from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
                                            Call 804-254-1147 if you need more information

Monday, June 2, 2014  – The Science Museum of Virginia
                                           Central VA CPR Council Event
                                           2500 West Broad Street
                                           Richmond, VA 23220

                                           Free classes offered every half-hour from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
                                           Call 804-254-1147 if you need more information

Tuesday, June 3, 2014  – Ramsey Memorial Methodist Church (Classes taught in Spanish)
                                            Central VA CPR Council Event
                                            5900 Hull St
                                            Richmond, VA 23224

                                            Free classes offered every half-hour from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
                                            Call 804-254-1147 if you need more information

Thursday, June 5, 2014  - Calhoun Community Center
                                             Central VA CPR Council Event
                                             436 Calhoun Street
                                             Richmond, VA 23231

                                              Free classes offered every half-hour from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
                                              Call 804-254-1147 if you need more information

Saturday, June 7, 2014 – West Creek Emergency Center
                                            American Heart Association/HCA Virginia Event
                                            12720 Tuckahoe Creek Court
                                            Richmond, VA 23238

                                            Free classes offered every half-hour from 10am - 2pm,
                                            along with free health screenings and giveaways
                                            Call 804-320-DOCS (3627) or visit for more information

Many thanks to CVCPR Council and HCA Virginia for their considerable contributions in staging these events. Note, these are not certification classes.

To find an American Heart Association CPR Certification class, or community event near you, visit to “Find A Course” with your Zip Code.

TAKE A MINUTE to thank VA legislators for passing Gwyneth’s Law to make CPR training in VA schools a reality for every student! 


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