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Why I Advocate for Heart

I’m excited to share my personal journey of advocating for heart, which ultimately led to AED machines being placed at my workplace. It began in 1998 when my husband learned he had a heart murmur and kept tabs on it via an annual EKG. However things worsened and his bicuspid aortic valve was weakened causing aortic regurgitation (AVR) and endocarditis, a serious infection in his heart.

Life was fairly normal until February of 2013 when he thought he was run down by allergies, very common for anyone living in Central Texas. Unfortunately, it was his heart. 

On May 22nd of 2013 he had open-heart surgery where his aortic valve was replaced by bovine tissue. "Holy Cow" is said in our household daily! He is recovering well and feels better with each day. This event is the scariest thing we've ever been though in our lives.

This has led me to become a strong advocate for the American Heart Association. I joined the AHA’s Passion Committee to promote physical activity, research and awareness for leading healthier lives.

In February 2014, my mission was for all our work associates to be dressed in red for National Wear Red Day. Thanks to the support of my husband and many work colleagues, our office shined in red that day! We hosted a staff get-together where I shared our story and University of Texas Volleyball Coach Salima Rockwell shared her personal survivor story with our team.

This event lead to an engaged Q&A session where a colleague discussed how an AED machine could have saved the life of a dear friend. His question sparked a project in our team immediately.  From there we made it our mission to get AEDs placed in and around our office. 

I’m thrilled to report, AED machines are now placed in our workplace creating an environment to treat sudden cardiac arrest. My vision is to continue to make an impact and be viewed as an active, engaged contributor in the heart health community.

This is just a small example of how one person sharing their voice can lead to big change.  I hope you will join me in being an advocate for heart health at your workplace, school, community, or wherever there may be a need!

This post was written by AHA volunteer and Passion Committee member April Wade Peters.

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Laura Gipe and Jacob Murray

Laura Gipe and Jacob Murray

When nurse Laura Gipe trained her grandson's Boy Scout troop in lifesaving CPR, she never imagined that, at just 15-years-old, he would use that skill to save her. Watch Laura and Jacob's touching story.

Like Laura's, 88% of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home. For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 7-10 percent. Thankfully, Jacob had been trained how to perform CPR until help arrived. You might be surprised to learn that we can teach ALL our high school students CPR in just one class period.

Together, we can ensure that this generation of students becomes the next generation of life savers. Visit www.becprsmart.org today and raise your voice!

 

 

 

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Sara Beckwith

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.”

 

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Survivor Story: Ryan Radermacher

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.  

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Advocate Spotlight - Libby Char

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.

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Advocate Spotlight - Max Stein

Max Stein, Idaho

This month, we wanted to feature and thank our Smokefree Idaho Community Educator, Max Stein.  Max has been working tirelessly in communities across the state to educate individuals and businesses on the harms of secondhand smoke.  Because of his work, Smokefree Idaho has reached an important milestone: more than 100 organizations and businesses have now signed on as endorsers!  He has been out at community events, getting much needed postcards and petition signatures. 

We here at the American Heart Association would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Max and his many hours to Smokefree Idaho!  We couldn’t have made all the progress we have without him!  If you agree with us that everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air and would like to help us make that a reality in your community, email Adrean at adrean.cavener@heart.org.

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Share Your Story: Dr. Jim Blaine

Dr Jim Blaine Missouri

As an Emergency physician for 17 years, Dr. Jim Blaine is very aware of the devastation caused by cardiovascular disease.  As a Family Physician for the last 15 years, he acknowledges that most cardiovascular disease can be prevented.

Recently, Dr. Blaine has become a Provider Champion with the Missouri Million Hearts initiative.  The Million Hearts program seeks to coordinate and encourage ASHD prevention and Dr. Blaine is eager to be included in that effort.  By joining the Million Hearts initiative in Missouri as a physician champion, he will be an expert resource providing suggested activities and educational opportunities for the program here in Missouri.

He is currently the Medical Director for the Ozarks Technical Community College Health & Wellness Clinic in Springfield, MO.  He also chairs the Greene County Medical Society's Community Health Advisory Committee and the Missouri State Medical Association's Public Affairs Commission.

He has an extensive history supporting the American Heart Association that goes way back and includes supporting the initiatives of smoke free air in MO, Prop B tobacco tax increase campaign, AEDs in schools and AED Solutions to name a few.

 

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Christian's Story

Written by Aimee Lybbert, Christian's mom

When our son Christian was born he appeared perfectly healthy. He passed all the standard newborn screening with flying colors. Every medical professional assured us he was fine. But in reality our son had a broken heart.


Our first thought after learning about Christian's heart defect two weeks after his birth was, why didn't the ultrasound show us that he had major congenital heart defects? We later learned that up to 25% of major heart defects are not detected during ultrasounds. 

We also later learned that although our hospital did a pulse oximetry test just after birth, they did not do another test when Christian was 24 hours old. It was not a hospital requirement.  When we asked our local hospital why the test wasn't done we were told that the cost of false positives were too high and they didn't want to scare parents and do unnecessary testing.  Congenital heart defects are the single most common birth defect.


Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects or pulse ox testing can detect seven different critical congenital defects.  Our son Christian has three of the seven critical congenital heart defects that it can detect. 

Today Christian is 16 months old. He's had two open chest heart surgeries and he will need at least two more. He will never be completely fixed or healed but with the help of his diligent medical specialists, he is thriving despite it all.  If he had received that second pulse ox test at 24 hours Christian would not have gone into full heart failure before his heart defects were detected. He would not have had to go into his first heart surgery with a weakened heart and an overtaxed body. 

I was honored to provide written testimony to the Washington State Board of Health in support of requiring pulse oximetry testing for all newborns, so that other families don’t have to experience what we went through. We're lucky that Christian made it, but not all Washington babies are as lucky.

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Advocate Spotlight - Brittany Badicke

Brittany Badicke, Oregon

My name is Brittany Badicke, and I’m one of AHA’s Oregon Advocacy Interns. This summer, I’ll be working on our Tobacco Control efforts, with the ultimate goal of giving more Oregonians access to resources to help them quit smoking, and ensuring fewer actually start smoking. Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of disease in Oregon.

I grew up in Longview, Washington and after graduating high school became a Certified Nursing Assistant, and began pre-requisites for nursing school. Thinking acute care was my niche, and with more opportunity to work in an acute care setting in Oregon, I earned my CNA II acute care license and moved to Portland, Oregon. After years of working as a CNA, and meeting several patients that were suffering from preventable diseases, I realized that my passion is in health promotion and disease prevention, which led me to pursue a degree in health education.

Currently, I am a Health Studies student at Portland State University where I will graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education in March of 2015. After graduating, my goal is to put my undergraduate degree and passion for promoting healthy behavior to use in the field before applying to the dual MPH/MSW program at Portland State University.

In the future, I’d like to dedicate my time to promoting healthy behavior focusing on education and systematic change, which is why I am beyond thrilled to be an intern for the American Heart Association! I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to learn and practice advocacy skills while gaining hands-on experience that is impossible to learn in a classroom, as well as to meet and work with like-minded people that are actively working for healthier communities.

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Share Your Story: Kaala Berry

Kaala Berry Kansas

I am a junior at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, KS. Since 2011,  I have been actively volunteering in various American Heart Association initiatives such as  health  fairs, “Power To End Stroke” program and advocacy efforts such as Hands Only CPR, Healthy  Nutrition in Schools,  NIH funding campaigns supporting medical research and the Million Hearts initiatives, just to name a few. 

Participating in community service is near and dear to my heart.  I have family members who had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease in addition to my own experience.  Recently, I have been diagnosed with a non-congenital heart murmur.  It was during a routine sports physical for basketball. I’ve had routine physicals for years, but this was the first one that detected my condition. The doctor recommended immediate follow up with my Primary Care Physician who then referred me to a Pediatric Cardiologist. 

Since then, I have been more in tune with research, funding, diagnosis, treatment and what it really means to sustain a HEALTHY HEART as a YOUTH! ! I am more motivated now than ever before to educate and advocate; not only in my community but around the world.  I strive to be a voice for those who may not recognize or understand the importance of cardiovascular health and wellness.

I am very excited to support the American Heart Association’s advocacy efforts and initiatives.  Through this work, I feel I have been given the opportunity to continue to be a “Voice”. It’s not just about me making a difference in lives; it’s about the many people who are in need of support, education, information and resources.  My advocacy efforts allow me to help educate others on prevention, access and empowerment to live a life with a “Healthy Heart”!  ADVOCACY SPEAKS!

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