American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Kingston Murriel, Mississippi

Kingston Murriel Jackson, Mississippi

On July 3, 2012, 5 weeks before my due date, I had an appointment for my 8-month checkup.  During the ultrasound the physician could not get a good view of the left ventricle of my son’s heart.  He thought it was due to the way he was laying, but wanted to have a pediatric cardiologist look to be sure.  Soon after, I visited the cardiologist and was told that my son had hypoplastic left heart syndrome.  I immediately tried to convince myself this was something minor and would be easily corrected.  Unfortunately the physician told me that Kingston would have to have heart surgery after delivery, a second heart surgery, 5 to 6 months later, and a third surgery a few years later.  I thought this was a death sentence.  I couldn’t imagine a baby going through something like this. 

The following week, we met with the fetal medicine team, the pediatric cardiology surgeon, and staff to prepare us for delivery.  My family and I spent a day with support nurses and asking questions of the physicians.  We received information on the advances in heart surgery, congenital heart defects, heart health and the success rate of infants that have the three heart surgeries.  On August 6th, Kingston was born and had a successful Norwood procedure for his first heart surgery.  Five months later Kingston’s Glenn surgery was successful as well.  We have been very fortunate to not have any complications and have a healthy, active baby today. 
The most interesting part of my family’s story is that we’ve always supported the American Heart Association through donations, walks and at their events for children.  Every year I participated in the American Heart Association’s Go Healthy Challenge, but I never thought the efforts, education and research of this organization would affect us personally until Kingston was born.  Often people think the AHA’s mission is adult specific and focuses just on the prevention of heart attack and stroke.  My work with the organization and having Kingston is a testament of how heart health starts at birth and how important it is to practice prevention every day, for all ages.  Kingston has made our family realize that often people take their heart for granted until their faced with a health scare or heart disease.  Maintaining Kingston’s health has encouraged each of us to eat better and live more active lifestyles so that we can be here to watch him grow up.  Although I was already an advocate for AHA, I am now an even stronger supporter and educator of their mission to prevent heart disease.

– Elizabeth Foster (Kingston’s Mom)

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Share Your Story: Kristy Sidlar

Kristy Sidlar Michigan

So there I was on the side of the road by myself, lying next to my bicycle. I was fading in and out of consciousness, honestly wondering if these were going to be my last moments. My plans to compete in the triathlon I was training for were far from my mind. What I was thinking was, “Why is this happening? Why today?” It was my 31st birthday.

After about 40 minutes of my heart racing at 280 beats per minute, another cyclist finally rode by and called 911. Paramedics arrived and used an automatic external defibrillator (yep…the shock paddles) to normalize my heartbeat. I was rushed to the hospital where doctors spent 10 days trying to find a diagnosis for my erratic and very fast heat beat. The doctors said, “We can’t fix you, but we can save your life.”

They planned to do a relatively standard procedure called radiofrequency ablation but once they “got in” they realized my heart was riddled with cells that conduct extra impulses, causing rapid heartbeat. The best option available to me at that point wasn’t the ablation; they decided to install an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). It’s a device about the size of a pager that is essentially a set of shock paddles inside my chest. And they prescribed a bunch of meds to get my heart rate under control.

I can hardly believe it’s been almost 15 years since I was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia. At the time I wasn’t really worried about the surgery or the shocks from the ICD. What really tore me up was when the doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to train again. I was a bit of a fitness-crazed young woman, and I couldn’t imagine living without this part of my life.

 I didn’t listen at first. I couldn’t let it go. Finally, after I went flying off a treadmill and into the mirror at the gym when my ICD went off during a running workout, I realized that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Now I walk, workout at a moderate pace on the elliptical and do yoga. My big mindset shift was: “I don’t have to be competitive. I need to do what keeps me healthy.”

 For 13 years now I have been a volunteer and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. These are my two core messages:

 • You don’t have to be old or fat or eat fried food to be at risk for heart disease.

 • Be proactive with your doctors.

Too often people (women in particular) get dismissed by doctors saying that their irregular heartbeats or high blood pressure are stress related or caused by other factors like pregnancy. Maybe they are…but maybe they AREN’T! My experience with this was a six-month-long pursuit for answers after a fainting episode in my late twenties. I was told I was dehydrated. I was told I hadn’t eaten enough, I was told it was the caffeine. Finally, doctors ran the right tests and determined I had a problem with my right ventricle and they treated me accordingly.

Living a heart healthy life can be both easy and hard. It’s taking those first few steps that are the hard part, but healthy habits can become so easy to live by. Please check out the many resources at to see how you can know your risks, know your numbers and take the right steps to great heart health. And pass this information on to your friends and family. Every little bit of education helps…everyone!

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Dr. Ray Castle, Louisiana

Dr. Ray Castle has volunteered for the American Heart Association for many years.  He has been active with the Heart Walk and within the Advocacy Department.  In 2012, he joined the Louisiana Advocacy Committee.

As a member of the Advocacy Committee, he has worked tirelessly to help the American Heart Association pass policies surrounding AED liability, joint use agreements and ensuring that all schools have AEDs on campus.  He has testified before legislative committees as a subject matter expert and a strong voice for the organization.  He currently is the Athletic Training Program Director and Associate Professor of Professional Practice in the School of Kinesiology in the College of Human Sciences and Education at LSU.  He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and CPR Instructor.

Dr. Castle has an extensive background in education, clinical practice and professional service. His clinical practice background includes experiences at the clinic, high school, college and international levels.  In 2013, he was recognized by the Louisiana Legislature for providing volunteer emergency medical assistance to the victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombing.  Most recently, in September 2014, he was invited to join the LSU Stephenson Disaster Management Institute as one of their Senior Fellows.


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Advocate Spotlight: Dr. Joshua Wynne

Dr. Joshua Wynne North Dakota

Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H. has been an advocate for cardiovascular health and wellness for decades. But in addition to helping thousands of patients with heart problems over many years in his role as a clinician, he also practices what he preaches!

As Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of North Dakota and Dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, he has sponsored “Joggin’ with Josh”, an annual walk, jog, or run involving the UND and Grand Forks community. He has served as the 2010 Heart Walk Chair in Grand Forks, N.D. And he has ensured that the new medical school building that will be completed in 2016 is designed to encourage walking.

A New York native, Dr. Wynne’s medical education was in Boston. He has functioned as an academic cardiologist throughout his career, first at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, then at Wayne State University, and most recently at UND. He is a longtime American Heart Association volunteer with leadership roles in Michigan, North Dakota, and the Midwest Affiliate, where he was a long-standing board member.

As a member of the Health North Dakota Strategic Visioning Committee, Dr. Wynne helped identify improved hypertension identification and treatment as an important public health initiative to reduce the rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke in North Dakota, since optimal blood pressure control remains elusive for many patients.

Heart disease treatment is a personal matter for Dr. Wynne; he is married to fellow cardiologist Dr. Susan Farkas, who is director of the Echocardiography Laboratory at Sanford Heath in Fargo and Governor of the American College of Cardiology for North Dakota. 

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Youth Advocate Brett Harris Steps Up for Smoke-Free

One of our youngest advocates is making one of the biggest impacts to a community by helping to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!  Brett Harris is a middle-school student in Lubbock whose passion for a smoke-free community goes back as far as he can remember. 

His dad, Matthew Harris, who is the Chairman of the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition and a part of AHA’s Statewide Smoke-Free Leadership Council, has always encouraged him to stand up for what he believes in. 

At just 12 years old, Brett's been able to effectively lobby City Councilmembers, recruit volunteers, and educate the public on the positive impact a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance would have in Lubbock.

On September 20th he even secured over 30 petitions cards during the Lubbock Heart Walk, which was one of the biggest hauls a single person had collected that day!  During the Heart Walk, he also helped people create their Vine videos to post to social media about why they support a smoke-free Lubbock.

He has also educated his community through teaching his Boy Scout troop the dangers of secondhand smoke, attending community events with his dad, and even recording his own call to action for the Lubbock City Council on Vine.

The Harris family is also interested in other heart healthy activities.  For instance, on the weekends Brett can be seen hiking with his Boy Scout troop, working out, and gardening with his dad.  The two have a passion for growing fresh vegetables to give to the community.  We caught up with Brett and got to know a little more about this Youth Advocate.

Getting to Know: Brett Harris

1.       What's the most exciting part about advocating for Smoke-Free Lubbock?

Meeting some of the survivors as part of the Heart Walk.  I’m hoping they can come and speak to the city council. 

2.       What was it like for you to get people to sign SF petition cards?

It was pretty fun.  Some people turned me down, but most people went for it. It was really cool and fun doing it.

3.       What are your hobbies?

I really like riddles, but what I like the most is going camping with my Boy Scout troop and playing with Legos.  Playing with Legos is useful everywhere.  Legos expand your mind with imagination.

4.       What do you want to be when you grow up?

I plan to go and work at Lego.  It would be pretty cool to work there.  It would not be just for the pay.  I’d do it for $1 just to play with all the Legos they have. I would like to test out the instructions and see how it goes, and also make models with random pieces.


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Advocate Spotlight: Bobbie Kane

A few weekends ago I had the privilege of helping out at my first Heart Walk in Billings, Montana.  What a beautiful day and what an amazing event!  The people that gathered together to walk and raise funds (and awareness), were awesome.  There were survivors that walked and people that had lost loved ones who walked in their memory.  It was so fun to celebrate and remember along with them.  I was able to man the advocacy table for the American Heart Association’s You’re the CureEVERY SINGLE PERSON I talked to about signing a post card in support of have CPR taught in our schools said YES!  And thanked us for taking action in this way to get this accomplished in the state of Montana.

When I was in college, I happened to be the first person on the scene of an accident.  A little girl had fallen out of a second story window and was unconscious.  I was in the park across the street and came running over to offer help.  Due to the first aid and CPR class that I had taken I was able to stay calm, identify shock,  and tell the mother to call 911 as I held the girls head and neck stable in case of neck injury.  My interaction that day didn’t require CPR, but having gone through that course, I was able to keep my head and handle that situation well.  Thankfully the little girl made a full recovery.

I believe every student should graduate with this vital knowledge!  How awesome would it be if we could graduate thousands of students each year with the knowledge of how to SAVE A LIFE?!  

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Advocate Spotlight: Jennifer Stafford, RN Critical Care, Practicing Nurse of 30 years, CPR/First Aid instructor of 27 years

I’ve looked everywhere for it, but I can’t find it. I know it’s just got to be there—somewhere attached to her nurses uniform.

Despite my inability to spot an actual red cape, I am still convinced that Jennifer Stafford is some kind of super hero. Consider this: All great super heroes have boundless energy (check) and a passion for protecting the public (check). They go out of their way to save lives and makes it look easy.  When help is needed, they come running. (Check, check, check.)

A busy Critical Care nurse and mother, Jennifer goes above and beyond serving on the AHA’s Oregon CPR Committee. Her expertise, enthusiasm, and willingness to speak up play a critical role in helping the AHA spread the message about CPR and equip Oregonians to save the life of a loved one or a stranger. Jennifer is a tremendous advocate for CPR in Schools—Oregon’s biggest opportunity to put more lifesavers in our communities by ensuring every student learns hands-only CPR before they graduate.

Since Hands Only CPR was shown to be scientifically sound in 2008, Jennifer has been on a quest to teach as many groups and community members how to recognize heart attack, women’s atypical heart attack symptoms, signs and symptoms of stroke, why to call 911 vs. drive yourself in, and how to respond to cardiac arrest with Hands Only CPR.  Do you know Hands Only CPR? Learn by clicking here.

In the last three years alone, she has taught over 1,500 individuals Hands-Only CPR. Taryn Lust [fellow AHA CPR Committee Member] and Jennifer have been awarded a grant to teach middle schools in their area two classes: 1) how to have a healthy heart (lifestyle) and 2) about cardiac arrest and Hands Only CPR.  To date, they have educated over 3,000 students in their area.

Jennifer is extremely passionate about getting the word out about Hands Only CPR.  She has been to Oregon State Capitol for AHA’s Lobby Day three times and worked on the bill in 2013.  In her own words: “We will get this done!”

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Vance Lobe - What the Affordable Care Act means for me

Vance Lobe

It’s been almost one year now since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges were implemented and I thought it was time to reflect on how this has affected my life. 

I am a two time heart attack survivor, starting with the first one about five and a half years ago.  I was gainfully employed at the time and had, what I thought, was good insurance through my employer.  I only learned after the attack that it wasn’t as good as I thought, as a lot of things slipped through the cracks.

I lost my job through layoffs just prior to the second attack and was fortunate to at least have the COBRA insurance, even though, it caused serious financial hardship, as I was unemployed and had a large financial obligations for this care. 

For a year and a half I was unemployed without any healthcare insurance, as I was “uninsurable” due to my pre-existing heart condition.

During this time, every time I felt a little pain or just not feeling right, I would think about what would happen to me if I had another heart attack without any insurance.  I couldn’t  even afford "well care" as I was still unemployed and I made too much on unemployment to take advantage of any subsidies for any of the medicines that I needed or any other assistance.

That all changed this past January when I was finally able to get insurance through ACA.  I am able to receive “well care” for almost nothing, receive my life prolonging medicines for free and I no longer stress about my health as I know the insurance will cover the balance of my care in case something else happens.  While I am once again employed, I have chosen to continue to stay in the program, as it’s a good plan for me.

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Share Your Story: Beth Keith

Beth Keith Missouri

August 16, 2011 proved to be another wonderful birthday with my husband and children in such an unexpected way, one that I didn’t expect. I didn’t feel very well but chalked it up to being a tired mommy. That evening, while getting ready for bed, I felt the left side of my face become numb. After about 10 minutes it became so intense that I immediately went to the mirror to check my face; no drooping. Then within another 5 minutes some of my left finger tips became numb. I told my husband "I think I am having a stroke!" We jumped in the car and went to the emergency room. After many tests I was told I suffered a TIA and that they found a hole in my atria wall. A birth defect that lay silent for 37 years. Dr. Stephen Kuehn was able to fix the hole in my heart with what seemed like a breeze. Little did I know that would be the easy part.

The next months would prove to be a challenge as I had to deal with anxiety, depression and fear. Getting knocked off your path raises many questions. It also forced me to take an inventory of how I’m living my life and what is truly important. This experience was not so much about my physical body but my journey to raise the bar in my life. I love differently, I understand loved ones from a different view, and I am realizing that there is more to my existence than what I gave myself credit for.

I believe some people ignore what their body is telling them for fear of hearing bad news. What I have learned is that sometimes your body is trying to deliver good news. My husband and I joke that a TIA was the best birthday present I have ever received! If I hadn’t had a TIA, it may have been another 37 years before I learned of the hole in my heart and the results may not have been so good. The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is to pay attention to the warning signs of stroke and take action. It is this advice that saved not only the quality of my life but possibly my life as a whole.

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Share Your Story: Danielle Patterson

Danielle Patterson Kansas

No one ever expects to save a man’s life, especially on a Saturday afternoon, in a crowd of 55,000 people and on a day where the temperature was 24 degrees, at best. Little did I know that on this day, at a Kansas State University football game, I not only would perform CPR on the man that collapsed but also meet some amazing people that quickly developed into close friends.

It was Saturday, November 23, 2013, early morning, when my son and I left Topeka to head west to our own "Man-happiness" (Manhattan, Kansas). My son and I believe it is the greatest place on earth during football season. Routinely, we meet my mother there, for every home football game. as we have season tickets to watch our favorite purple team, the KSU Wildcats play football. This Saturday was no different.

As veteran season ticket holders, we get to know everyone who sits around us over the course of the season. We socialize and have a really good time so it’s not unusual to notice people who haven’t been in our section before. Oddly enough, I found myself glancing over at this gentleman and his family quite often as I hadn’t noticed them before. It appeared he was there with his son in law and two grandchildren. In fact, I even commented to my mother that he was probably thinking I was flirting with him.

During the pregame festivities, on Senior Day, the players were being recognized for their college football career as it would be their last home game as a K-State Wildcat. Towards the end of the celebration, I glanced over and noticed the man I had pinpointed earlier, had fallen back onto the man sitting behind him. I sat there for just a second and thought, "really". Did this really just happen?

Immediately, the people around him were yelling for a doctor. I got up, threw my blanket on the floor, ripped my gloves off and proceeded to assess the man. Initially, it appeared as though he might have just had his 5 layers of clothes too tight around his neck. After loosening his clothing, I realized that I needed to open his airway in hopes that he would take a breath. Under my breath I said to myself, "please just take a breath". He did, sort of; it was more like sigh rather than a breath, not exactly what I was hoping for.

By this time, several nice bystanders had come to assist me. Two young men helped to lay him on the bleachers while a PACU nurse helped maintain his airway so that I could start chest compressions. My heavy coat and his 5 layers of clothing made chest compressions a challenge. My son quickly dialed 911 and had my mother speak with the Riley County EMS. My mother, a retired ER nurse, was able to give the EMS the information they needed. Once they arrived, they placed him on a spine board, defibrillated him twice, and continued chest compressions. Luckily, he awoke and was speaking before they even got him to Mercy Health Center which was just across the street.

The staff at KSU did an amazing job assisting and helping the situation. We learned, prior to half time, that he was alive and doing well. He had been taken to the cath lab where he was found to have a 100% occlusion of his right coronary artery.

As an ICU nurse, this is what I do every day. I feel honored that so many people took notice and recognized my efforts. I was recognized at the January 4, 2014 KSU vs. Oklahoma basketball game, which I was able to attend with the man who collapsed and his family. It was pretty amazing as it had only been 6 weeks since his incident. I was blessed to be there with him and the ability to save his life. The honor and attention I have received from this, I share with all of my fellow nurses who are not honored enough for their life saving efforts. I have been blessed to work at Stormont Vail and have been mentored and coached by amazing people. I dedicate my honor to my employer and all my mentors along the way. They have made me the nurse I am today!



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