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Montana October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month - Is Your Family Prepared for an Emergency?

Written by: Amanda (Andrews) Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

Imagine this scenario: you’re at home with your spouse when suddenly he falls to the ground. Would you know what to do, what to look for, how to help him?  Of course, you’d call 911, but there is something else that is crucial to his survival: CPR.   Every single second that he lies on the floor without intervention his heart muscle is dying.  An estimated 70% of Americans do not know CPR and could not save their spouse, parent, child, or friend, could you?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S., many victims appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors.  4 out of 5 cardiac arrests happen at home, if called on to administer CPR in an emergency, the life you save is likely to be someone at home: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend.

Let’s Do Something About It!

We live in a place where the closest ambulance may be 30 minutes or more away.  When ordinary people, not just doctors and paramedics, know CPR, a victim’s survival rate can double, or even triple. Schools across the country are adding thousands of lifesavers to our communities by training their students, faculty and staff in CPR. In fact, laws in 14 states require CPR training for high school graduation.  Why shouldn’t Montana be a state where thousands of young adults become potential life savers every year?

Let’s talk to our teachers, school boards, school districts, and legislators and let them know we need CPR to be taught in schools.  A simple 20 minute training is proven to teach a young person the skills they need to successfully administer CPR.  We need to start having this conversation and to start teaching our young Montanans CPR- your life might just depend on it. 

If you are interested in seeing how you can help our efforts, please contact Amanda Andrews at  or contact Grassroots Director Grace Henscheid.

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October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month - Is Your Family Prepared for an Emergency?

Guest Blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Government Relations Director, Arizona

Did you know that October is Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month? Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart’s electrical system abruptly malfunctions and the heart suddenly stops beating. The only thing standing between life and death is immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until emergency personnel arrive. For every minute without life-saving CPR, chances of survival decrease by 7-10% and less than 10% of SCA victims survive the event.

Imagine you are one of the 5,000 people in Maricopa County who will suffer a SCA this year.  In our imaginary scenario, you are at home after a long day at work preparing dinner and you suddenly collapse.  Would your family know what to do? Unfortunately, roughly 70% of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or they are simply afraid to act.  In our scenario, your family may know to call 9-1-1, but without the CPR training, this may be the last time they see you alive.

However, your eight grader, who received CPR training in class during the school year, suddenly springs into action.  He or she begins Hands Only CPR on you to the beat of Stayin’ Alive, and continues until emergency personnel get there.  The only reason that you survive is because someone around you knew how to respond.  Now, instead of planning a funeral, you and your family can continue to experience life’s precious moments like graduations, weddings, and grandchildren.

Take time this month to learn Hands Only CPR.  It takes less than 2 minutes and you never know when you might need it or who you may need to save.  The life you save could be the life of someone you love. 

If you are interested in seeing how you can help our efforts, please contact Nicole Olmstead at or contact your Grassroots Director Josh Brown.

~Pictured Above: Flat Mollie (a poster) laid lifeless on the Mississippi Capitol lobby floor while passersby paused a minute to reflect on the nearby sign, "If this was your loved one, would you know what to do?"

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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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Long Island Board Honors Longtime CPR/AED Champion

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Long Island Board of Directors was honored to name Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg as Advocate of the Year. 

Assembly Weisenberg, the legislative champion of the CPR in Schools bill, made it a priority to increase public awareness of the importance of bystander training in CPR and the promotion of the Chain of Survival. Thanks in tremendous part to his support and dedication, the legislation successfully passed both houses and we have taken an important step toward implementing this statewide training. 

No other member of the state legislature has done as much as Harvey Weisenberg to assist victims of sudden cardiac arrest.   Assemblyman Weisenberg was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1989 and is the author of Louis’ Law, which ensures all schools have AEDs on site.  More than 80 lives have been saved thanks to Louis’ Law, named after 14-year old sudden cardiac arrest victim Louis Acompora.

 Assemblyman Weisenberg recently announced his retirement from the NYS Assembly.  Please join us in thanking him for his actions.  His voice has saved lives!

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Do You Live in a HEART Safe Community?

Its Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. Do you know if your community is HEART safe?

The HEART Safe program recognizes communities that meet specific criteria that help increase the potential for saving the lives of individuals who have sudden cardiac arrest through the use of CPR and increased public access to defibrillation.

 Congratulations to Stowe, Bennington and St. Johnsbury for already achieving this distinction.  Designation as a HEART Safe Community represents a coordinated effort by emergency medical services, fire departments, and police departments, as well as other various town departments, schools, and businesses that have committed to saving lives.

Talk to your local rescue and town officials and you can email the Vermont Office of Emergency Medical Services at for more information. By becoming a HEART Safe Community, your town officials, and citizens will be recognized for taking the time, and making the effort to become an invaluable link in the chain of survival.

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Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

Ok: It is obvious that I am in my mid-40’s. I actually giggled when I saw this gentleman show up at the Central Maine Heart Walk. Yes, I was one of the first one to get my picture taken. Yes, I FaceTimed my husband so he could see us. Yes, I emailed the picture to all my fellow dorks.

Of course, the Ghostbuster was not the real highlight of the CMHW. The highlight was the 1,200 walkers who raised $125,000 (or more) for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association that beautiful day.

I was there to help my co-workers with the details of the event and to talk to walkers about the American Heart Association’s goal of training all high school graduates in Hands Only CPR. Out of the 100 or so folks who I talked to, no one thought what we were asking was undoable or unreasonable and every single person thought it was imperative that we succeed. No one said "Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!" They just calmly signed postcards to their soon-to-be-elected representatives and said I could call on them to help. They were flabbergasted to hear that we had passed legislation to add Hands Only CPR to the health curriculum only to have it vetoed by the Governor.

I told them that we are going to try again—and this time—succeed. I was really hoping that someone would say: "See you on the other side, Ray." But no one did. Maybe next time.

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Greece Odyssey Academy Keeps the Beat!

Congratulations to Greece Odyssey Academy!  Recently the Rochester area school teamed up with the American Heart and Upstate NY Life Support to provide hands-only CPR training to all students in grades 6-12 and any interested staff members.   As a result, over 1000 people are now trained to be lifesavers!

It all started thanks to the work of Rebecca and Mark Knowles.  To look at their son, Cameron, you wouldn’t know the Greece Odyssey Academy eighth- grader has a heart condition. His own family was unaware until he suffered a pediatric cardiac arrest six years ago. Cameron’s life was saved by his fast-acting parents, who administered CPR until first responders arrived. Since then, Rebecca and Mark have been committed to increasing awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrests. 

Greece Odyssey trained all of their students in PE class – in just a matter of days.  Can you imagine how many lifesavers we could have if everyone followed their lead?

Do you know of a school district that is ready to teach CPR to their students?   To learn more about CPR in Schools and the status of the state legislation, contact

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Gracie Soultanian, Massachusetts

After hearing Michael Ellsessar’s story, a 16-year-old who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2010 after getting hit in the chest during a football game, Gracie Soultanian, then 12 now 13, decided she needed to do something. There are no warning signs for sudden cardiac arrest, allowing any athlete to be at risk. Gracie felt that it was important to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and funds to help schools and athletic fields to have AEDs and for coaches and students to know CPR.

Through essay contests, grants and fundraising, Gracie has raised more than $5,000 to purchase AEDs to be placed at playing fields, town beaches and town pools in the Ayer-Shirley area. In fall 2013, Gracie began her Youth Venture project, “Heartstrong”, to help educate her community about sudden cardiac arrest and to promote CPR in schools. She has shared her story at the American Heart Association’s annual Heart on the Hill event, testified in front of the Joint Committee of Public Health in support of AEDs in School and has conducted a CPR training for coaches in her community. She was recently honored as one of our Heart of Gold. The Heart of Gold Award is presented each year to a member or group of members of the Central Massachusetts’ community who have enhanced the quality of life in the region and have played a significant role in advancing the mission of the American Heart Association.

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Back to School - Join Us As We Advocate for Healthy Policies for Our Children

written by Marc Watterson, Government Relations Director, Utah

Like many of you, I look forward to the fall season! Truth be told I’m not a huge fan of the heat and I have always loved Utah’s cooler fall climate. Fall brings with it many wonderful things – the excitement of professional, college, and high school football, little-league soccer, shopping sales, and the beginning of a new school year.

This year was a completely new one for me as a parent as our oldest daughter began kindergarten! It was a bittersweet moment as we helped her get ready that first morning and watched her board the bus for her first day of school. Her excitement was contagious as she anxiously got to her seat and began waving to us through the school bus window. We continued to wave as the bus pulled down the street and out of sight.

I can only imagine how many times this same scene played out across the state as many of you watched children or grandchildren leave for school.

As parents – or even relatives – to these young children, we want the very best for them. We want them to grow up in a world full of opportunities, where they can fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Whatever the situation, wherever they might be, we want to make sure that children are provided with the best, and safest, environment possible.

This became very apparent to me this past year as – like many of you – we heard tragic stories of young children who were hurt or killed on their way to and from school. The stories pull at our heartstrings as we realize how important safe routes to school are and just how fragile life can be. It is the recognition of the importance of life that fuels us as advocates for the American Heart Association. Together, we have done amazing things!

Just last year we rallied together to encourage the Department of Health to create a new recognition system that identifies those hospitals in the state who strive for the very best in patient care when it comes to treating those who suffer a stroke. Many of you joined with us at the state capitol for our annual Heart on the Hill day where we successfully lobbied our state legislators to restore funding to the CPR and AED in Schools Training Program. Because of you, every sophomore in Utah will have the chance to be trained in CPR and how to use an AED as part of their Health class! Together, we have laid the framework that will help create a generation of lifesavers for years to come!

And while it would be easy to sit back and count our victories, there is still so much more that can be done here in Utah. This year, we set our sights on improving the health of all Utahns – especially our children.

The American Heart Association|American Stroke Association is teaming up with the Utah Department of Transportation to encourage our state and local elected officials to ensure our children have a healthier, more walkable pathway to school. We are asking all of you to join us as we encourage policymakers to increase funding for the state’s Safe Routes to School program. This program provides funding for schools and local cities to come together and identify areas of need in their communities. The Safe Routes to School program helps improve sidewalks, create crosswalks, and provide signage that help to keep kids and drivers safe. The AHA|ASA supports the funding of this program because of the potential safety and health impact this could have on our children and communities – all in the goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans!

As part of our efforts we will be hosting a booth at our upcoming Heart|Stroke Walk & Run 5K. We would love to have you stop by and sign a postcard in support of the Safe Routes to School program. We will be delivering these postcards to policymakers across the state! You can also click here to volunteer to help us at the event as we work to raise awareness of this issue amongst the thousands of Heart|Stroke Walk attendees!

As parents and those concerned about the children in our community we have many things that we worry about with our children; the last thing we should have to worry about is if our children have a safe route to travel to school. Please support us as we strive to create healthier, more walkable communities throughout the state!

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