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Advocate Spotlight: Tonii Rizzo

Tonii Rizzo Kentucky

In April 2006, Tonii Rizzo was the picture of health. An avid runner who exercised every day, he never expected to have a "widow maker" heart attack that would forever change his life. According to Tonii (pictured here with Senator Julie Denton), the good news is that he’s still "green side up," but that doesn’t come without some trade-offs, including blood thinners, regular visits to his cardiologist, ultrasounds and EKGs.

Fortunately, Tonii has been able to resume his active lifestyle of exercising, running a business and giving back to his community. "Giving back" includes serving on AHA’s Kentuckiana Board of Directors for the last 5 years in positions that include past Heart Ball Development Chair and current Board Chair. In addition, Tonii advocates for heart-healthy public policies at the local, state and federal levels at every opportunity. His actions have ranged from writing letters-to-the-editor to calling his lawmakers to meeting with them face-to-face on issues ranging from smoke-free indoor air to CPR training for Kentucky’s high school students.

According to Metro Director, Kathy Renbarger, "Tonii is a passionate advocate for the mission of the American Heart Association. He has been instrumental in raising awareness of heart disease and stroke in our community."

As Tonii says, "God allowed me to live that day so that I could help raise awareness about heart disease." Thank you, Tonii, for your tireless efforts to improve Kentucky's heart-health!

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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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Ella Thomas Beames

Ella Thomas Beames

My name is Ella Thomas Beames. I’m 11 years old. I live with my mom and dad and my dog, Lucky, that we adopted a year ago. He’s awesome. I’m a UofL fan and I love Jennifer Lawrence – she’s my idol.

Friday, September 2, 2011, started out like any other morning. But when I got to school everything changed. As I was walking into my classroom, I fainted. I’m told I turned blue because there was no oxygen going to my brain because my heart was beating too fast and wasn’t pumping the right amount of blood through my body with each heart beat. My principal, Deb Rivera, and my Librarian, Heidi Keairns, saved my life performing CPR on me. What I remember next was that I was sitting in a chair with oxygen and there were firemen all around me. Then my mom and dad got there. I remember everyone looking at me as they rolled the stretcher with me on it down the hallway through school. Then the ambulance took me to Kosair Children’s Hospital.

I remember my aunt and uncle came to see me in the ER and they started crying and so did I. I also got sick. I was just so scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt like a completely different person. They took me to do tests. When we were taken up to a room in the hospital, they did a brain test where they attached lots of cords to my head and they drew on me too. They used a strobe light and it made me feel kind of sick afterwards. Then the doctor came and told my mom and dad and my granny and me that I had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. I didn’t know what it was but my mom was very upset. This is when part of the heart muscle thickens and can make pumping blood hard. It also can mean life-threatening arrhythmias – when your heart starts beating too fast and too irregularly. That’s what happened to me at school.

They told me I was going to have a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted in my chest. I was taken to the PICU. I had the nicest nurses who washed all the gunk out of my hair from the brain test and braided it. They were awesome. Then my friend Olivia cam to visit me along with my counselor and my old principal, Mrs. French. Over the next 4 days, about 45 people came to see me. Everyone in my class made me cards and we taped them on the wall of my half of the room. The surgery for the "device" went well. I got to go home just a couple days later. I had to sleep with my arm in a sling wrapped to my chest to the pacemaker leads would heal into my heart. I didn’t like it much, it felt very tight. But I had to do that for six weeks.

I had to quit playing soccer because I need to work at my own pace. But, I started a Drama Club at my school (we’re in our second year) and I’m in the scouts and I play violin. I also love to paint, draw and be creative. I’ve had to get used to being the "girl who fainted" at my school, but now it doesn’t bother me, because I’ve gotten to be a Heart Ambassador for helping my Coach at school, also, I feel strong because I’ve had to face my fears when my defibrillator fired four different times last April. My medicines are keeping my heart steady and my doctors tell me I’m doing great! My school has been doing Jump Rope for Heart for years, but this year I really wanted to get involved but I don’t jump rope, so I decided I could help by raising lots of money! We shared my personal page on my mom’s Facebook page and through that we raised more than $1,600.00! It makes me feel good.

I would tell other kids who learn they have a heart condition to be strong – it will be ok. Be comfortable to walk around the block with your pet. Like Lila in The Golden Compass said, "master your fear". And that’s my story.

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Grace Firestone

Grace Firestone Delaware

On June 4th, 2011, I spoke at my high school graduation at Tower Hill in Wilmington, Delaware. I was in peak health, with hopes of playing collegiate soccer in the fall. Two days later, I went tubing on the Brandywine with my best friend, and trained at the local YMCA in the afternoon. Around 11pm that night, I was on the floor of my home in Sudden Cardiac Arrest. I had barely reached my mom's bedroom to tell her "I don't feel so good," collapsing on her bed. She picked me up, already dead weight, and laid me on my back as instructed by 911. My brother rushed downstairs and immediately started chest compressions, later followed by rescue breaths. EMTs arrived in 3 minutes and took over CPR without delay. The technicians administered AED shocks to my chest a total of 6 times in order to get a pulse, as my heart stopped 3 times throughout the night. Because my veins were collapsing, they also drilled into my shin bone marrow to get IV fluid into my bloodstream in a procedure called intraosseous infusion.

In the ER, I was put on ice under therapeutic hypothermia to prevent organ damage. Once I stabilized and started breathing on my own, doctors moved me to the ICU, where I stayed for 10 days. When I walked- slowly- out of the hospital the following morning, I found myself fitted with an ICD in my left chest and a new appreciation for life. The summer consisted of remedial physical and cognitive rehab, such as making schedules and walking 25 minutes on the treadmill. I still struggle with short-term memory loss and complex idea retention because of swelling in my brain that resulted from lack of oxygen supply when my heart stopped. After passing a neuropsychology exam in late July, however, I decided to start college in the honors program that August. Against my doctor's recommendation, I also started playing for the university women’s club soccer team. Since then, besides being a student, I have worked in the nonprofit world. Last January, I volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage for 3 weeks and then climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a group of volunteers.

I am now an intern at the AHA doing research on congenital heart defects and working to advocate for CPR as a DE high school graduation requirement. Without my 24 y.o. brother's knowledge of CPR (which was retained from his Red Cross certification in 6th grade!), I would not be here with only a scar to show from being minutes away from death or severe injury. Doctors believe a virus attacked my heart, but that is only their best guess. There is no evidence that I have a congenital disease or other heart defect. No prevention could have targeted me. I am here because of the preparedness of my responders.

Together, we are the cure, and it is our responsibility to advocate now for change that can save lives forever.

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Senate Leaders Block Kentucky's CPR Bill

Despite Kentucky's CPR in Schools bill passing the House of Representatives unanimously and the overwhelming support and outreach to lawmakers from fantastic You're the Cure advocates like you, ultimately Senate leaders blocked the measure from being heard in the Senate. 

Each year, nearly 424,000 people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and only a fraction of victims survive. CPR has been proven to double or triple the chances of a victim surviving cardiac arrest, and over time this bill would ensure that Kentucky has hundreds of thousands of individuals who know how to administer CPR. 

On behalf of the American Heart Association, THANK YOU for your support and dedication and we look forward to working with you over the next year to ensure passage of CPR training for Kentucky's high school students during the 2015 session! Urge those you know to show support for training Kentucky's high school students in CPR by asking them to sign up at www.becprsmart.org!

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Help Us Graduate a New Generation of Lifesavers in WV!

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States and 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. That's why it's important that we all learn how easy---and critical---it is to take action. In less than the time it takes to watch a 30 minute TV sitcom, students can learn the skills they need to help save someone's life with CPR. You can help ensure that this generation of students becomes the next generation of life savers. Click now to send a message to your legislators in support of CPR training for WV's students!

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Small Group Makes Big Impact at the Ohio Statehouse!

On March 25th, a small, but mighty, group of fantastic You're the Cure advocates gathered at the statehouse to meet with legislators in support of CPR training for Ohio's high school students.

More than 80% of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home so training our young adults in this lifesaving skill can potentially save thousands of lives--and takes less than one class period! Want to raise your voice in support CPR training for our high schools students and help graduate a new generation of lifesavers into our communities? Visit www.becprsmart.org today!

 

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Will Freeman, Kentucky

Will Freeman Kentucky

When his younger brother's friend nearly died at a birthday party, Will Freeman decided to take action--by teaching hands-only CPR to his peers at Henry Clay High School. In addition to recently training his entire class of over 500 students, the Lexington, Kentucky, senior has been working closely with the American Heart Association throughout the 2014 Legislative Session to gain support for a bill that would ensure all high school students in the state learn CPR before they graduate.

Read more about Will's efforts and how you can help create a new generation of lifesavers in your state by supporting CPR training for all high school students!

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Advocate Spotlight: Kathy Minx and Al Lessie

Kathy Minx and Al Lessie

My husband, Al, has very high cholesterol - around 450! It is from his mother's side of the family and no one on that side of the family lived past age 50. He had already had a major heart attack at age 31 and had open heart surgery at that time. He was actually one of the first to receive that surgery and the doctors told him he only had three years to live - they had never seen someone that young needing open heart surgery.

I knew he could have another heart attack but how do you prepare for that? He was in shape, had regular treadmill tests at his doctor's office and was receiving a clean bill of health. We decided to train for a 26-mile half marathon and we both ran the course in under two hours.

About one month after the race, we played 18 holes of golf and we walked the course (about 7 miles) as usual. We had a great evening, came home to fix dinner and relax. All of a sudden, my husband hit the floor and turned blue in the face. I was panicking but knew enough to call 911 first. I had been a lifeguard 25 years earlier and remembered my CPR training. I rolled him over and started breathing into his mouth and providing chest compressions. The ambulance arrived and gave him electric shock 5 times - the EMT told me he was so sorry for my loss. On the 6th time, he came back to life but had been unconscious for 9 minutes.

We rushed to the hospital and he was in a coma for four days. When he woke up, the doctor told me that the only reason he was alive was because I started CPR. Another man was brought in the same evening and was out for 9 minutes but did not have CPR. His outcome wasn't so good.

I am so thankful I had that training and have kept up my certification every two years.

By the way, my husband just turned 65 and has not had another incident. We showed that doctor who told him he only had 3 years!

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Advocate Spotlight: Mark Shacklette

Mark Shacklette

In February of 1967, my father, Dr. Charles L. Shacklette, died of a heart attack.  He was only 45 years old and I was only 14 months old.  In November of 2007, I also had a heart attack: a "widow-maker." And this still happened despite all the precautions I had taken.  I was very much aware of my family’s history of heart disease and wanted to ensure I didn’t suffer the same fate as my dad.  I ate right and I exercised regularly.  I maintained a very healthy weight.  I NEVER smoked.  I was, and still am, a fitness instructor at the YMCA.  And despite all of this I also suffered a heart attack, but a stent and a great cardiologist made all the difference.  Because of stents and the research dollars that helped developed them, I survived.  And 6 years later, I am doing very well. 

After my heart attack, I began to ask my mom more about what happened to my dad in February of 1967.  How did he describe the pain?  What were his symptoms?  My mom’s description of his symptoms matched mine – the feeling that someone had hit you in the chest with a sledge-hammer – so I’m convinced my dad also had a widow-maker heart attack.  Unfortunately for mom, it did make her a widow who had to raise five children on her own. 

My dad survived for two days after his initial heart attack.  If only he would have had access to stents like I did.  I’m sure it would have saved him, too, and it would have saved my mom from being a widow. It would have been nice to know my dad.

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