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Volunteer Spotlight: Thurman Paul

Thurman Paul of Tulsa, Oklahoma is like many You’re the Cure Advocates; he is connected to stroke. His father’s uncle suffered a stroke two years ago.  His interest in the Advocacy work of the American Heart Association began with a simple call to action to sign a petition in support of obesity prevention on the community level.

Thurman promptly signed the petition and answered a follow-up email to supporters of the petition asking for those interested in learning more about the American Heart Association’s advocacy work to reply to the email. He did so because he believes finding a cure for heart disease and stroke should be a priority.  Thurman’s first activity as a You’re the Cure Advocate involved a visit to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office to advocate for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The concept of volunteerism and activism is not a new one for Thurman. He recently returned from a service trip to Nicaragua where he taught classes and distributed food and supplies to youth groups.

Thurman has also worked with his mother to visit juvenile centers and visit with youth.   Travel and new experiences are a driving factor in his commitment to service. “Volunteerism is a way for me to give back while being around people,” he said. 

Interested in becoming more involved with the American Heart Association’s fight to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Email Brian Bowser at brian.bowser@heart.org to learn more about how you can take action!

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Training a Generation of Life Savers in the Denver Community

The American Heart Association recently had the opportunity to work with Project SHINE at the Spring Institute in Denver, to train Burmese, Bhutanese, and Iraqi refugees in CPR through the Salah Foundation grant. These refugees live in some of the most underserved areas of our city and speak little to no English. However, that didn't stand in the way of learning the lifesaving skill of CPR. 

AHA staff members Rene Ramon and Whitney Bell Haggard conducted the first of three trainings at the end of July in which they quickly realized that we would need to find new and creative ways to teach the CPR Anytime curriculum.


“We knew that the participants had the skills save a life at the end of the training, so we challenged them to train others in their community,” said Whitney Bell Haggard.

She continued, “We were elated to see that of the 150 people we trained during the session, 75 have turned in their sheets to show that they took their kits home and trained others. With just those 75 people we have an additional 480 people trained!”

Isn’t that amazing? One person even trained 58 individuals! We here at AHA just can’t stress enough how this is going to make Denver’s most underserved populations safer and how this also reinforces the importance of how advocates can live out our mission every day, making our communities safer and healthier.

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What is Pediatric Cardiomyopathy?

Did you know that one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with a diseased state of the heart known as cardiomyopathy?  While it is a relatively rare condition in kids, it poses serious health risks, making early diagnosis important.  As the heart weakens due to abnormities of the muscle fibers, it loses the ability to pump blood effectively and heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias or dysrhythmia) may occur.

That’s why we’re proud to team up with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation this month- Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month- to make more parents aware of this condition (signs and symptoms) and to spread the word about the policy changes we can all support to protect our youngest hearts.
 
As a You’re the Cure advocate, you know how important medical research is to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.  And pediatric cardiomyopathy is no exception.  However, a serious lack of research on this condition leaves many unanswered questions about its causes.  On behalf of all young pediatric cardiomyopathy patients, join us in calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s investment in medical research.
  
Additionally, we must speak-up to better equip schools to respond quickly to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest caused by pediatric cardiomyopathy.  State laws, like the one passed in Massachusetts, require schools to develop emergency medical response plans that can include:

  • A method to establish a rapid communication system linking all parts of the school campus with Emergency Medical Services
  • Protocols for activating EMS and additional emergency personnel in the event of a medical emergency
  • A determination of EMS response time to any location on campus
  • A method for providing training in CPR and First Aid to teachers, athletic coaches, trainers and others – which may include High School students
  • A listing of the location of AEDs and the school personnel trained to use the AED

CPR high school graduation requirements are another important measure to ensure bystanders, particularly in the school setting, are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.  19 states have already passed these life-saving laws and we’re on a mission to ensure every student in every state graduates ‘CPR Smart’.
   
With increased awareness and research of pediatric cardiomyopathy and policy changes to ensure communities and schools are able to respond to cardiac emergencies, we can protect more young hearts.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?  Join our new Support Network today to connect with others who share the heart condition.   

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Schools Report Students Favor Healthier Lunches

According to a recent study conducted by Bridging the Gap Research of school administrators at elementary, middle and high schools of students’ reactions to the healthier lunches, 70 percent of schools thought that students liked the new lunches.

By the spring of SY 2012‐13, school administrators in U.S. public elementary, middle and high schools reported that the majority of students liked the new meals, at least to some extent. Across all grade levels, most respondents reported that students complained initially in fall 2012 but that far fewer students were complaining by the time of the surveys in spring2013.  

Most American children consume more sugar, fat and sodium and fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains than recommended. School meals, which feed more than 30 million children and adolescents each year, play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people.

Learn more about these findings here: http://www.bridgingthegapresearch.org/_asset/h6lbl9/BTG_student_opinions_school_lunch_Jul_14.pdf

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Help Us Promote the Child Nutrition Act in Colorado

Your Congressman or Senator could have the power to ensure kids are getting quality, nutritional meals in schools. As they return home from Washington DC for a break in August, the American Heart Association is coordinating efforts across the state to meet with legislators and show our support of federal school nutrition funding, and guidelines.

We could use your help! These legislators will be most responsive to the people in their state. We are asking volunteers to attend a scheduled information drop-off at their Member’s offices.  Will you join us?

For more details contact Erin Hackett at erin.hackett@heart.org.

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My Story

My name is Ryley Williams.  I am a high school student and stroke survivor.  This is my story. 

On July 8, 2013 my life was forever changed when I collapsed during warm up exercises at sophomore football practice. I was rushed to the ER, and they quickly told my parents that I needed a higher level of care, so I was taken in a helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. In less than 4 hours of being admitted my parents were told that I had suffered multiple strokes in the left side of my brain. I could not speak or move the right side of my body. But they still did not know what caused the strokes. I was 15 years old, and in the best shape of my life. How could this happen to me?! 

Less than 48 hours later I was taken into emergency surgery to remove a portion of my skull to relieve the terrible swelling from the strokes. I am told this saved my life. Immediately following the crainectomy, a transesophageal echocardiogram was performed and it was then that the vegetation like strands that had built up from an unknown (and never identified) bacterial infection were found, and I was officially diagnosed with negative culture endocarditis.

I was immediately started on several different strong antibiotics to fight the infection, so the next 6 weeks I had to carry around an IV for these medications.  I am told that I completely broke all expectations and predictions from the stroke damage and was moved out of PICU directly into the rehabilitation unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital. 

I was still getting my food through a feeding tube in my nose, and couldn’t sit up or move on my own. There was speculation that I might only get part of my right side working again. 

But gradually and in leaps, I started fighting to get my life back, beginning with talking, swallowing, moving my arm and leg, and eventually sitting up and standing. After almost 3 weeks in rehab, I took my first steps with the help of a walking machine, and several physical therapists. The next move was a transfer to a residential rehabilitation hospital closer to home, and I immediately started physical, occupational and speech therapy on a daily routine. After another 3 weeks, I was able to come home.

Altogether the total amount of time spent in the hospitals was 7.5 weeks. It was during this time that my neurosurgeon broke it to me that I would never play football again, or any other contact sport. This was devastating to me. In November of 2013, I went back to ACH for my final surgery that replaced the missing piece of skull with a prosthetic piece.

Once again I fought against the odds, and went home after only 2 days, and never lost any of my progress. In January, I went back to school with a shortened schedule, and daily PT/OT/Speech therapies, as well as trying out my new role as a student athletic trainer.

It has been a year since my stroke, and it’s been a very tough journey, not just physically, but mentally hard to accept my new limitations and lifestyle. I want to tell other stroke survivors to not give up, even a tiny progress is progress, and it’s further than you were a week ago.

A lot of people think I have it easy, but it’s really hard to see all my friends moving on in their lives, and I am just fighting to run again, or ride a bike, or play video games. It will all happen again…..just not as quickly as I wish, and that is okay. I have also had my 16th birthday since the strokes, but I will not be able to drive for another year or so, because I have had seizures that are “normal”, but should be controlled by medications I take daily. No matter what, I am alive and I am thankful that I am still on the earth to help others that have been through what I have been through.

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Ruthie Ewers: Smoke-Free Champion

When the City of Harlingen passed a strong smoke-free ordinance, it was like a dream come true for Texas volunteer Ruthie Ewers.  Ruthie has been the driving force behind the Harlingen smoke-free initiative that started more than 8 years ago.

Passionate about improving her community and the lives of its residents, she has been determined to protect Harlingen employees from secondhand smoke exposure since 2005.

A past president of the Cameron-Willacy County American Heart Association, Ruthie co-chaired the 2005 Smoke-Free Harlingen coalition. The coalition succeeded in expanding the Harlingen smoke-free ordinance to include most worksites, including restaurants. In February of 2014, Ruthie made it her mission to “finish the job” and ensure that ALL worksites in Harlingen would be smoke-free.

Three months later, the City passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that covers all worksites, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities. This public health win is due, in large part, to Ruthie’s grassroots efforts to educate and inform the mayor and city commissioners about the ordinance and to include all stakeholders in the process.

Ruthie has a reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done in her community. It’s not surprising to see a “Don’t Mess with Ruthie” bumper sticker every now and then when driving through town, and residents are lucky to have her on their side.

Harlingen residents and employees can now breathe easier thanks to Ruthie and all You’re the Cure advocates who stood up for the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Ruthie will continue working with the American Heart Association as a member of the Texas Smoke-free Leadership Council.

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Celebrating with our Advocacy Network

On Monday June 30th, advocate volunteers gathered for our 1st annual volunteer celebration event. Nearly 20 volunteers joined American Heart Association advocacy staff for appetizers and refreshments and spent their evening celebrating legislative victories and mingling with other volunteers who were instrumental in making our advocacy efforts successful.

Our leading volunteers swapped stories of how they came to be outstanding You’re the Cure advocates and described the role each have played throughout the past few years. Throughout the night advocates expressed a renewed excitement in our advocacy work and an enthusiasm for what will happen in the future.

Do you want to join our You’re the Cure advocacy team? If so, please comment below.

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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email teachinggardens@heart.org to find how you can get involved.

               

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Arkansas Advocate Stars in PSA for CPR in Schools

Arkansas volunteer and Miss Teen International, Haley Pontius, is on a mission to educate more people – especially her peers – about how CPR can save a life.  That is why she supports CPR in Schools legislation and recently starred in a Public Service Announcement. 

You can view the PSA video by clicking here.

In addition to her CPR advocacy Haley has volunteered for the American Heart Association since 2007 in a number of roles.  Haley was a summer intern at the Central Arkansas office in 2012 and has volunteered at several events, like the Heart Ball and Go Red For Women Luncheon.

Thanks to advocates like Haley 1 million students across the nation each school year will be trained in CPR, including students in states like Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas where advocates helped to pass CPR in Schools initiatives. 


 

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