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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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Lieutenant Governor Is Honored at the GRFW Luncheon

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman was presented with a very special award at the recently held 2014 Hartford Go Red for Women Luncheon in honor of her participation in the luncheon since its inception and her contributions to women’s health in Connecticut. Known for her signature platform heels, the Lieutenant Governor received the perfect Go Red for Woman Award. Wyman has worked on expanding quality healthcare through the creation of the state’s HUSKY Health Plan, and most recently, Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health care exchange. The American Heart Association views expanding healthcare coverage as a key component to achieving its 2020 goals to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

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Kristen Hickey, Connecticut

I have always tried to make a difference in a patient’s life, but thanks to the American Heart Association, I can make a difference in lives of patient’s throughout Connecticut. I have been a Stroke Coordinator for the last 7 years and have a passion to improve stroke care for all of my patients. Stroke became a strong interest of mine after my father in law suffered a massive stroke. He lost his ability to move his left side and his awareness and memory were greatly affected. I often wondered if the best possible care was given to him and that drove me to learn more. Soon after, I was offered a Stroke Coordinator position and knew it was a perfect fit for me.

I am currently coordinating the care of stroke patients at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, the Bradley and New Britain campuses, as well as Midstate Medical Center. Every patient deserves the best possible stroke care and that philosophy, along with the support of the AHA, has helped me advocate for the improvement of stroke care in CT. I have truly enjoyed helping shape the Stroke System of Care Bill currently making its way through the legislature. This bill supports Stroke Certification of all hospitals in Connecticut by 2015, and if a hospital is unable to meet requirements, then EMS would transport to the closest certified Stroke Center. I have testified at the Public Health Committee meeting, lobbied with Senators and State Representatives and spoke to anyone who would hear my plea. I will continue to work tirelessly until all residents of Connecticut receive the best possible stroke care.

I am privileged to work with the AHA and a fantastic team of stroke professionals in the state. We all have different backgrounds and experiences, from all areas of the state, but we work together toward the goal of improving stroke care for all residents of Connecticut. It is very rewarding knowing that I can make a positive impact on the outcomes of the stroke patients at the hospitals with which I work, but thanks to the efforts of the AHA and my colleagues across the state, it is truly inspiring to realize that this impact can be shared with every patient in Connecticut.

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State Comptroller Kevin Lembo Goes Red

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo recently stopped by the Hartford Steam Building to show support for the Go Red Day health fair, where the American Heart Association provided attendees with Healthy Heart information and St. Francis Hospital offered free health screening. Comptroller Lembo reminded folks who took part in activities that a few simple changes in their lives could help reduce the number of women and men who suffer from heart disease.

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U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal & American Heart Stand Together in Support of CVS Caremark Decision

The American Heart Association, along with staff from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Lung Association recently participated in a press conference with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal heralding the decision made by CVS Pharmacy to discontinue the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in their stores. Senator Blumenthal called upon other stores to follow CVS Pharmacy’s lead in an effort to help reduce health care costs and save countless lives.

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Dr. Seth Lapuk

I was raised in a family committed to volunteerism. The American Heart Association has given me a home to continue this tradition. I have been a member of the North Central Connecticut Board of The American Heart Association for 4 years and have had the honor of being the Board President for the last 2 ½ years. My involvement has afforded me the opportunity to utilize my experience as a pediatric cardiologist to promote some of the amazing advocacy goals of the AHA. I have enjoyed helping shape legislation for, and testifying on behalf of the necessity of newborn screening for congenital heart disease and the benefits of requiring CPR as a graduation requirement for high school students.  It has allowed me the ability to develop a unique relationship with the Connecticut chapter of the American College of Cardiology were I sit as one of the Counselors,  a model relationship that I hope can be adopted nationally. This collaboration of forces toward mutual goals of improving the health of the citizens of our state has been enormously fulfilling.

Equally gratifying as being on the board has been the opportunity to meet and work with the Professional Staff of the AHA along with members of the board from completely different backgrounds, all working toward the goal of combating heart disease for all ages. Whether it be by meeting with our National legislative representative during AHA’s Heart on the Hill day in Washington DC, making Connecticut the first State to have 100% of its towns being certified Heart Safe Communities or working on National programs such as Go Red For Women, You’re the Cure or local Heart Walks and golf tournaments, my time spent with the AHA has been great.

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Learn & Share Your Post-Stroke Tips

After a stroke, even the simplest tasks can be very challenging.  Survivors often face limb weakness, numbness or paralysis, communication challenges, and difficulty with their vision.  However, we know stroke survivors and caregivers across the country are persevering and discovering new, creative ways to carry out the daily tasks they need to.  Through their recovery, they find a 'new normal' and we want to help share these helpful tips far and wide. 

That's why the American Stroke Association created a volunteer-powered library- Tips for Daily Living- to gather ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!  For example, do you have to put up a ponytail with one hand?  Watch Karen’s video!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Help us grow the library!  Do you have something to share that could help stroke survivors?  Share your tips by completing the online submission form at www.StrokeAssociation.org/tips.  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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Karen Christensen, Connecticut

Karen Christensen was born with a hole in her heart but that didn’t stop her from achieving her dream of skating in the Ice Capades. Christensen shared her story as an honoree for Fairfield County Heart Walk helping raise heart disease awareness and funds for the American Heart Association. She and her son, Tyler, are active members of the You’re the Cure network.

Christensen, a private ice skating instructor at Stamford Twin Rinks, had a bumpy start coming into the world, born with multiple health issues including an atrial septal defect, or hole in the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart. At six years old, she had open heart surgery at Yale New Haven to repair the defect.

As part of her recovery, doctors recommended that she participate in sports or physical activity that would strengthen her heart and build stamina.

“I tried gymnastics and ballet, but I really found my passion with ice skating,” said Christensen, “My parents would take me to ice shows and I realized that was what I wanted to do.”

At age 18, at the peak of her skills, she auditioned and was thrilled to be accepted into the Ice Capades national touring show. Training rehearsals in California were intense eight-hour daily sessions, six days per week with shows in new cities every week. She performed in six numbers per show—even once as a Smurf--but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

At age 32, when she was pregnant with her son, Tyler, she had the doctors check his heart . He was perfect. But just six months after his birth, she was the one with the heart issues. Christensen felt a strong, rapid heart rate that came and went.  An EKG showed that she had atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat also known as AFib) and tachycardia, or rapid heart rate. Both can lead to life-threatening complications.

When medicine wasn’t enough to manage the heartbeat irregularities, she had electro-cardioversion—when doctors send an electrical rhythm to the heart to restore her normal rhythm. She endured this 22 times in her lifetime. Eventually, an ablation procedure was necessary to terminate the faulty cells which caused the extra heart beat impulses. Because of her childhood surgery, the procedure was complicated and required a 7-hour surgery.

The next year, Christensen was on blood thinners but back at skating, teaching and training.

“I skated even with the heart problem. One day I might need a cardioversion, and then I’d skate the next day,” she said, “I did less jumping because my heart was only function at 75 or 80%. It slowed me a bit, but it didn’t stop me.”

To this day, she researches new advancements in the care of arrhythmia.

“I’ll call my doctor and ask if I can have this new procedure I read about. The answer is always no because I have these complications,” she said, “Because of all the advancements and groundbreaking research of the American Heart Association, I went on to lead a full life, including becoming a professional ice skater with the Ice Capades.”

While she waits for the next new treatment, Christensen will continue skating, teaching and advocating for the American Heart Association to ensure that others have a healthy future.


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AHA Educating Task Force Members on the Impact of Childhood Obesity

At the December meeting of Connecticut’s Childhood Obesity Task force, American Heart’s own, Dr. Sally Wong, presented to members an assessment of the causes of childhood obesity, the impact the crisis is having on our communities, and strategies to reverse the disturbing trend. Dr. Wong is an Associate Science and Medicine Advisor for Voices for Healthy Kids, the new collaboration between the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to engage, organize and mobilize people to improve the health of their communities and reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. The Task Force is charged with gathering information and reporting to the General Assembly and the Governor policies aimed at coordinating and administering state programs to reduce the incidents of childhood obesity. 

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Where did 2013 go?

Wow! Where did 2013 go? As we celebrate all we did this year, I find myself once again thinking about New Year resolutions.  The perennial favorites are there….eat better, get more exercise, save more money…but these goals are all centered on making my life better.  What if for 2014 we all put more focus on our community goals. Goals that will make life better not just for us, but for our communities as a whole

How about…

  • CPR as a Graduation Requirement
  • Policies fighting Childhood Obesity
  • Pulse Ox Screening for Every Newborn
  • Quality Daily Physical Education for all Students
  • Better Systems of Stroke Care
  • Improved AED Access

That’s just a few. We all live in different places and will have different goals, but we can make them all come true together.

Thank you for all that you do as a You’re the Cure advocate.  Without you we would never be making the progress we are against heart disease and stroke.

And I am excited to see what we can accomplish as a team in 2014!

Heart Disease and Stroke. You’re the Cure.

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