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Malenda McCalister, Kentucky

Malenda McCalister Kentucky

On September 18th, more than 300 advocates from over 100 organizations gathered on Capitol Hill to rally in support of ongoing funding for medical research, and You're the Cure advocate and heart disease survivor, Malenda McCalister, was excited to be among them.

In October 2008, at just 30-years-old, Malenda's life changed forever as she collapsed on the living room floor after giving birth to her son just 10 days earlier. She was rushed to the hospital cath lab where they  discovered she had suffered from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). She had a triple bypass and two stents placed, followed by 2 pacemaker/defibrillator surgeries and a lead revision surgery.

Today, Malenda (at right with singer/actress and congenital heart defect survivor, Laura Bell Bundy) is doing well, raising her two children alongside her husband, Jack, and speaking out wherever she can to raise awareness of SCAD and the need to listen to your body when you know something doesn't feel quite right. She was happy to share her story with her lawmakers on Capitol Hill to illustrate the need to adequately fund the type of research that ultimately saved her life.

Thank you Malenda, for taking time away from your family to share your story with lawmakers on Capitol Hill!

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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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Advocates Deliver "Lunch" and a Message

August was a busy month for many of our fantastic You're the Cure advocates as they met with members of Congress and their staff in their home districts to urge their support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Advocates from across the country, like Grace Oberholtzer of Pennsylvania, pictured at left with Congressman Dent, delivered special puzzles to lawmakers throughout the month to highlight that nutritious food 'fits' into a successful school day for every child.

Our sincere appreciation also goes out to the many other advocates who made "lunch" deliveries in the AHA Great Rivers Affiliate: Sandy Larimore, Cary Hearn and Malenda McCalister of Kentucky, Hilary Requejo, Elaine Bohman, Holly Boykin and Felicia Guerrero of Ohio, Theresa Conejo and Marlene Etkowicz (pictured at right ) in Pennsylvania, Dr. Dan Foster and Cinny Kittle in West Virginia, and Sarah Noonan Davis and Lynn Toth in Delaware.

It's not too late to raise your voice too. Speak-up for quality food in schools!

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Cinny Kittle, West Virginia

Cinny Kittle West Virginia

To our You're the Cure advocates, August means Congressional Recess and an opportunity to meet with lawmakers face-to-face. In West Virginia, that often means Cinny Kittle will be busier than usual speaking out for improved health.

On August 4th, Cinny joined WV Government Relations Director, Christine Compton, in delivering "lunch" to Congressman Nick Rahall's Washington, DC office--a lunch sack filled with puzzle pieces that represent a healthy school meal. The message? Support the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

As the Director of Health Improvement Initiatives at the West Virginia Hospital Association for the past 17 years, Cinny works on various projects to positively impact the lives of West Virginians. In addition, she is the Director of the Tobacco-Free WV Coalition, the co-founder and director of the WV Breastfeeding Alliance, she serves of the steering committee for the WV Perinatal Partnership and founded the Day One program to help get newborn babies off to their best start.

Cinny is committed to improving the health of our fellow Mountaineers. She is a strong advocate for public health and a terrific asset to the groups she collaborates with on a regular basis. With her busy schedule and many commitments, we are fortunate to have her as a passionate You're the Cure advocate and outstanding member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee. Thank you, Cinny, for all you to do improve the health of West Virginia!

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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on www.heart.org/healthierkids.  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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It's Back to School Time in DE: Time to Learn...CPR!

Great news! As part of our CPR in schools effort, we’ve reached a milestone: with 17 states now training high school students in CPR, more than one million students will graduate every year knowing this lifesaving skill. Let's make Delaware number 18!

Hands-only CPR training takes 30 minutes or less--less time than it takes to watch a sitcom. And teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our community with lifesavers—those trained to give sudden cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive.

Visit www.becprsmart.org to learn how you can help graduate a new generation of lifesavers in Delaware!

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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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Make a Difference at Your Local Heart Walk

Are you planning to participate in your local Heart Walk this summer or fall? If so, and you, your family, your organization or your Heart Walk team would like to volunteer to spend a few minutes at our You're the Cure table gathering signatures in support of our efforts to ensure all high school students are trained in lifesaving CPR, let us know!

In addition to being a fun opportunity to gather with friends and loved ones to support a great cause, Heart Walks are also a great way to showcase another side of the work the American Heart Association does every day: improving heart health in our communities through public policy!

Not sure if there is a Heart Walk in your area? Contact us!

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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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One Million Milestone

Did you hear the big news?  We’ve reached an amazing milestone in our campaign to teach all students to be ‘CPR Smart’!  17 states now require CPR training as a graduation requirement, which adds up to over one million annual graduates who are prepared to save a life.  Congratulations to all of the You’re the Cure advocates and community partners who have spoken-up for training our next generation of life-savers.   

But with every advocacy celebration comes a new call to action.  33 states still need to pass legislation to make CPR a graduation requirement and you can help us get there!  Here are a couple simple things you can do right now to get the word out:

1) Watch Miss Teen International Haley Pontius share how a bad day can be turned into a day to remember when students know CPR.  And don’t forget to share this PSA on social media with the hashtag #CPRinSchools!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

2) Do you live in one of the 33 states that have not made CPR a graduation requirement yet?  Take our Be CPR Smart pledge to show your support and join the movement.  We’ll keep you updated on the progress being made in your state. 


 

 

We hope you’ll help keep the momentum going as we support many states working to pass this legislation into 2015.  Several states have already had success in securing funding for CPR training in schools, but now need to push for the legislature to pass the graduation requirement and in Illinois, the Governor recently signed legislation that requires schools to offer CPR & AED training to students. 

Bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates when given right away and with 424,000 people suffering out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year, this law is critical to helping save lives.  Thank you for being part of our movement to train the next generation of life-savers!


PS- Inspired to be CPR smart too?  Take 60 seconds to learn how to save a life with Hands-Only CPR.

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