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It's a Wrap, Georgia!

The Georgia General Assembly got off to a slow start in 2014, but turned into a fast and furious frenzy during the last of its 40 legislative days.  When the gavel rung at midnight on March 20, legislators were left with a flurry of bills and amendments, many of which garnered strong media attention in this election year.  

Legislation that the American Heart Association prioritized included:

  • House Bill 772: drug testing for food stamp recipients that a caseworker deems “reasonable suspicion” for drug use. Test cost born by recipient.  May violate federal law as states are not permitted to impose stricter application guidelines. American Heart Association does not support.
  • House Bill 251: bans e-cigarette sales to minors and over the internet. Redefines e-cigarettes as “alternative nicotine products,” thus avoiding being taxed like tobacco. Unclear if they will circumvent the current indoor clean air act. American Heart Association supports the sales bans, but not the definition.
  • House Bill 990: shifts the power of Medicaid expansion from the Governor to the state legislature as an intentional additional barrier. American Heart Association does not support.
  • House Bill 707: was tacked onto another bill at the 11th hour and was watered down. Prohibits any state or local government employee from advocating for Medicaid expansion or the Affordable Care Act. Also shuts down UGA’s patient navigator program. American Heart Association does not support.

The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto bills that made it to his desk.

Now more than ever, it’s important to lend your voice to heart and stroke issues affecting Georgia.  Your efforts have Pulse Oximetry testing for all newborns within reach!  Plus, lawmakers are learning about access challenges to healthy, fresh food.  But we can’t be successful without a strong You’re the Cure network.   

Please click here to invite 4 friends, relatives, or co-workers to join You're the Cure and help you make Georgia a healthier heart state.  Let them know that being part of the cure is simple and truly makes a difference.

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Alyson Whitaker, Georgia

Alyson is a third grader in Locust Grove, Georgia.  She is a hometown hero to many people in the community.

For the past four years, Alyson has participated in the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart.  Each year, she has won Jump Rope for Heart not only in her school but in Henry County.  Alyson takes the American Heart Association very seriously.

At only three months old, Alyson was diagnosed with Coarctation of the aorta and was rushed to emergency surgery on October 27, 2005.  Her parents almost lost her the next day.  She spent 27 days in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. To her parents she is a miracle and to many folks a blessing.  But, this isn't the only reason Alyson raises money for the American Heart Association

In 2010 Alyson's parents found out they were expecting a baby boy.  They named their unborn son Cole Aiden Whitaker; many knew him affectionately as "Baby Cole."  Due to the complications with Alyson, the parents had the baby tested prior to birth and learned he had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) and Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR).  Against all odds - and the doctors asking them to abort the baby - Alyson's mom and dad trusted in God.  Her mother carried Cole full term and delivered him on August 5, 2010 at Northside Hospital; he was then air-lifted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.  Cole had his first of what would have been three surgeries, but he took a turn for the worse because his lungs were too weak.  After only nine short days, Cole passed away on August 14, 2010. 

If you ask Alyson why she collects money for the American Heart Association, she will tell you it is in honor of her brother "Baby Cole" and to help other children like them to be able to get the proper technology to correct these issues so they have an improved chance at life. 

To her parents Alyson is an eight-year-old trying to make a difference in this world and does it in the most compassionate way she knows how.  As a family they have witnessed a miracle with Alyson's little heart being repaired and they have experienced loss with Cole.  Helping the American Heart Association allows Alyson and her family to give back and to help others who may be going through similar experiences.

Written by Alyson's mother, You're the Cure advocate Paula Whitaker.

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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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Senator Mullis Receives Award for CPR in Schools Bill

This month, the American Heart Association presented State Sen. Mullis with the Legislator of the Year award for championing Senate Bill 212, CPR in Schools, during the 2013 Georgia legislative session. He was also presented with a life-sized framed copy of the bill that was signed by hundreds of volunteers and staff to thank him for his work. Sen. Mullis was very touched and thought it was very unique. 

Senate Bill 212, CPR in Schools, went into effect this school year and requires all Georgia students to receive hands-on instruction in CPR before they graduate. This important life-saving skill is now offered to students as part of the existing health or physical education curriculum in Georgia’s high schools. Considering most cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital, it is important we train the next generation in CPR so they can be prepared to save a life whether at home, a football stadium or the mall. 

We want to thank Senator Mullis again for his help. Now all of Georgia’s students will learn CPR, adding thousands of lifesavers to our communities.

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4th Annual Be Healthy Georgia Festival and Family Run

Last Saturday, staff members, Lindsay Ayers and Marsi Thrash, promoted Jump Rope for Heart and You're the Cure at Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s 4th Annual Be Healthy Georgia Festival and Family Fun Run.

Marsi's son, Jordan, (featured in photo) ran the 1K in record time, warmed up for his opening day baseball game with the Atlanta Braves, Falcons and Hawks, and met mascots of nearly every walk of life.

There were upwards of 1,000 people in attendance, and many schools had registered as a group.

According to the National Initiatives for Children’s Healthcare Quality Georgia ranks second in the nation for childhood obesity. 37.3% of Georgia’s children are overweight or obese. Georgia ranks third in the nation for children who are overweight or obese. Children who are minority, from low-income households, and from rural areas are more likely to be obese.

The Lt. Governor is very committed to reducing childhood obesity and increasing physical activity in Georgia and we look forward to  participating again next year!

Tell Lt. Governor Cagle that you appreciate him making childhood obesity a priority!    

 

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Carly Mathis, Georgia

Carly Mathis Georgia

Ms. Mathis was recognized by the Georgia House of Representatives on February 26, 2014.  She thanked the members for their dedication to prevent cardiovascular diseases and in making CPR education a requirement for high school graduation in Georgia a reality.  She said, “It takes a village, but we’re well on our way to a healthier state,” thanks to the House members.

The day before, Ms. Mathis visited Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sibley Heart Center and transformed patient Nia into Princess Nia for the day.  Nia is a spirited 10-year-old who is waiting on a new heart, while on the cardiac stepdown unit, her home for the past few months.  Watch Carly and Nia’s time together in this Fox Atlanta news coverage: A 10-year-old struggling heart patient, Miss Georgia, and a world-class makeover. Watch it all come together.

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Update from the Georgia Capital

The Georgia Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on March 20, so bills are moving at breakneck speed!  As we have passed Day 30, Crossover Day, many bills did not “cross over” from one chamber to the other and are dead, so they will not become law.

Here are some highlights of bills that have crossed over and the American Heart Association is watching closely.

  • E-cigarettes: A bill bans the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and on the internet in Georgia, but also classifies it as a non-tobacco product.  The American Heart Association supports what many other states have done, which is include e-cigarettes in the definition of a tobacco product.
  • Health care coverage: Numerous bills are still alive that shift the power of Medicaid expansion from the Governor to the legislature and restrict any government worker (state or local) from advocating or assisting with enrollment onto an Affordable Care Act health care plan.  The American Heart Association believes that insured people are healthier people, with access to preventive care, diagnostics and appropriate treatment.
  • Food deserts: A resolution in the House of Representatives raises awareness of the lack of access to healthy, fresh food for many Georgians. To learn more about food deserts, please read the article from Atlanta Magazine, March 2014, “Stranded in Atlanta’s Food Deserts.”

Check your inbox for the latest action alerts on pending legislation and regulations in regards to heart disease and stroke!

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One Step Closer to Saving Georgia's Babies

On February 10, 2014 - just ahead of the impending ice storm that closed the state for nearly a week - Governor Nathan Deal presented a proclamation to several families affected by critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) that recognizes February 7 – 14 as CCHD Awareness Week.  The American Heart Association appreciates the Governor's help to raise awareness of the number one killer of infants with a birth defect.

Later that month, a team at the Department of Health put together a comprehensive regulation that will set the protocols for every single birthing center in Georgia on how to screen for a CCHD.  At 24 hours of age, an infant will have the probe placed on its finger or toe, and if the oxygen measured is below a certain number, the baby will receive further cardiac. The regulation will be put out for public comment in the coming weeks; a public hearing will also take place.

Georgia’s passage of this regulation brings us one step closer to every single state screening for CCHD.

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Happy Heart Month!

50 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson designated February as American Heart Month.  Since then we have made tremendous strides in fighting the No. 1 killer in America – heart disease.  But we still have work to do! 

Over the past 10 years for which statistics are available, the death rate from heart disease has fallen about 39 percent – but the burden and risk factors remain alarmingly high.

Heart disease strikes someone in the U.S. about once every 34 seconds, killing almost 380,000 people a year.  Cardiovascular operations and procedures increased about 28 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to federal data, totaling about 7.6 million in 2010.  Approximately 720,000 people in the U.S. have heart attacks each year; of those, about 122,000 die. 

This Heart Month, take control of your heart health and learn more about the risks of a heart attack.

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Kimberly Goodloe, Georgia

Recently, You're the Cure advocate and heart disease survivor, Kimberly Goodloe, organized a free health fair in collaboration with the United Ebony Society of Gwinnett County  Inc./MLKING Celebration in Lawrenceville, Georgia to educate, encourage and empower the community by offering free screenings & resources.  Participants received free dental, bone marrow, blood pressure, diabetes screenings and educational brochures in the following areas : heart/stroke disease, lupus, fibroid awareness, the Affordable Health Care Act and more.

Goodloe added: “ I’m so excited that I received the opportunity to give back to the community on  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day by providing a format for every family present at the event  to begin a new journey: living  a healthier, happier lifestyle.”

 Kimberly's Heart Story

“One day I experienced shortness of breath and knew something just didn’t feel right. I made an appointment with the doctor, a test was ordered, and my first surgery date was scheduled for February 12th, 2009, two weeks after experiencing warning signs. The valve replacement surgery was successful; however blockage occurred after the first surgery so the doctors notified my husband that I would need a pace maker to help my heart function. My second surgery took place on February 16th, 2009, 4 days after that initial procedure and I received a pace maker. During a regular check-up for my pace maker reading, it was found that I would need to have a pace maker revision. So the following day on June 23rd, 2010, my third surgery, an outpatient procedure, took place.

Acceptance is crucial during the recovery stage.  Not living in denial, but accepting the daily challenges occurring inside my body such as: coping with breathing issues on a daily basis, living with a pace maker, taking Coumadin for the rest of my life, and dealing with the discomfort in my chest etc. But through faith, family & friends, I’m able to face each day & knowing within my heart that God continues to bless me & my family. Every day is a gift from God.” – Kimberly Goodloe

Photo Credit: Adriana Sans Photography

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