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Ground-Breaking Illinois Stroke Bill Signed into Law

Thanks to dedicated volunteers like you, on Monday, August 18, 2014, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5742, new stroke legislation into law taking a big step forward in emergency care for stroke patients in Illinois. HB 5742 was approved by the Illinois legislature on May 22, having been introduced in the House by Rep. Robyn Gabel (Evanston), and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Heather Steans (Chicago).

Now known as Public Act 098-1001, this landmark new stroke law makes Illinois the first state in the nation to formally recognize all three levels of stroke care hospital, including Acute Stroke Ready Centers, Primary Stroke Centers, and Comprehensive Stroke Centers. This three-tiered system of designated stroke care hospitals, coupled with existing requirements that EMS providers update their stroke treatment and transport protocols accordingly, will help medical professionals from EMS to the ER to the OR build a better, more cohesive, more efficient network of stroke care.  

"As a result of this law, patients who suffer a stroke in Illinois will be assured of getting the highest level of stroke care available in their area, whether they’re in downtown Chicago, rural Pope county, or on the side of a freeway anywhere in between," said Dr. Shyam Prabhakaran, Director of Stroke Research at Northwestern University Medical Center and a member of the Governor-appointed Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee. The law also creates a dedicated funding stream for the creation of a state stroke registry, which will help the Illinois Dept. of Public Health and medical stakeholders across the state pursue quality improvement initiatives and more efficiently allocate resources.

HB 5742 traveled a long path from first-draft to signed-law, and benefited tremendously along the way from the input and expertise of American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) volunteers serving on the official Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee, as well as the hard work of AHA/ASA staff, who teamed up to draft and pass a meaningful bill while ensuring that political exigencies never overruled scientifically-based medical best practices. The impassioned advocacy and political heft of You’re the Cure volunteers and partner organizations such as the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, the Illinois EMS Alliance, and Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other was also key to overcoming significant opposition and ensuring the bill’s passage.  

"From the initial AHA/ASA scientific guidance, to the thoughtful leadership of volunteers on the State Stroke Advisory Committee, to the steadfast support of partner organizations, to the impassioned advocacy of You’re the Cure advocates, this new law was truly a team effort, and one that will help save and improve the lives of Illinois stroke survivors for years to come," said Lynne Braun, PhD, Chair of the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee. Braun continued, "while there are still rules to write and protocols to implement, this is a big step forward for stroke care in Illinois, and everyone who has felt the impact of stroke in their life can feel proud of our collective effort."

Don’t forget to say thanks to those lawmakers that supported this ground-breaking stroke legislation! Please send a message of thanks to your lawmakers. 

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The State of Obesity: Illinois Report

In recognition of Childhood Obesity Awareness month, we are pleased to be able to provide our advocates with the most recent statistics on childhood obesity in our state and across the nation. The State of Obesity report (formerly F as in Fat), a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a close-up look at our progress toward reducing childhood obesity, and the work that lies ahead of us to ensure our kids are growing up healthy and strong. 

You can read the full report by clicking here to visit

For the past 11 years, this report has raised awareness about the serious nature of obesity, and encouraged the creation of a national obesity prevention strategy. The American Heart Association has worked alongside our partners at the Trust and RWJ Foundation, and others, to develop effective approaches for reversing the obesity epidemic at the state and federal level.

Illinois is ranked 25th among all states and the District of Columbia. 

Click here to see our state report.

The report also highlights the various policy objectives that are important in our fight to reduce obesity: physical activity before, during and after school, school nutrition, access to healthy and affordable food, food and beverage marketing, etc. Reducing obesity in our communities will take dedication, focus, innovation and cooperation. Please join us in this fight! See how you can take action at

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My Story: Dina Piersawl

Dina Piersawl Chicago, IL

I suffered a mini-stroke on January 2, 2004, but my story began a few days earlier during the holidays.  I was visiting my parents in Kentucky and had a nagging headache.  My mother told me that my eyes looked funny and asked me what was wrong - a mother always knows when there is a problem with their children no matter how old we are.

I barely made it through the holidays with my parents, as each day the headache seemed to get worse.  When I returned to Chicago, I felt so terrible I decided to go to the emergency room.  I also felt like a football player was standing on my chest.  Being an ex-athlete, I just knew something was wrong.

Upon arrival to the ER on Dec. 30, my blood pressure was quite elevated so they put a nitroglycerin patch on my chest and left me in a holding room to see if my BP would go down.  My BP remained elevated and the intern that was treating me told me to call my doctor after the holiday.  He sent me home after a couple hours and told me my headache and elevated BP was probably due to ‘holiday stress’.

Once at home, my headache never ceased to stop hurting and that football player was still standing on my chest.  I thought I was going to die.  New Year's Day came and every pain I had was much worse. It was then I knew I needed to listen to my body.

I returned to the same ER on January 2, 2004.  My BP was off the charts, the admitting nurse looked at me as if I was going to die right there on the spot.  I will never forget her facial expression as it scared me to death.  They rushed me to a gurney, cut my shirt off, started IV's, slapped another nitroglycerin patch on my chest and rolled me into this cold, sterile room with this huge piece of equipment that looked like a spaceship.  I was scared to death and wanted my Mama!

The spaceship turned out to be the CAT scan equipment. After the scan was completed, I was taken back to the ER to await the doctor.

The ER doctor came in and asked, "How are you feeling?"  I was like, "you've got to be kidding right?!"  Then he showed me a photo of my brain, which showed the veins.  My brain had a tiny little spot on it.  The doctor explained that I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini-stroke.

My first thought was “what?!!  Me?!!  I'm an ex-athlete, this can't be, and I’m in good shape” and on and on.  Then the doctor started examining me and it became very apparent that something was really wrong with the left side of my body.  I could not move my left arm or left leg. Honestly, this scared me more than hearing I had just had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

It took eight weeks of in-house and hospital physical therapy to regain my left side.  In retrospect, I was very lucky.  My stroke was mild and I made a full recovery.  My blood pressure is under control and I am blessed.  I have residual damage on my left side.  It's not as strong as it once was but that's minor in the scheme of things. 


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Advocacy Volunteers Needed for Fall Heart Walks!

The Advocacy department needs 4-6 volunteers for our upcoming Heart Walks listed below. We will need help throughout the day working at the Advocacy information table, collecting petition cards and recruiting new advocates to our network.  Volunteers are needed for a four hour shift. All volunteers will receive a You’re the Cure t-shirt.

Please let us know if you’re interested or if you know friends and family members that are interested in helping volunteer for this event by contacting Rae O’Neill at including the event name, the names of those willing to volunteer, and their t-shirt size.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

McHenry County Heart Walk

Dole Mansion – Crystal Lake, IL

Volunteers needed from 4:30 pm-8:30pm


Saturday, September 20th, 2014

McLean County Heart Walk

ISU Track – Bloomington, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15 am-1:00pm


Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Palos Hills Heart Walk

Moraine Valley Community College – Palos Hills, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15 am-11:00am


Friday, September 26th, 2014

Downtown Chicago Heart Walk

Upper Hutchinson Field in Grant Park – Chicago, IL

Volunteers needed from 10:30 am-1:00pm


Saturday, September 27th, 2014

East Central Illinois Heart Walk

Robert C. Porter Family Park – Champaign, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15-1:00pm


Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Oak Brook Heart Walk

Oak Brook Sports Core – Oak Brook, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15am-11:00am


Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Lake Forest Heart Walk

Grainger Campus – Lake Forest, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15am-11:00am


Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Southern Illinois Heart Walk

John A. Logan College – Carterville, IL

Volunteers needed from 7:15am-11:00am


Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Tri-County Peoria Heart Walk

Festival Park @ Peoria Riverfront

Volunteers needed from 6:30 am-12pm


See you at the Heart Walks!

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Senator Mattie Hunter's Health and Education Fair

On August 2nd, at Senator Mattie Hunter's Health and Education Fair, the American Heart Association and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity partnered to educate over 500 individuals on the health impact of sugar sweetened beverages and the HEAL ACT. Volunteers collected surveys gauging the audiences' knowledge and decision-making regarding sugar sweetened beverages.

The American Heart Association and IAPO also took time during the event to present Senator Hunter with a Public Health Champion Award. Senator Hunter was all smiles as she accepted the prestigious award.

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Illinois Schools Observe New Law Requiring CPR, AED Training

Check out the article below from the Kane County Chronicle putting Lauren's Law into action. (Photo credit - Sandy Bressner, Shaw Media)

George Laman, whose teenage daughter died six years ago after collapsing during a drill team practice at St. Charles North High School, hopes that a new, potentially lifesaving law she inspired is taken seriously by teachers and students.

"If you have an emergency situation, you don’t have time to think," the Campton Hills resident said. "If you pay attention, you have a much better chance of being successful."

Gov. Pat Quinn last month signed the Lauren Laman Bill into law, requiring all students in Illinois high schools to learn how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and to administer CPR. Continue reading here.

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A Great Year for Heart-Health Policy in Illinois

Thanks to the hard work of advocates like YOU, Illinois had another great year in moving heart-health policies forward. Together, we have worked to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke and we have much to celebrate this year!

Below is a brief summary of this year’s legislative highlights:

Lauren Laman CPR and AED training law – HB 3724 signed on June 5, 2014

Starting in the upcoming 2014-15 school year, all Illinois high-schools must begin training students in both CPR and how to use an AED thanks to the Lauren Laman Law. The training will include hands-on practice with a CPR mannequin and an AED, creating a new generation of life-savers every year.

Hospital Stroke Center Designation – HB 5742 awaiting Gov’s signature

Following the Governor’s signature, expected later this summer, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health will have the legal framework to designate Comprehensive Stroke Centers and Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals. In practical terms, this will make the whole of Illinois’ stroke system greater than the sum of its parts, ensuring that patients suffering from a stroke will be taken to the right hospital, right away.

State Stroke Registry – HB 5742 cont.

Illinois will also be better able to assess and improve system-wide quality with regard to stroke care thanks to legislation which creates a small but sufficient dedicated funding stream to create a state stroke registry. State stroke registries are highly recommended by AHA/ASA national experts, because "you can’t improve what you don’t measure."

PE Taskforce – HB 5397 awaiting Gov’s signature

Illinois will soon begin to measure and improve physical education programs in schools throughout the state with the help of a newly created Enhanced PE Task Force. The Taskforce will recommend criteria to assess school fitness programs based on national standards, as well as the creation of reporting protocols which will allow the Illinois State Board of Education to get a clear picture on school fitness programs throughout the state.

Illinois EMS Alliance – SB 3414 awaiting Gov’s signature; HB 4523 awaiting Gov’s signature; etc.

The Illinois EMS Alliance, created in part by the AHA/ASA and key members of our Illinois Advocacy Committee, had a successful first year, playing a critical role in helping to pass many of the initiatives mentioned above. The Illinois EMS Alliance also helped to pass bills which will: help align Illinois’ EMS training and education with national standards, and; allow licensed Pre-Hospital RNs to use the full range of their medical skills to save a life if they are aboard an ambulance licensed at a lower level.

Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax

The legislature took important steps towards the creation of an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages aimed at incentivizing healthier consumer choices. Legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate, and a subject matter hearing was held in the Senate. While these bill did not make it through to final passage, they did succeed in starting a conversation in Springfield and around the state about the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages, helping many Illinoisans realize for the first time that a standard 12-ounce can of pop actually contains 10 packets worth of sugar.

Thank you for your ongoing support and action this year! Please watch for opportunities over the coming weeks to thank your lawmakers for their leadership of heart-health policies this year.

We can’t spell CURE without U!

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Share Your Story: Dustin Palmer

Dustin Palmer Salem, IL

Last fall I was a normal guy, working a normal job, living a normal life..if there is such a thing.  I was in good shape..running several miles a day and working out.  And spending every minute I could with my beautiful two year old boy.  Then it all changed.  One day after work I felt my heart was beating E.R. visit and testing showed that I had a large aneurysm and my aortic valve had malfunctioned.  I was being referred to Barnes Jewish Hospital for further evaluation.

I was admitted there a little over a week later, expecting to undergo one open heart surgery to repair these issues, but my journey had just begun.  A kinked coronary artery and weakened, enlarged heart led to several more open heart surgeries, weeks on life support, and the placement of an LVAD (artificial heart pump).
I am home now, recovering better than expected, but waiting for the phone call that means I have a new heart waiting on me.  The gift of ones life will be what saves me, and I am not blind to how hard that will be for their family.

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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 to find how you can get involved.


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