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Snowflakes and parachutes

I really dislike the end of Day Light Saving Time. Who needs it to be dark at 4:00 in the afternoon? Who needs their kid waking up an hour earlier than usual? Not me. To add to the pain, it snowed the day we set the clocks back. Yup. Snow. We got 4 inches. I drove to Rockport the next morning (9 inches), past broken tree branches heavy with leaves and snow, past darkened homes and tilted utility poles. I do have to admit that for an hour and a half, I appreciated the end of daylight savings time. My entire drive would have been in the dark—but I had a beautiful sunrise instead. I stopped to take this picture on my way. There were so many beautiful sights, but the shoulders were icy—so I could not stop.

I was on my way to the Maine Association of Health, PE, Recreation and Dance annual meeting. It was a small but hearty group. The power was out from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM at the Samoset, so many of them had been up for hours when I arrived at 7:00. However, the coffee was flowing and they were ready to roll. MAHPERD is a fun conference. There is music, parachutes, dancing and lots of fun toys. Even though my display table was not the most eye-catching, I talked to a lot of teachers who support our priority of training all high school students in Hands-Only CPR before they graduate. I did not meet a single teacher, vendor or even wait staff who opposed our efforts. Let’s just hope that the legislature agrees and we can convince the Governor not to veto the bill this time. We have a whole new crop of legislators to educate. I may not relish the dark evenings, or the snow, but I am looking forward to a fun legislative session. Even if I need a lot more coffee, snow storms and a few parachutes.

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Boo! Strokes don't have to be scary

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween on Friday. This little witch thoroughly enjoyed the Brunswick parade and trick-or-treating with her big cousin and friends. She claimed to be a "Princess-Queen-Witch" because she did not want to scare anyone. Sweet kid. I don’t want to scare anyone either, but you should know that Stroke is the #4 killer in Maine and the #1 cause of disability. Wednesday was World Stroke Day. This is not a holiday that we celebrate like Halloween. It is a day for reflection and to strive to educate everyone about the signs and symptoms of stroke. I hope by now you know the acronym F-A-S-T. Face Drooping-Arm Weakness-Slurred Speech-Time to call 9-1-1. In stroke care, time is of the essence. Here is why (borrowed heavily from heart.org):

If you’re having a stroke, it’s critical that you get medical attention right away. Immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Thanks to recent medical advances, stroke treatments and survival rates have improved greatly over the last decade.

Stroke Treatment: tPA, the Gold Standard
A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or ruptures. A stroke caused by a clot is called an ischemic stroke; about 85 percent of all strokes in the United States are ischemic. The only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, also known as IV rtPA, given through an IV in the arm). tPA works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of oxygen rich blood. If administered within three hours from the beginning of stroke symptoms, tPA may improve the chances of recovering from a stroke.

A significant number of stroke victims don’t get to the hospital in time for tPA treatment; this is why it’s so important to identify a stroke immediately.

Not only is it important to get to the hospital fast, it is critical that EMS and the hospital have the right protocols in place to treat stroke—including to administer tPA as soon as possible, within the first 3 hours since symptom onset. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association works hard in Maine to help hospitals and EMS develop the right protocols to get all stroke patients the treatment they need.

Eastern Maine Medical Center, Maine Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital and Pen Bay Medical Center are certified by The Joint Commission as Primary Stroke Centers.  This means that these hospitals meet standards to support better outcomes for stroke care using evidence-based treatment. A big thank you to them for going the extra mile!

So, don’t say "Trick-or-Treat", call 9-1-1. EMS will call in a "Stroke Alert" and take it from there.

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Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

Ok: It is obvious that I am in my mid-40’s. I actually giggled when I saw this gentleman show up at the Central Maine Heart Walk. Yes, I was one of the first one to get my picture taken. Yes, I FaceTimed my husband so he could see us. Yes, I emailed the picture to all my fellow dorks.

Of course, the Ghostbuster was not the real highlight of the CMHW. The highlight was the 1,200 walkers who raised $125,000 (or more) for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association that beautiful day.

I was there to help my co-workers with the details of the event and to talk to walkers about the American Heart Association’s goal of training all high school graduates in Hands Only CPR. Out of the 100 or so folks who I talked to, no one thought what we were asking was undoable or unreasonable and every single person thought it was imperative that we succeed. No one said "Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!" They just calmly signed postcards to their soon-to-be-elected representatives and said I could call on them to help. They were flabbergasted to hear that we had passed legislation to add Hands Only CPR to the health curriculum only to have it vetoed by the Governor.

I told them that we are going to try again—and this time—succeed. I was really hoping that someone would say: "See you on the other side, Ray." But no one did. Maybe next time.

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Down the Rabbit Hole...

The fall at the American Heart Association appears to be more than just a time to finalize goals and plans.  It is also a time for whimsy and learning.  I have been bouncing around the state going to Heart Walks, conferences and Go Red for Women events.  It has been so much fun!  The most fun was the Alice in Wonderland Go Red for Women Event.  You can find pictures on our Facebook page. 

I was also privileged to be asked to lead a lunchtime policy discussion at the Let’s Go 5-2-1-0 Childhood Obesity Conference two weeks ago. It was a bit daunting when some of the premier childhood obesity experts choose your breakout session, but I got over my nerves and learned a ton.  Did you know that the phrase “personal responsibility” was invented by the tobacco industry in the 1960’s?  Me neither. It makes sense that this phrase has been co-opted by those wishing to block any good public policy to decrease sugar consumption—whether in liquid or cubed form.  Of course, we can’t have “personal responsibility” unless people know what they are supposed to do.  What I learned at the 5-2-1-0 conference is that the food and beverage industry has confused the general population so much that no one knows what to do. 

People trying to take “personal responsibility” feel as though they have gone down the rabbit hole and have no idea how to get back out.  The American Heart Association is working to change this.  In Maine, we are starting with our kids.  There is no reason why junk food should be advertised or served in our schools—ever.  My daughter does not need a pizza coupon for reading a book!  Schools should be all about modeling good behavior and supporting parent’s healthy parenting decisions—not undermining their efforts with candy give-aways and incentives to eat junk food.

Will you help?  Email me:  becky.smith@heart.org

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$57.81

Last evening, I took a trip to CVS. I don’t generally shop there—it is out of my way and I can get the same things at the grocery store. However, I thought it was important to support a business that understands how tobacco can ruin people’s health and their lives. CVS stopped selling cigarettes and gained a new customer. Pharmacies are health care providers. They should not be selling the only product that, when used as directed, will addict you and make you sick. Tobacco use kills almost half a million people each year.

My daughter started kindergarten yesterday, she was really not in the mood to run errands, but when I explained why we were going to CVS she ran and got her shoes. She wishes that everyone would stop "cigaretting" and knows that once people start they have a hard time quitting. She sees the effects of tobacco use on some of the people she loves, hears the coughs, and it makes her sad.

I plan to make a few trips each month to CVS and to use CVS for my prescriptions. Sure, it may be a bit of a hassle—and I don’t have a lot of extra time—but it is important.

Will you join me? Health care providers should not be enabling cigaretting. Just ask a 5-year old.

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Back to School Advocacy

Advocacy Committee member, Richard Veilleux and Cecelia Smith (my soon-to-be-kindergartener) stopped by Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office to talk about school food. We met with two of the Senator’s staff members and gave them the good news. The new healthy food standards are working.

In December, 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This law gave the USDA the authority to update nutrition standards for school meals and to establish nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools though out the school day. Today, nearly 90% of schools meet the new standards. That means that kids here in Maine—and across the country—are getting the nutrition they need during school. There have been challenges, but that is not unexpected. Change is hard. A Harvard study showed that food waste has not increased and the GAO reports that kids like the new healthier food and that the trend of decreases in the school lunch participation that began in 2007 will be reversed due as staff and students adjust to the new menu. This change is for the best and, I predict, will lead to healthier kids.

In fact, as I perused my daughter’s September lunch menu, I was incredibly proud of the work that the American Heart Association did to make her choices healthier. I never would have considered having her eat the "hot lunch" a few years ago, but when the options include homemade whole grain pazzo bread with cheese and tomato dipping sauce or oven baked fish sticks with a whole wheat dinner roll with rice pilaf and corn on the cob and apples, I plan to sign her up.

More volunteers will be meeting with Senator King and Congresswoman Pingree in the coming weeks. Look for more posts about the other two visits.

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Staff Meeting = Fun and Fundraising

Just look at this picture. What an amazing place for a staff meeting! One of the Maine fundraising staff has access to family camps on Kezar Lake in Center Lovell. She and her cousins from all over the country (first, second, once removed etc.) spend their summers reuniting, swimming, boating and relaxing. Yesterday, the Maine staff of the American Heart Association joined the cousins for our summer retreat. There were pontoon boat rides, swimming, laughing, lounging and connecting. The weather was beautiful (thunderstorms threatened but never materialized).

This is my second summer retreat and I enjoy the views and camaraderie—but I also enjoy learning a bit about what my colleagues are working on. I drove the recently retired and newly hired Central Maine Walk directors the 2 hours to and from Center Lovell. As they chatted about leadership committees, third-party events and walk teams, I got a lesson in what my fundraising colleagues do every day. I attend most of these events with my advocacy hat on, and help set up and clean up, but I don’t track the day-to-day details. There are a million of them.

Without our tireless fundraisers, I would not have the resources to do what I do. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association could not fund cutting edge research, educational campaigns or survivor support. Those of us on the "Mission Side" of the coin would be completely ineffective without them. I know this (I was a fundraiser early in my professional life) but it is good to re-learn and to remind myself of all that they do.

So, if you participate with the American Heart Association as an advocacy volunteer, please consider doing a Heart Walk, attending a luncheon or an evening event or getting involved in our fundraising efforts. I promise you that the amazing fundraising staff will make it easy for you to help. It will seem as fun and relaxing as a day on the lake.

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Randi Clatchey, Maine

On Friday afternoon January 7, 2000, Joshua Peck passed away from a sudden cardiac arrest in the gym of his school. He was 17 years old, a fantastic basketball player and a senior who had already been accepted to two colleges. Josh performed in a skit at the school’s pep rally, changed his clothes and joined the other students to sing the alma mater. Then he collapsed. His basketball coach performed CPR, but was unable to save Josh’s life. No AED was available at the school and the nearest hospital was 20 minutes away.

Josh was a military kid and spent the ages of 8-11 at Loring AFB in northern Maine. Josh also spent many vacations in Maine and loved our state. His mom, Randi Clatchey was from Maine and after Josh’s death the family moved back.

Randi has dedicated her time to make sure what happened to her son does not happen in Maine. She started a foundation in his name that raises funds to purchase AEDs for local schools and colleges. The Josh Peck Foundation has placed 6 AEDs in the past year and is going strong. Randi has also joined the American Heart Association’s efforts to require all high school students be trained in hands-only CPR and told how to use an AED. That way, once her foundation buys an AED for a school, students will know to ask for it and won’t be afraid to use it if needed.

In his short life, Josh touched many people—his mom is making sure that she honors his memory through joining the American Heart Association’s You’re The Cure network and by purchasing AEDs for use in Maine communities.

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Higgins Beach is Why...

I love the new American Heart Association tag line.  “Life is Why.” is a great motto.  During a recent all-staff meeting we were asked to determine our own personal “why.”  For some, it was easy.  For others, including myself, it was hard.  There are so many reasons why I do this job.  I bet that I will change my tag line every once in a while.

My husband’s family has been renting cottages at the same Maine beach since WWII.  Really.  His dad used to drive from Massachusetts to PEI every summer, but gas rationing during the war meant they could not make their annual trip.  They stopped in Scarborough Maine and the rest, as they say, is history.  We are fortunate enough to have access to three beach cottages for three weeks each summer. We live at the beach and commute to work from there.  Then at the end of the day, it is fun family dinners, sunsets and beach walks.  Very relaxing quality time.  Very good for the heart.

Just after the “Life is Why.” staff meeting, I beat feet back to the beach.  I grabbed Cecelia and we headed out to search for shells.  As she jumped in the waves, I wrote this message in the sand.

What is your why?

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Right Back Atcha!

You should have received a mailing from us last week. The mailing contained what candidates call "door hangers." You know what they are….those annoying pieces of paper that you find on your door or lawn or flowerbed when you come home from work during campaign season. Well, my sentiment is: right back atcha! Please take a few minutes to review the cards and be ready to have a conversation with candidates on issues important to you that fight heart disease and stroke. This kind of candidate education is critical to making Maine a healthier place to live work and play. Here are the highlights:

· Tobacco still kills 2,200 Maine residents every year and we need policy makers who will do what they can to help people quit and discourage kids from starting.

· Obesity is the #2 killer and childhood obesity is a true epidemic. Tell policymakers that we all have a role to play in combating obesity.

· Over 1,000,000 kids are trained in hands-only CPR before they graduate from high school. That is because many states mandate the training. Maine does not. We need to educate the next generation of life-savers.

If you did not receive the door hangers in the mail—or you want more—please let me know. Email me at becky.smith@heart.org. Oh and please let me know by email if you had any conversations and how they went!

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