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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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Maine is one big small town....

Scott Nevers is an amazing guy. In the past year, he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, was laid off and started a new business venture. He also started volunteering countless hours for the American Heart Association. CPR, AEDs and a little luck saved his life and he is bound to make the best of it. I met Scott after he gave an impromptu talk about his experience at a Southern Maine CEO breakfast last winter. His friend, fellow survivor and mentor, Bob Hatem asked him to come speak. He was nervous but captivating. We caught up again as he followed the CPR bus (pictured) around Portland telling his story to hundreds of people learning Hands-Only CPR in Maine.

I asked Scott to come to the office so that I could get a handle on his story and see if he was interested in helping with any efforts we may undertake to require all high school students to learn Hands Only CPR before they graduate. He was more than willing.

He told me his story, which began when he was a hockey playing kid. When I asked him where he grew up he told me that he grew up in Gorham. I asked if he knew Representative Sanborn (see previous posts). He told me that Rep. Sanborn was his doctor when all of this started! Rep. Sanborn is one of our best allies at the state house and Scott is looking like he will be one of our best advocates. Gorham must be one special little town in the big town of Maine!

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Scott Nevers, Maine

It was the hottest day of the summer—July 27, 2013. Scott had just finished up a few days of golf at Sugarloaf and was playing in a double-header softball game in Saco. Scott looped a single. The next batter hit the ball hard and Scott headed for home. After scoring, he said he did not feel well and went behind the dugout. Then, the 27 year old went down. 9-1-1 was called but since Scott had a pulse and was convulsing, his teammates thought he was having a seizure so no one administered CPR. Luckily for Scott, EMTs arrived in 5 minutes, recognized a sudden cardiac arrest and immediately began CPR and used their AED. They worked on him for 45 minutes in the field—shocked him 19 times and finally got enough of a pulse to get him to the local hospital. The local hospital was able to stabilize him and he was transported to Maine Medical Center where he was put into a coma to protect brain function. After a few failed attempts, they were able to bring him out of a coma after a few days and implant an

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). It took longer for his short term memory to return, but after a few days he could go home. Due to the memory loss and his healing body, Scott, who worked for Hannaford, was out of work for 3 months.

Twelve years earlier, Scott was a typical, athletic high school student. One day, during hockey practice, he had palpitations. He said something to his mom and she took him to his doctor, Dr. Linda Sanborn. The next day he wore a monitor during practice. The palpitations happened again and he was told "no more hockey". After further tests, it was determined that he had ventricular tachycardia. It was recommended that he get an ICD or limit his physical activity. Scott was worried about the ICD going off accidentally (he was told it would feel like a horse kicking him in the chest), so he opted to limit his physical activity. He could still play baseball, but could not do the full work outs. Hockey was not an option. Scott could also continue playing golf—something he continues to this day.

Scott’s ICD has gone off once, and yes it did feel like a horse kicking him in the chest, but it most likely saved his life. Luckily, this time, he listened to a co-worker, friend and fellow survivor and opted for the implant. Through all of his trials, Scott has found a new purpose—sharing his story in order to save lives. Scott has told his story at countless venues around the state for the American Heart Association—and is helping push for legislation that would require all Maine high school students learn CPR. He even went to Las Vegas to speak on behalf of the company who made his AED.

So, if you meet Scott on one of Maine’s many beautiful golf courses, or as he drives around the state for his new beer and wine distributing venture, please say hello and thank him for all he does for the American Heart Association.

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