American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Lily Shields, Mississippi

Lily Shields Waveland, MS

March 12, 2007 was the most terrifying day of Tracy Shields’ life.  She took her newborn daughter, Lily, to the doctor for her two week check-up where the doctor discovered an abnormal heart rhythm.  After an EKG confirmed a problem, the doctor sent Tracy and Lily immediately to emergency room.  Tracy was in a state of panic!

Once Tracy and Lily arrived at the hospital, a Pediatric Cardiologist was waiting for them.  He hooked her up to a monitor and explained that Lily had Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), a heart condition where thLily Today: An Active & Healthy 7 Year Olde heart's electrical system doesn't work right, causing the heart to beat very fast.

In order to get Lily’s heart into a normal rhythm, doctors put a Ziploc bag of ice on her face and shocked her back into a normal rhythm. 

“Watching your 4lb baby scream while they held a bag of ice on her face was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” said Tracy. “From the ER, we were brought up to the PICU, where we lived for the next two weeks.”

Doctors finally got Lily’s heart into a normal rhythm that was controlled by medication for the first year of her life.  When Lily was 8 months old she was able stop taking the medications.  She had thankfully outgrown the SVT.  She is still checked yearly, but is now a healthy, active seven year old.  

Lily’s heart defect, as well as those of countless other Mississippi newborns, could most likely have been detected right after birth, had she been given a pulse oximetery screening.  

The American Heart Association is working to have pulse oximetry screening added to the Newborn Screening Panel for all babies born in Mississippi.  This would require pulse oximetry screening of all newborns for congenital heart defects.  Congenital heart defects are the number one killer of infants with birth defects. 

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Mississippi Physician, Dr. Harper Stone Named President of GSA Board 2014-15

We are proud to have Mississippi physician, Dr. Harper Stone, serve as the 2014-2015 president of the Board of Directors for the Greater Southeast Affiliate (GSA) of the American Heart Association. 

Dr. Stone is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease.  He is currently affiliated with the Jackson Heart Clinic in Jackson, MS and serves as president of the Mississippi Healthcare Alliance (MHCA).  MHCA is currently working along with the AHA to improve both STEMI and stroke care in Mississippi.  With Dr. Stone as the president of the GSA Board of Directors, Mississippi is poised to move forward in the AHA’s mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Click on the video below to see a greeting from Dr. Stone.


(Please visit the site to view this video)


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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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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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Christopher Pena, Mississippi

Christopher Pena, Richland, MS

Christopher's Mom, Kristi, shares her son’s story with heart disease...

My son Christopher was born in April 2008.  Shortly after birth, he appeared to be struggling under the vigilant watch of his nurses.  A pulse ox reading indicated low oxygen, which led to a chest x-ray revealing Christopher had a severely enlarged heart.  Doctors diagnosed him with non-compacted cardiomyopathy, a very rare condition in which the heart muscle remains sponge-like after birth and causes the heart to be very weak. 

Christopher's cardiomyopathy affects his right and left ventricles, where it is very hard for his heart to pump and function correctly.  The medical team told us that the only option was a heart transplant.  Without a guarantee of survival, we opted against a heart transplant with only the very best quality of life in mind for our son.  Christopher was given 6 months at the most to live.  We believed that the doctors could tell us what they knew from books, but our Mighty God is the Great Healer and could fully heal his heart either way.  We knew our son would be okay, but we would need some help. 

At 45 days old, Christopher was admitted into hospice care.  Fifteen months later, he was released from hospice when an echo cardiogram showed that his heart function had tripled!  At 18 months, his heart function was almost normal!!  God still performs miracles each and every day.

In February 2010, it was discovered that Barth Syndrome (BTHS) is the cause of Christopher's cardiomyopathy.  Barth syndrome is a very rare, sex-linked genetic disorder of lipid metabolism that affects males.  Typically, boys with BTHS present with hypotonia (low muscle tone) and dilated cardiomyopathy (labored breathing, poor appetite, and/or slow weight gain) at or within the first few months after birth.  Other important features of BTHS include bacterial infections because of neutropenia (a reduction in the number of white blood cells called neutrophils), muscle weakness, fatigue, and short stature.  Although most children with Barth syndrome manifest all of these characteristics, some have only one or two of these abnormalities and, as a result, often are given incorrect diagnoses. 

There are less than 200 known cases of Barth Syndrome worldwide.  If people would hold hands from one end of the earth and go all the way around the world, only one of those people would be a boy with Barth syndrome.  It was described to us like finding a needle in a haystack for the doctors to discover that Christopher has BTHS!  There is no specific treatment for Barth syndrome, but each of the individual problems can be successfully controlled. 

Christopher has most of the characteristics, including cardiomyopathy, neutropenia, muscle weakness and some other problems.  He has homebound, speech, physical and occupational therapy as well as therapeutic horseback riding.  He is currently doing very well, all things considering! 

Having this disease, which impacts our entire family, has been both the worst and best thing to ever happen to our family.     We still depend on miracles every day.  God is in control; He doesn't do half miracles and our trust in Him has never failed us.  Christopher has done many things to represent miracles, Barth syndrome, our local Children's Miracle Network hospital and Blair E. Batson Hospital for children.  He has been in countless news stories, mini documentaries and on the cover of multiple local magazine covers.  He even was mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal article about rare diseases.  In addition to that, he is one of the 'faces' describing the 'look' of Barth syndrome in the orphanet journal of rare diseases written by one of the Barth syndrome specialists.

Christopher has met many amazing individuals along the way, including the President, Miss America and numerous other celebrities.  Christopher is in fact a living legend himself.

This past year, Christopher had a mild stroke.  For many reasons the American Heart Association is a cause near and dear to the hearts of our family.  Christopher represents the true need for pulse ox screening and congenital heart defects and stroke awareness.  We thank the American Heart Association and its volunteers for their tireless efforts in making sure the public has the knowledge and medical care needed to save lives.

To read more about Christopher or to follow his progress: Facebook--  Crusade4Christopher and/or CaringBridge Christopher. 

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Summertime Means Healthy Time!

Tired of cooking the same thing over and over, week after week?  Late Spring and early Summer are some of the best times of the year for healthy cooking with the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are popping up at the local farmers’ markets,  grocery stores, and even in our own back yards!  Here is a great heart healthy recipe where you can put those fresh veggies to good use.

Eating heart healthy can be equally as delicious as it is good for your body.  And if you could save your heart by improving your diet, wouldn’t you at least want to give it a try?


2 teaspoons canola or corn oil
8 ounces zucchini, sliced
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3/4 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1/3 cup diced tomato
2 tablespoons water (plus more if needed)
1/8 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon (scant) dried oregano, crumbled
Pepper to taste

1.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the zucchini, onion, and bell pepper for 3 minutes, or until the onion is soft, stirring frequently.
2.  Stir in the remaining ingredients except the pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender, adding more water if necessary. Sprinkle with the pepper.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 69
 Total Fat 2.5 g
 Saturated Fat 0.0 g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
 Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
 Cholesterol 0 mg
 Sodium 9 mg
 Carbohydrates 11 g
 Fiber 2 g
 Sugars 3 g
 Protein 2 g

Dietary Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat

© American Heart Association

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Take Control of Your Health

Did you know high blood pressure has also been called the “silent killer”? That’s because its symptoms are not always obvious, making the need for regular check-ups important.  As we recognize High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, here are the facts:

• High blood pressure (aka: hypertension) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.

• One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.

• More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
• Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.

Now that you know the facts, what can you do to take control? The answer is a “lifestyle prescription” that can prevent and manage high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, stress management, and eating a healthy diet, especially by reducing the sodium you eat. To learn more about taking control of you blood pressure, be sure to visit our online toolkit!

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CPR in Schools Bill Signing Day

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, Mississippi will begin training the next generation of lifesavers!  Through efforts from both American Heart Association staff and volunteers, the Mississippi Legislature passed the CPR education in schools bill with no opposition.  The bill was sponsored by Representative Michael Evans from Louisville. Rep. Evans is a first responder, being a fireman with the City of Philadelphia, MS.  On Wednesday, April 23, 2014, Governor Phil Bryant held a bill signing ceremony at his office at the State Capitol.  Volunteers who helped educate the community and lawmakers were in attendance along with AHA staff.  Through this collaborative effort, thousands of newly trained CPR bystanders will be in OUR communities each year.  These students will be ready, willing and able to act whenever they witness an emergency at home or within the community and can potentially save lives every year. 



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The Bass Family, Hattiesburg: Pulse Ox Matters


After a very difficult and unpromising pregnancy, by the grace of God, my daughter was born on February 9, 2004.  We had been told for months that she wouldn’t survive the pregnancy due to complications.  However, upon delivery Abby was placed in the well-baby nursery.  We were on top of the world!  A very grim pregnancy had ended with a seemingly healthy baby girl.  Until the following morning, when the doctor entered my hospital room, sat on the foot of my bed, and delivered the most devastating news any parent could hear.  My tiny baby girl was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta, a congenital heart defect.  Due to the results of a pulse oximetry screening, additional testing was ordered that revealed her heart defect.  Had the doctor not ordered this screening, Abby’s heart defect would’ve been undiagnosed which could have been fatal.  It breaks my heart to think of all the undiagnosed heart defects that result in the loss of a life when a simple non-invasive screening could be done on every infant and would result in saving many lives.

Abby required open heart surgery when she was only four days old.  The day after her surgery, Abby coded.  The hospital staff were able to perform CPR directly on Abby's heart due to her chest being left open after surgery.  She was then placed on a machine called an ECMO, which literally pumped the blood throughout her body giving her time to heal.  She remained on the ECMO for eight days and then continued on the ventilator for five additional weeks.  It was during these days and months that we fully came to understand God's grace.  It wasn't until we were completely helpless that we realized how awesome God is.  Abby later required a second open heart surgery at 18 months old.  Once again, God watched over her and carried us through.

Abby is simply a walking miracle.  She is now ten years old and is one of the most loving people you will ever meet.  We are so proud of the person she is becoming.  She is so kind hearted, and she has an inspiring love for people.  Abby’s presence literally lights up a room.  Through her sickness and now in her good health, she has already impacted many lives, including ours.  Abby has the best HEART of anyone that we know!

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Meet "Brave Heart" Asher

This week, we've been asking You're the Cure advocates to help grow the number of Mississippi advocates as we prepare to work on our next campaign, pulse ox screenings for newborns.  This simple non-invasive test, when performed on newborns, leads to early diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart defects (CHD), the most common birth defects in the United States and the leading cause of birth defect related deaths in children under one year.  

Will you please click here and invite your family and friends to become part of the cure today?

Your voice is important to help newborns live longer, healthier lives.  Just ask Anna, the mother of three year old "Brave Heart" Asher, a congenital heart disease survivor.  

Asher, was born with a complex CHD called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia.  He also had an Atrial Septal Defect and hypoplastic branch pulmonary arteries; seven heart defects total.  During pregnancy, his parents were unaware of Asher's heart defect, so imagine their shock when their sweet baby boy was born fighting for his life.  Although the family resides in Gulfport, Asher courageously endured two open heart surgeries and three heart catheterizations before his first birthday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  He had his fourth heart catheterization at two years old.  Asher also has developmental delays due to his heart surgeries and a PVL brain injury.  His CHD will require life-long specialized cardiac care, along with heart surgery/procedures, as he grows or develops complications.  

Help us have a strong You're the Cure voice in Mississippi.  It is with a strong voice that we will be able to help newborns with heart defects live longer, healthier lives. 

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