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Share Your Story: Linda Dickson

Linda Dickson Missouri

As we travel down the road of life, we can choose the paths we would like to take but sometimes a path is chosen for us.  This path can look very scary at first but then you realize it has made your life even more meaningful.  The events on March 22, 2007 chose a path that I would have never chosen for myself but now 7 years later, I make it a way of life!!!
  
It started with a headache that just kept getting worse.  I had it through the day and I remember telling everyone I just wanted to lay down.  Luckily, I didn’t give up on my “important” meeting.  I arrived a little early so I could get my daughters who were 8 and 6 years old settled before the meeting started. I remember getting my 6 year old a piece of paper and that is it……..

I was told I passed out at the table!  Luckily, Dana, an ER nurse and Diane, also a nurse, were there at the meeting.  They noticed me and both knew I needed help!  The kids were rushed out.  Dana and Diane started CPR.  911 was called.  Dana and Diane continued CPR for about 8 to 9 minutes.   When EMS arrived, they tried to defibrillate me once and nothing happened.  They tried a second time and my heart started but I still was not breathing for myself.  It was estimated that I was without a heart beat for about 10 minutes.

 When I arrived at the ER, they worked to get me breathing again.  Once I was stabilized, I was transported to another hospital.  I was in a coma for about 24 hours and it was determined that I had myocarditis, an inflammation of your heart muscle.  It was likely caused by a virus.  My husband and family were told by the doctors that they couldn’t give them any idea of what was going to happen.  They just had to give me time. 

Once I woke up, I was having trouble with my short term memory not fun for my family.  Every time I woke up, I asked the SAME question over and over.  It was determined after much testing of my heart, that I needed an ICD, an implantable cardiac defibrillator.  Four days after my sudden cardiac arrest, I was taken to have my ICD implanted on the left side of my chest.  With this new addition to me, life was going to change a bit.  I have to watch magnets, metal detectors, and those anti-theft devices in entrances to stores, just to name a few things. 
Just five days after my sudden cardiac arrest, I was discharged from the hospital to start my new life!!!  The physical scars healed.  My heart functions came back to normal.  After 6 weeks, I could raise my left arm above my shoulder and I could finally drive again!!!  But emotionally, I was still struggling and even sometime still struggle with what happened!
 
I have found that my work with the American Heart Association, GO Red, and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association has made everything make more sense.  I have a new journey in life and I love it!  My family has embraced the path with me and we all find it so fulfilling!  With your support, we can change the 7% sudden cardiac arrest survival rate, and you can read about more wonderful stories like mine…..

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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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Register for a Missouri Heart Walk Near You!

We would like to invite you to participate in a 2014 Heart Walk near you!  The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association's premiere event for raising funds to save lives from this country's No. 1 and No. 4 killers - heart disease and stroke. Designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living, the Heart Walk creates an environment that's fun and rewarding for the entire family. This year, more than 1 million walkers will participate in nearly 350 events. Your participation will help us raise even more in our fight to save lives. Walk with friends, family, coworkers or strangers you'll bond with along the way.

Find the nearest Heart Walk near you in the list below and then click the REGISTER HERE link to create a Community Team, join an existing team or sign-up as an individual. 

Participating in a Heart Walk is a great way to help fund and support the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association. Plus, raising money for others can earn you prizes. See the complete listing and thanks for your support!

2014 Missouri Heart Walks

Pettis County Heart Walk – Sedalia, MO - Sat, April 12th starting at 9:00am – REGISTER HERE

Southwest Missouri Heart Walk – Springfield, MO - Sat, April 12th starting at 9:00am - REGISTER HERE

Metro St Louis Heart Walk – St. Louis, MO - Sat, May 10th starting at 7:30am - REGISTER HERE

St. Joseph Heart Walk – St. Joseph, MO - Sat, May 17th starting at 9:00am – REGISTER HERE

Kansas City Heart & Stroke Walk 5K Run – KC, MO - Sat, May 31st starting at 7:30am - REGISTER HERE

Mid-Missouri Heart Walk – Jefferson City, MO - Sat, August 23rd starting at 8:00am - REGISTER HERE

Four States Joplin Heart Walk – Joplin, MO - Sat, September 27th starting at 9:00am - REGISTER HERE

Johnson County Heart Walk – Warrensburg, MO - Sat, October 4th starting at 8:00am - REGISTER HERE

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Share Your Story: Kim Edmonds

Kim Edmonds Missouri

My story begins, 42 years ago, at birth.  From the beginning, I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur, which is not uncommon for newborns.  It wasn’t until my sports physical during my senior year in high school until it was ever brought up again.  Initially, I was misdiagnosed with mitral valve prolapse.  After additional testing, they realized I was suffering from aortic stenosis.  They informed me that I would eventually have to have heart surgery sometime within the next 20 years. 

Twenty-three years later, I underwent open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve and remove a sub-aortic membrane.  I thought that would be the end of my heart journey as I believed my heart had been mended.  Unfortunately, that was far from the truth and a year later my heart would fail me again. 

On February 18, 2012, while I was hosting a Zumba fundraiser for the American Heart Association, I suffered a cardiac arrest.  I had just come off the stage and was talking to 2 of my friends.  During our conversation, I said "whoa", held out my arms & collapsed.  At first, they thought I had fainted from all the excitement of the day.   I began having seizures and they realized there was something more going on.  Once I stopped seizing they said my eyes were fixed & glassy & I had no pulse.  They started CPR immediately and called 911.  Once the ambulance arrived, the paramedics had to shock me twice before they could find a pulse. 

I spent the next 11 days in 2 different hospitals.  They decided to do surgery to give me an ICD (Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator).  I was confident that my heart had been fixed.  But on January 28, 2014 I collapsed at the YMCA after an interview for a local news show.  I awoke on the floor and initially it was thought that I had fainted.  Given my heart condition, an ambulance was called.  The EMT's took me to the ER and I found out that my ICD had fired because my heart rate was elevated to over 400 bpm.  I was kept overnight for observation before releasing me.  I am thankful every day for the research that the AHA does.  Without it, I would not be here.  

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Share Your Story: Steve Price

Steve Price Missouri

I am an active person and exercise regularly...lifting weights, running, biking etc.  I limit fast foods and have a relatively healthy diet.  I have a family history of heart disease.  My father had a triple bypass; my mother has mild congestive heart failure, two stents and hypertension; my maternal grandfather had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery.
 
I understood my family risks at an early age and decided to become active in the fight against heart disease.  As a young teacher, I conducted jump rope for your heart events and continued to involve my students and staff in this event after I became a school principal.  Once I became a superintendent of schools in Middletown, Ohio, I joined the local American Heart Association Board.  Currently, I remain involved through my membership and service to the Greater St. Louis Board.
 
In addition, I began annual visits to my cardiologist at about the age of 45.  My annual stress test always came back positive.
 
I never thought I would be the one with heart issues.  Boy was I wrong!  At about the age of 50, I experienced some pain in my left shoulder and arm.  I thought it was from weight lifting and ignored the symptoms!!!  The symptoms always seemed to subside until the next physical activity I would do.  This went on for a week with my wife pleading for me to go and at least see my family physician.  While mowing the lawn, the pain came back and I was unable to continue.  I agreed to see my physician, but waited through the weekend to see him on the following Monday.  My physician found nothing immediately wrong.  Given my symptoms however, he wanted me to go directly to the hospital for tests.  I told him I needed to finish some things at work and would go the next day...he wasn’t happy.
 
I went to the hospital the next day and got on the treadmill.  I was joking with the nurses and physician and the mood in the room was lighthearted.  I informed them that I would probably get some pain in my shoulder after a few minutes of walking, but not to worry, it always went away when I rested (how arrogant and stupid could a person be, but sadly that described me pretty well)
 
In about a minute, the heart monitor began to register something irregular.  The mood in the examination room changed instantly.  The sat me down immediately (at the same time I’m saying don’t worry it goes away).  They gave me nitroglycerine that instantly gave me a splitting headache.  They informed me they were transporting me immediately by ambulance to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.  I still didn’t get it!!  I told the physician I could drive myself to the hospital after I stopped back at work to finish a few things.  At that moment, he walked right up to me, looked me directly in the eye and asked me if I wanted to die.  It finally sunk in that maybe this was more serious than I would allow myself to believe.
 
I made the trip to Christ Hospital where they performed an angioplasty to insert two stents and clear a 99% blockage of the left anterior descending artery (affectionately known as the “widow maker”, because your first heart attack from this blockage is usually your last).  Later that evening, I asked my physician if regular exercise and being in good shape helped prevent me from having a heart attack.  He told me no; I was just one of the luckiest guys in the world.
 
Because I exercised regularly, had a reasonably healthy diet, knew my family history and was informed about heart disease, I thought I had nothing to worry about.  I became over confident and thought heart disease couldn't touch me.  This was really evident with my cocky and even arrogant attitude with my physicians.  My cavalier attitude almost cost me my life and the opportunity to see my three wonderful children grow up and the simple act of growing old with my wife.
 
I felt lucky to be given a second chance.  Not everyone gets that chance.  I still do all the things necessary to live a heart healthy life, but I have also gained a much greater respect for a disease that affects the lives of so many people.  I listen to what my body is telling me and don’t hesitate to go and see my physician when something doesn’t seem right.  I listen to him like my life depends upon it.  I try to help inform others whenever possible about the dangers of heart disease and how it impacts so many people beyond just yourself.

I continue to advocate for and support the American Heart Association as I’m convinced the research and work they funded, saved my life.


 

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In Memory of Rekisha Harris

*Guest Blogger Kevin Harker, Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate shares a story about loss. And while it’s difficult to read a story that doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s important that the story still gets told …. because the unfortunate reality is that heart disease is still killing one woman every minute.

Rekisha Harris was 32 years old in 2011 when she was first diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called non-compaction. At first, doctors thought it was post-partum cardiomyopathy, as she’d just given birth to her third child a few weeks earlier. But further testing revealed that it was much more critical. Her only treatment option was a heart transplant.

While waiting in the hospital for a suitable donor, Rekisha underwent emergency open heart surgery to implant an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to help her heart beat. And then, a week later, she had a second emergency open heart surgery to remove a blood clot. Finally, a week before Christmas of 2011, she received her new heart. After nearly nine months in the hospital, she was able to return home to her family in January of 2012.

"Each one of my kids said for Christmas, all they wanted was for me to get a heart," Rekisha said in 2012. "They’re like, ‘we just want you to get a heart so you can come home.’"

Unfortunately, 10 months later, Rekisha was again hospitalized and fighting for her life after her body rejected the donor heart. After undergoing an emergency procedure, receiving multiple treatments and medications, she was released again in November of 2012, and looked like she was on the road to a full recovery … until January 10th of this year, when she died from heart complications after being admitted to the hospital.

Throughout her travails, Rekisha remained an ardent supporter of women’s heart health, serving as a national spokesperson for the Go Red For Women movement. In a guest column she penned last year for the Huffington Post, she wrote: "I am passionate about telling as many women as I can to fight for their health and speak up when something doesn’t feel right. Fight to be heard, fight for a correct diagnosis and fight to beat all odds. I want more women to pay attention to any changes in their health and see as many doctors as necessary to be sure their voice is heard."

In her 35 years, Rekisha touched many women by sharing her story. In the midst of a valiant battle to save her own life, her courageous choice to speak up undoubtedly changed people’s lives.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Go Red For Women – the cause Rekisha cared for so deeply – I hope you’ll help her legacy live on by spreading the word about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women. In honor of Rekisha, and all our heroic women who are fighting back, we will keep on raising our voices for a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Join us at www.goredforwomen.org

Warm regards,

Kevin D. Harker,

Executive Vice President, Midwest Affiliate

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Share Your Story: Velda McMorris

Velda McMorris Missouri

I was 44 when I had a heart attack. At work on a Friday, I began experiencing pain in both arms. After a couple of hours, I called my primary care physician's office and asked to speak to a nurse. When I told her I was having severe arm pain and I thought it might be my heart, she told me that I was too young for a heart attack. I jokingly said, "You know I am very overweight and have high blood pressure?" She made an appointment for the following Monday. I wanted to believe it was not heart related so I went home to rest. As my symptoms kept getting worse, my husband ended up driving me to the local ER the next day. I was seen immediately and received excellent care. Angioplasty was performed to clear blockages and I was hospitalized for a few days.

After leaving the hospital, I enrolled in cardiac rehab. It ended up saving my life. I was the youngest person there by at least a decade, or more, and only one other woman in the group. Because of the encouragement of the nurses, I hung in there and continued to go routinely. The rehabilitation helped me to form habits of healthy eating and exercise that I continue to this day, almost 10 years later. Since my heart attack, I have lost close to 100 pounds, exercise daily, eat healthy foods and advocate for other women.

I am a Go Red Ambassador for the American Heart Association in Kansas City along with a Women Heart Champion. I also advocate for heart healthy legislation through the "You’re the Cure" network community. As a volunteer, I enjoy speaking to groups about women and heart health. I also visit female cardiac patients to provide them with encouragement and support.

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Welcome to the 2014 Legislative Session!

Creating heart-healthy communities takes more than just changing our own habits – we need to motivate others and speak in one voice.  Stay tuned for updates and calls to action as the 2014 Legislative Session begins and we continue to advocate for issues on the local, state and federal level!

We all know our health is our responsibility. But did you know that your lawmakers can also play a key role in promoting prevention and wellness? Urge your elected officials to support policies that encourage healthier lifestyles and foster physical activity in your community, school and workplace.

Eighty percent of cardiovascular disease doesn’t have to happen. Remind your state and federal representatives that an investment in disease prevention helps Americans get healthy and keeps our economy strong.

Encourage your local and national policymakers to take action on legislation that fights the devastating impact of heart disease and stroke. Together we can achieve the American Heart Association’s 2020 Impact Goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke deaths by 20 percent by 2020.

Calls to Action – Here are a few ways you can make a difference right now!

Research is an investment in our nation’s future. It improves health, spurs innovation and grows our economy. While Congress continues to debate budget cuts, help us protect funding for heart disease and stroke research. Take action at www.researchsaveslives.org

When ordinary people are given the tools to administer CPR survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest victims can double or even triple. That’s why the American Heart Association is committed to training the next generation of lifesavers. Be CPR Smart and join us in supporting legislation to ensure all students learn this life saving skill before they graduate high school.

When it comes to improving health and reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, the research points clearly to physical activity…kids need to move more! The FIT Kids Act will help them do just that. Urge legislators to co-sponsor the FIT Kids Act now and show their support for regular, quality physical education in schools.

The health impact of a stroke can be shattering, but the financial effect can be even more devastating if you don’t have health insurance. Find out what new protections and coverage options are available for stroke survivors under the Affordable Care Act at www.heartsforhealthcare.org.

Help Spread the Word! – Post these messages to your Facebook page!

Only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools and 2.1 percent of high schools provide daily physical education. It’s time to address the quality and quantity of PE in our nation's schools. Help us build support for the FIT Kids Act by contacting your Members of Congress today. Exercise your voice here: http://bit.ly/14zkzG2

It’s troubling to think about the promising heart and stroke advancements that will be put on hold due to federal budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health. "Like" this if you stand with medical researchers in calling on Congress for cures, not cuts!

Bystanders trained in CPR are often critical to a cardiac arrest victim’s survival. CPR training in schools can prepare students to contribute to their communities by saving lives. To learn more, visit www.becprsmart.org

 

 

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Share Your Story: Teri Ackerson

Teri Ackerson Missouri

For years, Teri Ackerson has been working to improve the system of care for Kansas City-area stroke patients. Through her work as the stroke coordinator at Centerpoint Medical Center, and as a volunteer for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, Teri has been dedicated to increasing awareness about stroke warning signs and helping implement science-based guidelines for patients experiencing a stroke.

And thank goodness. Because in an unexpected twist of fate last Memorial Day, she needed that system to save her own life.

The 43-year-old nurse, mother and triathlete was driving to Starbucks with her son when she suddenly lost control of her left arm and became unable to speak. After pulling over, she pointed to the clock in the car for her son to note the time, knowing just how important it would be for doctors to know when symptoms began. Her son asked if he should call 911, but she knew there was a primary stroke center less than a mile away. Fortunately, she was able to receive tPA, the clot-busting drug that must be administered within three hours of the onset of stroke.

As a lifelong runner and triathlete, Teri wasn’t exactly considered high risk for stroke. She hadn’t experienced any symptoms prior to the sudden onset that morning.  So the irony of her story isn’t lost on her, and its profundity isn’t either.

“I’m a runner, and I have always taken good care of my body,” Teri said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m immune from stroke. I’m the perfect example of why it’s important to know the warning signs and to get help immediately. I’ve always been proud of the work I do, and been passionate about it. But now, I have even more personal reasons to continue doing what I do to impact stroke identification and treatment in Kansas City. And I’m in a great position to do that, as a nurse and a volunteer for the American Heart Association.”

Teri is part of a team of volunteers and staff who share research-based clinical guidelines for heart and stroke care through the American Heart Association’s quality and systems improvement efforts. Studies show that hospitals implementing American Heart Association/American Stroke Association quality improvement programs improve patient outcomes, reduce average length of inpatient stays and decrease readmissions.

Her lists of accomplishments continue despite her stroke.  Just twenty-six days after, she ran in and completed a marathon.  On November 15, 2013, she completed her 1,000th mile of the year, just 10 days before her heart surgery to fix the defect that caused the stroke.  She is planning on running her first miles post-surgery on Christmas Morning.

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Did you know: AHA offers Community Innovation Grants

Did you know that the American Heart Association provides small mini-grants, up to $5,000, for local community projects that help advance our 2020 Impact Goal?  The purpose of the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate Community Innovation Grant initiative is to improve the cardiovascular health of the communities we serve and help us achieve the American Heart Association’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.  This funding can be used to support worthy projects that otherwise may not be implemented. 

If you work at, know of, or volunteer with a deserving local agency that need funds to carry out activities that are in line with our AHA mission, please check out this website: www.heart.org/CommunityInnovationGrant for more information and details on how to apply!

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