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Help Coming to Montana for STEMI Patients

Guest Blogger: Gina Esparza

Montana just received a little extra assistance when it comes to saving lives – in the form of a $4.6 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to implement a three year Mission: Lifeline initiative. Advocates and health leaders from across the state came together on Monday, March 31, to announce the exciting news at a press conference in Helena, Montana.

Mission: Lifeline focuses on saving lives by increasing the number of patients who are rapidly transported to hospitals capable of opening the blocked coronary artery. The most effective treatment is PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), also referred to as heart catheterization or angioplasty. If PCI is not an option, the next line of treatment is the use of fibrinolytic therapy (clot-busting drugs). Currently, 30 percent of STEMI patients do not receive any therapy. Many more do not receive therapy within the 90-minute timeframe recommended by the scientific guidelines. The funding for this initiative will enhance existing efforts in Montana. The initiative will be implemented over three-years with funding from key partners that share a commitment to improving outcomes for patients in rural Montana.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Montana Hospital Association, 1,799 people were hospitalized in Montana for acute heart attack in 2012, and of those, 777 were the most serious type of heart attack – a ST-elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI, in which blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. Mission: Lifeline is focused on improving the system of care for patients who suffer from a STEMI each year, improving that system will ultimately improve care for all heart attack patients.

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Introducing Amanda Andrews

Hello Montana You’re the Cure Advocates!  It’s my pleasure to join you as the new Government Relations Director for Montana.  As a native Montanan, I know firsthand about the unique challenges we face and am excited to work with our local and state elected officials to make positive change. 

Born in Livingston, I now call Missoula home.  I have a graduate degree in social work and a background in medical social work, hospice, and health promotion.  While I now work in Government Relations, I still consider myself a social worker at heart and am proud to continue furthering the social work values of creating equity and fighting oppression.  It’s thrilling to be able to work on the policy end of social and health justice. 

Over the next year, I’ll need your help to begin working toward some monumental policy changes.  One of our first tasks together is working with the Let’s Move Missoula group and the Active Kids Coalition to address improved nutrition in schools. 

The heart-health of Montana’s newborns is also a key priority.  Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHDs) are the leading birth defects in children.  In the near future, I will need your support as we ask the state to pass an administrative rule requiring that all newborn babies receive a pulse oximetry screening, a simple and inexpensive screening that can detect CCHDs (see more about this in my Pulse Oximetry blog post).

Improved nutrition and CCHD screening are just the beginning!  Medicaid expansion, tobacco prevention and stroke prevention/treatment are key priorities too.  Please, do not hesitate to reach out to me at if there is any health related legislative issue that you are passionate about.  I am constantly in search of concerned Montana citizens who are willing to raise their voices (or lift their pens!) to better our beautiful state.  Thank you for being a part of You’re the Cure. See you out in the community!

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Saving the Lives of Montana Babies- Why You Should Care About Pulse Oximetry Screening

Guest Blogger: Amanda Andrews, Montana Government Relations Director

Imagine bringing home your newborn baby only to return to the hospital hours later with a baby who is barely breathing.  Unfortunately, this is what sometimes happens to new parents whose babies have undetected congenital heart issues.  This is a scary situation, but we can take steps to make sure we’re doing all we can to help these infants and families.

More than 12,000 babies are born in Montana each year.  Statistically, about 1 in 100 babies will have a birth defect, with heart defects accounting for almost 30% of those defects.  According to these statistics, at least 32 babies every year are born in Montana with a potentially deadly heart defect.  The good news is, these defects can often be caught and treated within the first years of life.  The first step to catching the defect is with a very simple pulse oximetry screening. 

More good news; most hospitals in Montana (74%) are already doing pulse oximetry screening on every newborn.  But, what about that other 26%?  The American Heart Association, along with the March of Dimes and the Department of Health and Human Services, are currently supporting an administrative rule that makes pulse oximetry screening mandatory for all newborns.  The cost of these screenings is relatively small and the test only takes about 45 seconds. This simple screening involves a small strap that goes around the baby’s foot to measure his or her heart rate and blood oxygen.  Most hospitals already have all the equipment they need to perform this simple test. 

What You Can Do

There are 7 hospitals in MT that do not currently screen all their newborns.  What if that is the hospital where your baby, or your niece, nephew, or grandchild is born?  Wouldn’t you want them to take the 45 seconds to perform this potentially lifesaving test? Public comment is being taken right now and we need you to tell decision makers you support this policy. Please click here and take the time to help protect all Montana babies.

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Spreading the Word

Guest Blogger: Lisa Michael

National Heart Month has come to an end and I want to share a simple way to keep the message going all year: be persistent.

Since beginning my advocacy journey with the American Heart Association, I've realized the importance of persistence. I've worked at the same school for several years now, and every year, I look forward to February's Go Red for Women Day. This is when I get to tell my personal survivor-story and spread the word about women and heart disease.

The first year at my school, of course, was a bit rough. Here I was, a new staff member, asking my colleagues to support a cause I really cared about and trying to get them to care about it too. I raised a little money (really more like sympathy donations) and went back to my normal routine.

The next year, I timidly spoke up again, hoping that I could start announcing earlier and win more consistent support. I brought in some treats and some brochures, and I raised a little more... it had improved a bit, but wasn't where I envisioned it could be.

It wasn't until after three or four years of hosting a Go Red Day that I realized how much my staff had come to count on this day in February. Go Red Day wasn't just a poster on the wall anymore, it had become a tradition. It moved beyond a simple donation, but began to touch people in a real way. The American Heart Association and my passion for its mission seemed to have become our normal routine. I now find it easy to not only share my story and message in February, but at any time of the year.

This kind of integration is possible at your workplace, too. You only have to find your passion for the cause and keep talking about it - even when you don't think others are paying attention - because here's what I learned from a group of fellow teachers: they really are.

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Advocate Spotlight: Colter's Story

Bobbie Cross

Heart disease has forever changed our family.  My son, Colter, was born on November 17, 2011. I had a healthy and normal pregnancy. We were able to take him home 24 hours after, he passed all of the required health screenings and passed as a seemingly healthy baby boy. Unfortunately, the hospital neglected to do one very important test called the pulse oximetry screening.

3 days later we took him to his pediatrician for his first checkup. It was there we found out our beautiful new baby boy had a birth defect. The doctor heard a very loud heart murmur and chose to check his oxygen levels, they were bad. . He immediately made arrangements for us to see a cardiologist. 5 hours later we received the most terrifying news that our perfect angel was broken inside; he was diagnosed with a severe Critical Congenital Heart Defect called Truncus Arteriosus. Our son's heart defect was undetected until he was 4 days old and without surgery; he would die.

We went to Seattle Children’s that night and tried to prepare ourselves for the unknown. Colter was 11 days old when he had his first open heart surgery. After a long, complicated surgery; we were told they didn't know if he would make it through the night. His situation wasn't a day by day or hour to hour he was surviving minute by minute. He was in some pretty rough shape. 8 days later they were able to get him off of life support known as ECMO only to face more challenges.  Colter had contracted pneumonia in his right lung that was extremely resistant to antibiotics making it very difficult to manage.

December 17th Colter crashed, every medical intervention they tried wasn't working, and the infection was ravaging his tiny body.  They planned to remove Colter's right lung, but as a last minute decision chose to put him back onto ECMO. The Dr. told us our son was deteriorating, and this was their last ditch effort to save his life. The doctor told us there was a slim chance Colter would survive and he suggested us to say goodbye to our son. We said our goodbyes and waited.

1 hour later they came out smiling, no interventions were needed, by the grace of god he started improving little by little, minute by minute. It was a miracle even in the medical world! 10 days later we were discharged from the CICU and remained in the hospital for an additional month for antibiotic treatment.

We took home Colter with fulltime oxygen, a feeding tube, 24/7 continuous feeds, meds literally around the clock, less than 25% heart function and a lot of doubtful doctors. We were faced with a challenging first year, it was trying and exhausting. As a mother these were all challenges I welcomed. The Seattle team was sure Colter would be back, and believed the odds of him keeping his own heart were grim. Colter survived, and with every hurdle life threw his way he leaped it with grace. Colter is alive and well today, matter of fact if you didn't know his story you'd probably think of him as a normal kid.

Being a heart mom you deal with a variety of emotions but the 2 most prevalent would be fear and joy. Fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of his next surgery, and fear of death. But there's one thing that being a heart mom has taught me that is that our joys are greater than any fear of the future. When I think about surgery day that was the 1st time we got to see what Colter was made of.

At only 11 days old he showed us his tremendous amount of strength and his will and desire to live. I looked up the word, persevere it's defined as follows: To continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. Despite Colter's dips and turns for the worst he always seemed to persevere. His tenacity to live was something that was undeniable from the beginning.

After each scare it was always followed by great JOY.

I feel so honored to be able to share Colter's story, I hope to continue to raise awareness about the importance of the pulse ox screening. This needs to be done on all newborns before they are discharged to go home. We were very lucky that this test was taken as it saved Colter's life. I think all new mothers and fathers should be educated about what a simple, non-invasive and CHEAP test this is. I feel it's so important that we remember the statistics, 1 in every 100 birth a baby is born with some form of heart defect . Heart disease is the #1 killer of our babies in the United States. And lastly a child is 2x more likely to die from heart disease than ALL forms of childhood cancer combined. So we need to be taking advantage of our resources and technology Pulse Ox Screening is a no brainer! It saves lives, my son is proof of it.

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Introducing Kami Sutton

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, Western States Affiliate

Hi there YTC Advocates! I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, my name is Kami Sutton and I am the new Grassroots Coordinator for the Western States Affiliate of the American Heart Association. As someone living with a congenital heart defect, I have been a longtime Heart Walk team captain and volunteer here in Seattle and after I graduated from the University of Washington (Go Huskies!) I knew I wanted to make a career of giving back to an organization that has made me who I am today. It is because of the research and medical advancements that have been made by the American Heart Association to repair congenital defects, I am here today. I have spent the past year as the Office Coordinator here in the Seattle office working on office operations, finance and community outreach and I am so excited to be joining the Advocacy team!

After attending my first Lobby Day last January, I knew this is the direction I wanted to take my career. I was given the opportunity to share my story with my legislators and share my passion for this organization and that was all I needed to be hooked on Advocacy.

I always knew I wanted a job that meant something, where I could help make a difference. I really feel that is what the opportunity to work with the Advocacy department has given me. With the help of all of our amazing YTC Advocates, volunteers, board members and my fellow staff members, we are helping make the United States a healthier place to live, one city, county, and state at a time! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about our organization, the grassroots advocacy department and of course the You’re The Cure site! Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! I cannot wait to work with you on our future advocacy adventures!

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Learn & Share Your Post-Stroke Tips

After a stroke, even the simplest tasks can be very challenging.  Survivors often face limb weakness, numbness or paralysis, communication challenges, and difficulty with their vision.  However, we know stroke survivors and caregivers across the country are persevering and discovering new, creative ways to carry out the daily tasks they need to.  Through their recovery, they find a 'new normal' and we want to help share these helpful tips far and wide. 

That's why the American Stroke Association created a volunteer-powered library- Tips for Daily Living- to gather ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!  For example, do you have to put up a ponytail with one hand?  Watch Karen’s video!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Help us grow the library!  Do you have something to share that could help stroke survivors?  Share your tips by completing the online submission form at  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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Ready for the New Year?

As you know, the AHA and ASA aims to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing the deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% by 2020.  Thanks to advocates like you, we’ve made a tremendous progress towards our goals, but we still have a lot of work to do!  Are you excited to continue to save lives this 2014?

When’s the last time you visited  If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to stop by and update the interests in your You’re the Cure profile to ensure that you receive timely alerts on topics that mean the most to you. 

When’s the last time you took action? Please take a moment to visit our action center to refresh yourself on recent legislative updates.  Your voice makes a difference! 

How has heart disease or stroke impacted your life?  Please share your story with us today by clicking here.  Our network is made of amazing individuals and we hope you take the opportunity to share your story so that the network can get to know you. 

Thank you for being a You’re the Cure Advocate and standing up for a heart-healthy future for yourself and your loved ones. Together, we’re making a difference to save lives!   

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Happy Holidays from Your Advocacy Team!

Thank you for partnering with us to promote heart and brain health in 2013.  Because of you we’re increasing opportunities for our children to be physically active, improving nutrition standards, creating stroke systems of care, and finding better outcomes for heart patients.  We’re excited to continue the momentum in 2014 and wish you and yours a wonderful Holiday Season!  

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Have a Heart-Healthy Holiday

This Holiday Season I would like to take this moment to thank you for being an engaged member of our You’re the Cure Network.  Thanks to advocates like you, we’ve made a tremendous difference on important legislation at the local, state and national levels. 

The holiday season is fast approaching, along with all of the wonderful foods and festivities that come with it.  However, it is important to remember that even during this time of year we need to be mindful of what we are eating.

Start the holiday season off right by trying one of our heart-healthy recipes this month.  Additionally, the AHA/ASA has also developed a Healthy Holiday Eating Guide which can be found here.

Thank you once again for all you do.  With the help of advocates like you, 2014 is going to be an amazing year.  The AHA/ASA could not be successful without your time and dedication to fighting heart disease and stroke.  Have a happy holiday!          

PS: If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to update the interests in your You’re the Cure profile to ensure that you receive timely alerts on topics that mean the most to you. 

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