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My First August Recess Experience

Guest Blogger: Lisa Michael

Until last month, my role as a long-time advocate for the AHA has never brought me to a local legislative office. I've been in on group meetings at both state and national lobby days, yet I've always felt a bit overwhelmed (and slightly intimidated) by the thought of going on a personal visit by myself. However, when Amanda Andrews, Montana’s Government Relations Director, asked me to do a drop-in visit in support of school nutrition standards, I took a deep breath and said yes.

Living in the large state of Montana, it's rare that a senator will be in any one place too long during the August recess, but I felt pretty lucky to have access to a local office branch less than five miles from my house. I had just received the materials that I needed to bring along (the puzzle and a fact sheet) so I was ready to go. After retrieving the address and phone number for Senator Walsh's Bozeman office from his website, I called to make an appointment. I was pleasantly surprised that I could come in the next day.

Having worked in the public schools for the last nine years while also living with heart disease, I had a perfect background from which to advocate for healthy school lunches. I also made sure to study the current facts, and I outlined a brief message to deliver. I even put the puzzle together so I could demonstrate the visual easily.

When I arrived, I was greeted warmly by both of the women staffing the office. The gentleman whom I was to meet with was sick, but Jane, who stepped in for him, had been briefed so she was completely prepared to sit down with me. I delivered the puzzle in the lunch bag and we spent some time going over the facts and the concerns. She took detailed notes and was very engaged in the conversation. I was immediately at ease and before leaving I asked for a picture. I left feeling energized and empowered. I also know that I'm comfortable enough to call again when needed.

It's strange how little fears (like meeting with a congressional staffer) can be assuaged by confronting them. I can't believe I've missed out on so many past opportunities to communicate with my senator because of this little obstacle. Now that I've cleared it, I'm ready to do it again.

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What is Pediatric Cardiomyopathy?

Did you know that one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with a diseased state of the heart known as cardiomyopathy?  While it is a relatively rare condition in kids, it poses serious health risks, making early diagnosis important.  As the heart weakens due to abnormities of the muscle fibers, it loses the ability to pump blood effectively and heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias or dysrhythmia) may occur.

That’s why we’re proud to team up with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation this month- Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month- to make more parents aware of this condition (signs and symptoms) and to spread the word about the policy changes we can all support to protect our youngest hearts.
 
As a You’re the Cure advocate, you know how important medical research is to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.  And pediatric cardiomyopathy is no exception.  However, a serious lack of research on this condition leaves many unanswered questions about its causes.  On behalf of all young pediatric cardiomyopathy patients, join us in calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s investment in medical research.
  
Additionally, we must speak-up to better equip schools to respond quickly to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest caused by pediatric cardiomyopathy.  State laws, like the one passed in Massachusetts, require schools to develop emergency medical response plans that can include:

  • A method to establish a rapid communication system linking all parts of the school campus with Emergency Medical Services
  • Protocols for activating EMS and additional emergency personnel in the event of a medical emergency
  • A determination of EMS response time to any location on campus
  • A method for providing training in CPR and First Aid to teachers, athletic coaches, trainers and others – which may include High School students
  • A listing of the location of AEDs and the school personnel trained to use the AED

CPR high school graduation requirements are another important measure to ensure bystanders, particularly in the school setting, are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.  19 states have already passed these life-saving laws and we’re on a mission to ensure every student in every state graduates ‘CPR Smart’.
   
With increased awareness and research of pediatric cardiomyopathy and policy changes to ensure communities and schools are able to respond to cardiac emergencies, we can protect more young hearts.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?  Join our new Support Network today to connect with others who share the heart condition.   

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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner, UT

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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Combating obesity in all our communities

Guest Blogger: Ashleigh Sharp, American Heart Association Multicultural Initiatives Intern

While obesity rates have increased in communities nationwide, the obesity epidemic has disproportionately affected the Native American population. With 1 in 3 suffering from obesity, Native American children have one of the highest rates of obesity in the county. This statistic is a major concern for the Native American communities because obesity increases the risk for serious lifelong illnesses including diabetes and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for Native American women.

To address the issue of obesity and heart disease in Native American populations, awareness and preventive efforts are crucial. With obesity increasingly developing in childhood, Native American mothers can play a vital role in preventing childhood obesity. Empowering Native American women to take an active role in reducing risk factors associated with heart disease will not only improve their own health but also the health of future generations.

The American Heart Association is helping to tackle heart disease in Native American communities by providing easy, practical and culturally relevant information on achieving heart health. One such initiative is Healthy Native Hearts, a wellness event held in Great Falls, Montana. A main focus of the event was providing Native American women with the skills and knowledge needed to provide adequate nutrition and physical activity for themselves and their families. Activities for Native American youth were also incorporated into the event, which including a children's area where kids could be active, have fun and stay engaged. Health screenings were also offered and tips were given to help prevent health risks.

An additional resource to help reduce this health disparity in Native American communities is the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” program. The “Life’s Simple 7” is a free program available online for anyone to use. It entails seven easy ways to help control a person’s risk for heart disease. “Life’s Simple 7” helps participants to manage heart risk by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking. Events such as Healthy Native Hearts and teaching “Life’s Simple 7” can provide Native American populations the knowledge needed to reduce obesity and heart disease in their communities and lead healthier, longer lives.

Obesity is an epidemic in our country and the American Heart Association is working hard to improve the health of every community we serve.

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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on www.heart.org/healthierkids.  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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Have a Heart Healthy Summer

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator

Happy Summer, You’re the Cure Advocates! As the temperatures are rising and we are all preparing for the fun activities of summertime, I thought I would share with you my favorite low sodium summertime recipe! As a congenital heart defect survivor and someone who is in a constant battle against Congestive Heart Failure, I have learned how to eat a healthy low sodium diet.

Even for healthy hearts it is important to eat a well-balanced diet to prevent heart disease and that includes a diet low in sodium and processed foods. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further.

With that in mind I present to you a delicious low sodium recipe to take to your next summer picnic or BBQ!

Black Bean Salad (or Salsa)

6 servings

 

About $0.84 per serving

 

1 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained

1 15-ounce can no-salt added or low-sodium kernel corn, drained or ¾ cup frozen corn, thawed

1 medium red bell pepper or 1 tomato diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic from jar

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

 

Toss all together, chill at least one hour.

TIP: Serve this as a side salad to a meal or warm in microwave and use as a filling for tacos!

For nutrition facts and links to more healthy recipes, visit: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Black-Bean-Salad-or-Salsa_UCM_429539_Article.jsp

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A Win for Montana Babies!

Guest Blogger: Amanda Andrews, Montana Government Relations Director

As of July 1st 2014, pulse oximetry screening is mandatory for all newborn babies in the state of Montana.  This is a crucial Administrative Rule that was put forth by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services with support from The American Heart Association, The March of Dimes, and physicians from around the state.  This might sound like a mundane rule passage, but it’s truly an incredible step towards ensuring the health of all babies born in Montana. 

Why is this Important?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified pulse oximetry screening as a crucial action for identifying babies born with critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs).  Heart defects are the cause of 24% of infant deaths due to birth defects.  As CCHDs are life threatening, it is essential that hospitals take all steps necessary to begin the screening process before serious issues arise. 

If you follow our blog, you may remember the story of Colter Cross, a little boy born with a CCHD.  Colter passed the standard hospital tests and was sent home with no pulse oximetry screening.  Luckily, Colter happened to have a checkup with his doctor before his heart disease took his life.  He was given a pulse oximetry screening at 4 days old during his first doctor’s appointment.   During the screening they found low oxygen levels and sent him to see a cardiologist immediately.  Colter went on to fight an incredible battle and is now an active and precocious 2 year old.  You can read Colter’s full story here.

I am proud of my home state for implementing mandatory pulse oximetry screening.  This simple, non-invasive, and inexpensive test can detect 90% of CCHDs. Previously, there were 7 hospitals in Montana that were not screening every newborn.  Now, every baby born in in our state will have this life-saving screening.  To hear more about this, or to help this screening become mandatory across the country, email me at Amanda.andrews@heart.org

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An Update on Our Efforts to Ensure Statewide Heart Defect Screening in Montana

As we’ve shared with you before, a movement is building across the nation to screen every newborn for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) using pulse oximetry. CCHDs are the number one birth defect in newborns affecting roughly 1 in 100 babies. Wider use of pulse oximetry screening, a quick, painless, inexpensive test, could help identify more than 90 percent of congential heart defects.

More than 30 states have now established a statewide requirement to ensure every baby is screened. We are working with partners at the March of Dimes to do just that here in Montana.

On Wednesday May 28th, doctors, American Heart Association staff and families of children born with critical congenital heart defects testified to the Department of Public Health and Human Services on the importance of this screening. One very moving moment was when mother Bobbi Cross spoke about her son Colter. Colter looked completely healthy when he was born, he passed all the normal screenings and went home 24 hours after he was born. Only he wasn’t ok. Three days after he was born at routine checkup it was discovered he has a serious heart defect. To read more about Colter’s story click here.

We hope to be able to announce in the next month that Montana will join the other 30 plus states that screen newborns for CCHD.

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Montana Do You Know How To Do Hands-Only CPR?

Last week was National CPR Awareness Week and I wanted to ask for your help.

Too few Montanans know how simple it is to learn and perform Hands-Only CPR—but with your help, we can change that.

Would you share this video PSA about Hands-Only CPR on Facebook? Educating your friends and family members is one of the best ways to spread the word.

SHARE THIS! Copy and paste this into your Facebook status:

WOULD YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO? Last week was National CPR Awareness Week and every Montanan should know Hands-Only CPR. Step 1: Call 9-1-1. Step 2: Push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. You could save the life of a loved one or a stranger. Watch this video and please share. #HandsOnlyCPR - http://bit.ly/U1kQRd

Unfortunately, 90% of people that suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital don’t survive, and most people don’t know what to do in those emergency situations. But every Montanan can learn Hands-Only CPR in a few short minutes, and be equipped to save the life of a loved one or a stranger.

That’s why we’re working to make Hands-Only CPR a requirement for all Montana high school students. Doing so would put thousands of new lifesavers into our communities every year.

If you’re not a Facebook user, you can still help! Just send out the message in an email to your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Thank you so much for your help.

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Help Us Protect Montana Babies

Guest Blogger: Amanda Andrews, Montana Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association, along with the March of Dimes and the Department of Health and Human Services, is currently working to pass an administrative rule that makes pulse oximetry screening mandatory for all newborns born in our state. We need your help to make sure this rule is adopted, click here to tell decision makers that you support this test for all Montana newborns.

Each year more than 12,000 babies are born in Montana. Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHDs) are the number one birth defect in newborns affecting 1 in 100 babies and accounting for nearly 30% of infant deaths due to birth defects.  But there is an inexpensive, non-invasive screening tool available that saves lives: pulse oximetry. 

Pulse oximetry is quick and inexpensive; a small strap is placed around the baby’s foot to measure their heart rate and blood oxygen.  Most hospitals in Montana already conduct this screening but 7 hospitals do not. If this rule is adopted all babies would be screened so parents know when they take their baby home that he or she has a healthy heart.

We need your voice as we work on this important issue. 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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