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Advocates Visit Congressional Offices, Promote Healthy School Meals in Oklahoma

As the summer draws to an end, You’re the Cure advocates across the nation have traveled to their respective United States Representative and Senator’s district offices to advocate of the reauthorization for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and ask  Congress to maintain the  nutrition standards.  The message was clear: Healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids and we are ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the necessary nutrition standards.  

Oklahoma You’re the Cure Advocates Donna McDannold and Thurman Paul helped deliver that message to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office by providing staff with  puzzle pieces containing important facts about how the school nutrition standards are working.  Advocates also shared their personal thoughts on why nutrition standards in schools is good for the state of Oklahoma and its youth. This meeting was the first of a continued dialogue between the Senator’s office and the American Heart Association.

Have you told your U.S. Senator or Representative to support reauthorization of the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act? Visit the Action Center and take action today! 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Thurman Paul

Thurman Paul of Tulsa, Oklahoma is like many You’re the Cure Advocates; he is connected to stroke. His father’s uncle suffered a stroke two years ago.  His interest in the Advocacy work of the American Heart Association began with a simple call to action to sign a petition in support of obesity prevention on the community level.

Thurman promptly signed the petition and answered a follow-up email to supporters of the petition asking for those interested in learning more about the American Heart Association’s advocacy work to reply to the email. He did so because he believes finding a cure for heart disease and stroke should be a priority.  Thurman’s first activity as a You’re the Cure Advocate involved a visit to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office to advocate for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The concept of volunteerism and activism is not a new one for Thurman. He recently returned from a service trip to Nicaragua where he taught classes and distributed food and supplies to youth groups.

Thurman has also worked with his mother to visit juvenile centers and visit with youth.   Travel and new experiences are a driving factor in his commitment to service. “Volunteerism is a way for me to give back while being around people,” he said. 

Interested in becoming more involved with the American Heart Association’s fight to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Email Brian Bowser at brian.bowser@heart.org to learn more about how you can take action!

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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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Schools Report Students Favor Healthier Lunches

According to a recent study conducted by Bridging the Gap Research of school administrators at elementary, middle and high schools of students’ reactions to the healthier lunches, 70 percent of schools thought that students liked the new lunches.

By the spring of SY 2012‐13, school administrators in U.S. public elementary, middle and high schools reported that the majority of students liked the new meals, at least to some extent. Across all grade levels, most respondents reported that students complained initially in fall 2012 but that far fewer students were complaining by the time of the surveys in spring2013.  

Most American children consume more sugar, fat and sodium and fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains than recommended. School meals, which feed more than 30 million children and adolescents each year, play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people.

Learn more about these findings here: http://www.bridgingthegapresearch.org/_asset/h6lbl9/BTG_student_opinions_school_lunch_Jul_14.pdf

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Support Nutrition Standards for Healthy Foods Offered in the Workplace

Obesity is known to increase an individual's risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the state of Oklahoma, an estimated 65% of Oklahomans are considered overweight or obese, 31% have high blood pressure and 10% have been diagnosed with Diabetes.  Because many factors contribute to these figures, the American Heart Association supports a multi-faceted approach to reducing obesity that involves strategies in the community.

To help increase some of these positive influences, the American Heart Association advocates for the availability of healthy foods and beverages in state buildings and properties for state employees and visitors. Implementing policies that provide adequate resources and encourage healthy choices will allow more Americans will live in an environment that supports a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Purchasing food that adheres to the Dietary Guidelines of America will promote individuals maintaining a healthy calorie intake over time in order to achieve and sustain a healthy lifestyle by allowing for healthier choices of food and beverages in the local and state facilities and workplaces. 

Such choices will promote:

• Reduce daily sodium intake
• Increase consumption of good fatty acids
• Decrease consumption of trans-fats such as partially hydrogenated oils
• Decrease the intake of calories from added sugar
• Increase vegetable and fruit choices
• Increase choice of a variety of protein foods

Help the American Heart Association advocate for healthier snacks and beverages in vending machines on city and state-owned property by taking action and asking your decision maker to support healthy guidelines! 

 

Contact brian.bowser@heart.org if you want to join our fight for healthier communities!

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My Story

My name is Ryley Williams.  I am a high school student and stroke survivor.  This is my story. 

On July 8, 2013 my life was forever changed when I collapsed during warm up exercises at sophomore football practice. I was rushed to the ER, and they quickly told my parents that I needed a higher level of care, so I was taken in a helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. In less than 4 hours of being admitted my parents were told that I had suffered multiple strokes in the left side of my brain. I could not speak or move the right side of my body. But they still did not know what caused the strokes. I was 15 years old, and in the best shape of my life. How could this happen to me?! 

Less than 48 hours later I was taken into emergency surgery to remove a portion of my skull to relieve the terrible swelling from the strokes. I am told this saved my life. Immediately following the crainectomy, a transesophageal echocardiogram was performed and it was then that the vegetation like strands that had built up from an unknown (and never identified) bacterial infection were found, and I was officially diagnosed with negative culture endocarditis.

I was immediately started on several different strong antibiotics to fight the infection, so the next 6 weeks I had to carry around an IV for these medications.  I am told that I completely broke all expectations and predictions from the stroke damage and was moved out of PICU directly into the rehabilitation unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital. 

I was still getting my food through a feeding tube in my nose, and couldn’t sit up or move on my own. There was speculation that I might only get part of my right side working again. 

But gradually and in leaps, I started fighting to get my life back, beginning with talking, swallowing, moving my arm and leg, and eventually sitting up and standing. After almost 3 weeks in rehab, I took my first steps with the help of a walking machine, and several physical therapists. The next move was a transfer to a residential rehabilitation hospital closer to home, and I immediately started physical, occupational and speech therapy on a daily routine. After another 3 weeks, I was able to come home.

Altogether the total amount of time spent in the hospitals was 7.5 weeks. It was during this time that my neurosurgeon broke it to me that I would never play football again, or any other contact sport. This was devastating to me. In November of 2013, I went back to ACH for my final surgery that replaced the missing piece of skull with a prosthetic piece.

Once again I fought against the odds, and went home after only 2 days, and never lost any of my progress. In January, I went back to school with a shortened schedule, and daily PT/OT/Speech therapies, as well as trying out my new role as a student athletic trainer.

It has been a year since my stroke, and it’s been a very tough journey, not just physically, but mentally hard to accept my new limitations and lifestyle. I want to tell other stroke survivors to not give up, even a tiny progress is progress, and it’s further than you were a week ago.

A lot of people think I have it easy, but it’s really hard to see all my friends moving on in their lives, and I am just fighting to run again, or ride a bike, or play video games. It will all happen again…..just not as quickly as I wish, and that is okay. I have also had my 16th birthday since the strokes, but I will not be able to drive for another year or so, because I have had seizures that are “normal”, but should be controlled by medications I take daily. No matter what, I am alive and I am thankful that I am still on the earth to help others that have been through what I have been through.

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Ruthie Ewers: Smoke-Free Champion

When the City of Harlingen passed a strong smoke-free ordinance, it was like a dream come true for Texas volunteer Ruthie Ewers.  Ruthie has been the driving force behind the Harlingen smoke-free initiative that started more than 8 years ago.

Passionate about improving her community and the lives of its residents, she has been determined to protect Harlingen employees from secondhand smoke exposure since 2005.

A past president of the Cameron-Willacy County American Heart Association, Ruthie co-chaired the 2005 Smoke-Free Harlingen coalition. The coalition succeeded in expanding the Harlingen smoke-free ordinance to include most worksites, including restaurants. In February of 2014, Ruthie made it her mission to “finish the job” and ensure that ALL worksites in Harlingen would be smoke-free.

Three months later, the City passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that covers all worksites, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities. This public health win is due, in large part, to Ruthie’s grassroots efforts to educate and inform the mayor and city commissioners about the ordinance and to include all stakeholders in the process.

Ruthie has a reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done in her community. It’s not surprising to see a “Don’t Mess with Ruthie” bumper sticker every now and then when driving through town, and residents are lucky to have her on their side.

Harlingen residents and employees can now breathe easier thanks to Ruthie and all You’re the Cure advocates who stood up for the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Ruthie will continue working with the American Heart Association as a member of the Texas Smoke-free Leadership Council.

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Oklahoma Releases 2014 State of the State Health Report

The 2014 State of the State’s Health Report is an in-depth look at the health status of resident in Oklahoma based off various health measures.

Two critical measures of the health of Oklahoma – infant mortality and smoking rates – have shown signs of decrease, as a result, of the state’s investment in evidence-based practices and approaches implemented by community coalitions and statewide organizations. Enactment of required Pulse Oximetry screenings is an example of such a practice that is already saving lives in Oklahoma

The state ranks 44th in overall health status of its residents compared to other states in the nation. Oklahoma still has a high prevalence of death due to heart disease and stroke. Oklahoma has the third highest rate of death due to heart disease and fourth highest rate of death due to stroke in the nation.  Causes are attributed to unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors such as low physical activity and lack of fruit and vegetable consumption, along with a high prevalence of smoking and obesity.

For more information, please visit the Oklahoma Health Department’s website: http://www.ok.gov/health/pub/boh/state/

How would you recommend Oklahoma reverse these numbers?

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Governor Mary Fallin holds Ceremonial Bill Signing for CPR in Schools Bill

On June 11th, Governor Mary Fallin held a ceremonial bill signing of House Bill 1378 by Representative Emily Virgin and Senator John Sparks. Ceremonial bill signings serve as an opportunity to culminate the successes of a multi-year advocacy campaign.

A driving factor throughout this campaign was survivor stories. AHA volunteer Amy Steelman shared her story early on at an interim study of how learning CPR as a high school student saved her daughter Hannah’s life when Hannah drowned at a family barbeque.  In addition, Founders of the Chase Morris Foundation, Michael Morris and Kristi Brooks, attended the ceremony.

Chase Morris lost his life due to an undetected heart defect. His father Michael started the Chase Morris Foundation to provide scholarships promote awareness and early detection of heart defects among young students and athletes.  The Chase Morris Foundation was a great partner throughout the legislative campaign by engaging in various grassroots advocacy tactics such as writing letters of support and promoting You’re the Cure calls to action.

After the ceremonial signing, Representative Emily Virgin and Senator John Sparks were presented with Heart of Honor awards for their support of the American Heart Association and recognized all of the staff and volunteers for their involvement in the campaign.

Attendees of the CPR in School bill signing included grassroots volunteers, Mrs. Oklahoma International, Citizen CPR, Oklahoma Chapter of the American College of Physicians, Oklahoma City Sweethearts, Oklahoma City Circle of Red, and AHA staff from the Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices.

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Oklahoma City Council and Mayor Proclaim Stroke Month

On Tuesday, May 27th, Oklahoma City Mayor, Mick Cornett, presented a proclamation from the City of Oklahoma City recognizing May as “American Stroke Month.” Prior to the presentation of the proclamation, stroke survivors and AHA staff briefly met with Mayor Cornett to take a group photo and discuss the importance of recognizing Stroke Month.

After Mayor Cornett had presented the proclamation, each stroke survivor introduced themselves and shared their story as a stroke survivor. Survivor A. Jaye Johnson even announced that the previous Saturday marked the one year anniversary since his stroke, and that since then he has lost over 100 pounds!

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