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A Reflection on Gratitude and AHA in Montana

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

It’s been more than 10 years since I got the news that my dad, Tom, had had a heart attack.  I was 20 years old, an undergraduate student at University of Montana and in complete shock.  I knew he hadn’t been feeling great, but a heart attack at 53 years old, it couldn’t be possible.  One quadruple bypass and a devastating diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure later, my dad was eventually sent home.  The road since the surgery has not been easy, quite the opposite actually, but my dad is still here and for that I am grateful.

You see, my dad is one of those typical tough Montana guys.  He waited almost 3 hours before even telling his wife that he was having chest pain.  He didn’t want to burden anyone.  He’s a strong guy, a quality he instilled in me from an early age- the picture is from 1993, dad insisted that I drive that Jeep Hot Wheel, the pink Barbie Corvette was not an option.

Unfortunately, dad’s stubbornness was not in his best interest on the day of his heart attack.  What he didn’t know was that every minute he spent delaying his care, his heart muscle was dying.  To make matters worse, dad lives in a somewhat remote area of Montana, by the time the volunteer ambulance crew came, took him to a clinic with little expertise in heart attacks, and eventually to a larger hospital, a lot of his heart was damaged.  Today only 25% of his heart functions.  Luckily, that 25% is enough for him to live life with grace, happiness, and enough energy to walk me down the aisle last August. 

I tell you the story of my dad Tom because it is a perfect example of why I do what I do for the AHA and why that work is so critical in Montana.  Over the last 10 months, the AHA has dedicated several new staff members and millions of dollars to improve our cardiac care system in Montana.  We are doing this work through a project called Mission: Lifeline Montana. The aim of Mission: Lifeline is to equip ambulances and hospitals across the state with up-to-date equipment and increased communication skills in order to create better outcomes for people like my dad. 

Our family was lucky, we lived close enough to a large hospital that dad was saved in time.  This is not the case for hundreds of Montana families every year.  In Montana, your chances of receiving quality, guideline driven care during a heart attack are about 30%.  This means that people are dying unnecessarily and having poorer outcomes because of lack of a unified system of cardiac care across the state.  Mission: Lifeline Montana is going to improve this system. 

Our task force of Montana physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other medical professionals have been working diligently for the past 8 months to provide Montana with new guidelines to streamline care.  Additionally, we have awarded more than $875,000 to ambulance services and more than $864,000 to Montana hospitals to update their cardiac monitoring systems.  We will also be launching a public media campaign reminding people not to wait to call 9-1-1 when experiencing any signs and symptoms of a heart attack.  This is just the beginning of our work and I am grateful to be a part of an organization that is doing so much for Montanans.  To learn more about this life saving project go to

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My Story: Rock Rocklage

Rock Rocklage Rosemount, MN

When the helicopter arrived they refused to transport me stating; "We don't transport dead people."

My cardiac event occurred at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, September 22, 2007.  I was driving to a client's house for a listing appointment in Apple Valley, MN, travelling about 50 m.p.h. when I suffered a Cardiac Arrest and hit an oncoming car head on.  Thankfully no one in the oncoming car was seriously injured, but it is estimated that I was without oxygen for about 18 minutes.  I had OnStar in my car and that initiated the emergency responders.  They had to shock my heart three times in order for it to begin beating.  In the meantime a helicopter arrived, but refused to transport me stating "We don't transport dead people."  Eventually I was rushed to a hospital, but they weren't equipped to treat patients like me, so they rushed me to a trauma center.  I was in a coma for about a week during which time my family was told to start making alternative plans.  I remained at the hospital for five weeks, not remembering anything.  After months of intensive rehab my health began to get better.  In the intermittent time I have undergone a quadruple bypass, had stents put in and also had a defibrillator installed.  At the present time I am quite healthy and very grateful for everyone who had anything to do with my recovery.

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Save the Date - 2015 Iowa Legislative Breakfast!

Join us for our annual 2015  Legislative Breakfast! Stop by anytime between 7:30 AM—9:30 AM to introduce yourself to your lawmakers and enjoy a heart healthy breakfast!

We will have information so you can learn more about our newest issues and we will also provide you with materials you can give to your lawmaker to help us educate them and ask for their support.  Breakfast is included and there is no cost to attend but advance registration is appreciated.

What:  2015 Iowa Legislative Breakfast
When:  Wednesday, January 14, 2015 from 7:30am - 9:30pm
Where:  Iowa State Capitol Building, First Floor Rotunda - East Wing, 1007 E Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50319

Click on this link to RSVP today!  Plan to be there the entire time or just stop by on your way to work! We look forward to seeing you there!

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We're Thankful... For You

It has been an incredibly exciting year in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, full of policy advancement and growth in our You’re the Cure network. None of our success could have happened without the work of you, our many dedicated advocates.

We are thankful for you.

Our DC advocates worked hard and accomplished two major policy wins so far this year: a tobacco funding policy that went into effect as of October 1, as well as a Worksite Wellness healthy vending and procurement policy win. These deserve major congratulations! As our year progresses, we know without a doubt we will be able to achieve even more success across our affiliate.

We are thankful for you.

Advocates and staff have been working together at Heart Walks across the affiliate to recruit new You’re the Cure members, and educate walkers on our policy issues for this year. Since July 1, we have seen our You’re the Cure network grow by over 5,000 new advocates who have been adding their voice to our campaigns to help us make even more progress this year. We would like to share a very large "thank you" with all of our advocates who joined us early in the morning to help us accomplish this growth!

We are thankful for you.

In August, we reached out to our advocates to participate in our August Recess activity and help deliver lunch bags with puzzle pieces to their federal legislators in support of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This policy’s aim of protecting strong nutrition standards for school meals was just one of many opportunities for advocates to get to know their advocacy staff and other advocates, as well as their legislators, on a deeper level while completing offline actions – actions which have resulted in a direct, positive impact on their communities.

We are thankful for you.

Recently we were able to offer a virtual Volunteer Summit in AHA offices across the nation, which brought together high level volunteers, board members, and staff to discuss the new Community Plan 2.0. We had four volunteers attend. Tracey Perry shared her experience: "The Volunteer Summit was an excellent opportunity to review the Community Plan 2.0 and National Agenda of AHA. It was then very helpful to review our local Charlotte Market and see how our Health Assessment compared. We discussed ways to increase engagement of volunteers, increase prospects, and focus on the three top Health Priorities for 2015.

We are thankful for you.

Nothing causes our hearts to sing more than when an advocate has that feeling of making a true difference. Ginnie Gick summed up one of her experiences as an advocate. "Being able to participate in the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill really brought home the importance of advocating for the funding that is so necessary to support the fight against heart disease and stroke. I met so many incredible people who are struggling with the challenge to live a normal life in spite of their risk or illness, and every one of us deserves the opportunity to ask for and receive the benefit of advancements in medicine."

We are thankful for you.

Over the next several months, our states will begin their new 2015 sessions and there will be a host of new opportunities to amplify your voice through advocacy. Without your passion and involvement, the American Heart Association would not be where we are in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, passing policy that keeps communities healthy.

Thanksgiving is why.

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Boo! Strokes don't have to be scary

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween on Friday. This little witch thoroughly enjoyed the Brunswick parade and trick-or-treating with her big cousin and friends. She claimed to be a "Princess-Queen-Witch" because she did not want to scare anyone. Sweet kid. I don’t want to scare anyone either, but you should know that Stroke is the #4 killer in Maine and the #1 cause of disability. Wednesday was World Stroke Day. This is not a holiday that we celebrate like Halloween. It is a day for reflection and to strive to educate everyone about the signs and symptoms of stroke. I hope by now you know the acronym F-A-S-T. Face Drooping-Arm Weakness-Slurred Speech-Time to call 9-1-1. In stroke care, time is of the essence. Here is why (borrowed heavily from

If you’re having a stroke, it’s critical that you get medical attention right away. Immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Thanks to recent medical advances, stroke treatments and survival rates have improved greatly over the last decade.

Stroke Treatment: tPA, the Gold Standard
A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or ruptures. A stroke caused by a clot is called an ischemic stroke; about 85 percent of all strokes in the United States are ischemic. The only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, also known as IV rtPA, given through an IV in the arm). tPA works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of oxygen rich blood. If administered within three hours from the beginning of stroke symptoms, tPA may improve the chances of recovering from a stroke.

A significant number of stroke victims don’t get to the hospital in time for tPA treatment; this is why it’s so important to identify a stroke immediately.

Not only is it important to get to the hospital fast, it is critical that EMS and the hospital have the right protocols in place to treat stroke—including to administer tPA as soon as possible, within the first 3 hours since symptom onset. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association works hard in Maine to help hospitals and EMS develop the right protocols to get all stroke patients the treatment they need.

Eastern Maine Medical Center, Maine Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital and Pen Bay Medical Center are certified by The Joint Commission as Primary Stroke Centers.  This means that these hospitals meet standards to support better outcomes for stroke care using evidence-based treatment. A big thank you to them for going the extra mile!

So, don’t say "Trick-or-Treat", call 9-1-1. EMS will call in a "Stroke Alert" and take it from there.

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Dr. Sohah Iqbal, New York City

Dr. Sohah Iqbal is the current president of the American Heart Association Young Professionals, an Interventional Cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, and a staunch advocate for CPR education in our city's high schools.

Dr. Iqbal poignantly shares the story of two of her own patients who both presented with a cardiac arrest at their gyms. Both were under that age of 50, both were generally active but mildly overweight. Neither patient smoked nor saw a doctor regularly. Both were brought to the hospital by EMTs where Dr Iqbal was able to open up the blocked arteries to stop the damage to the heart. However, this is where the similarities stopped. One of the patients left the hospital alive a few weeks later and the other never woke up from the coma after his cardiac arrest, even though his heart was fixed. The difference is that the patient that lived had CPR initiated right away by another person working out at the gym while the other did not. He had to wait until EMTa arrived to start CPR, and by then it was too late.

Dr. Iqbal loves her job but the hardest thing is knowing the most crucial minutes happen before she ever sees the patient. Knowing that more New Yorkers need to learn how to do CPR so she can save more lives as a cardiologist, she is asking Commissioner John King of the NY State Education Department to recommend this curriculum standard for every high school across the state!

Photo: Dr. Iqbal at the Statehouse in Albany for the AHA's CPR Rally (June 2014).



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6 Lives Saved and Counting!

Congratulations to Dr. Marc Kutler and The Edge fitness facilities for yet another life saved!

Dr. Marc Kutler, an emergency department physician from Northwestern Medical Center, is a strong advocate for CPR and public access to defibrillation. He helped the AHA pass legislation two years ago requiring hands-only CPR and the use of an AED to be taught as part of comprehensive health education in Vermont schools.

And, if that wasn't enough, he also helped start and oversees an AED program at The Edge fitness centers in Essex and Williston. Thanks to this great program, Marc and The Edge had previously saved the lives of 5 cardiac arrest victims. And just this past week, they added one more life saved when a 69 year old woman collapsed from a cardiac arrest and they sprang to action.

Thanks to Marc's advocacy for a strong chain of survival at schools and businesses, lives are being saved!

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In MA, Stroke is Preventable, Treatable and Beatable

Today, October 29th is World Stroke Day, which was established to help spread public awareness of the world's high stroke risk and stroke prevalence. It is also a good time to remind our legislators why we need to create a strong stroke system of care in the Commonwealth.

While stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and leading cause of disability in the U.S., many Americans do not think of stroke as a major health concern. We have made a lot of progress, but we still have a ways to go and need your help! If you learn and share the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs (F-face drooping; A-arm weakness; S-speech difficulty; T-Time to call 911) with your friends and family, you may save a life, possibly yours. Why? Because spotting the warning signs and calling 9-1-1 immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life.

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Without oxygen‐rich blood, brain cells die. Patients should seek immediate medical treatment by dialing 9‐1‐1 at the very first sign of stroke, even if the symptoms go away. Stroke is a leading cause of long‐term disability in the U.S. and a leading cause of preventable disability. Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. On average, every four minutes, an American dies from stroke. But we know we can stroke is preventable, treatable and beatable, with your help!

Massachusetts has a chance to be a leader in stroke by ensuring that our primary stroke service hospitals are delivering the care that they have promised to do. When we make sure that patients are getting to the hospital in quickly after having a stroke, we need to make sure that we have a strong stroke system of care.

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You're Invited: Join Us to Learn More About Advocacy

We have a special opportunity from the NC Alliance for Health (NCAH), our statewide coalition advocating for obesity prevention and tobacco control policy change. The American Heart Association is a proud member of the NCAH.

NC Alliance for Health Healthy Food Access Training

You are invited to an interactive training on combating obesity and other chronic diseases by increasing access to healthy foods. There will be a discussion of food insecurity in North Carolina, and the many different ways people around the state are working to increase access to healthier foods.

You will how you can help make a difference. Attendees will have an opportunity to sharpen their advocacy skills, and learn tips to be more effective with media and decision-maker advocacy.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Sarah Jacobson at

Thursday, November 20, 2014
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Location: Forsyth County Health Department
799 N. Highland Avenue, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Lunch will be served!

Register here by Thursday, November 6!

PS: Don't forget to post pictures of what you see in your food environment on your favorite social media with the hash tag #healthyonthegoNC!

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Advocating for Heart at Texas Capitol

On September 16 more than 20 Texas advocates met at the Capitol for an American Heart Association “Advocating for Heart Day.”

The day kicked off with an informative training and inside look at the ways hospitals utilize data for quality improvement. The team then split into groups and made visits to key legislative offices, but not before taking a moment to reflect on their own “why.”

For the AHA, Life is Why. We want people to experience more of life's precious moments. It’s why we do what we do. For us – “Life is why.” For volunteer Susan Patten, “research is why.” It was the years of research that potentially saved her life a few years ago when she received an emergency angioplasty.  For Marcie Wilson, her son is why. He was saved by CPR as a two year old.  For others, their friends, family, and community are Why.

This dedicated team of volunteers visited members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees to thank them for appropriating $500,000 last session for STEMI and stroke statewide data collection and to ask them to maintain the funding next session. They also shared the importance of a well-organized system of care in Texas.

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