American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Celebrate CPR Training in Schools with a Big Thank You

With your help, we made it happen.  Breanna’s Law is now official law in Maryland, and will ensure that all our high school students complete a hands-only CPR course before they graduate.  This is cause for celebration!

Send a big thank you to your legislators

Right now across our country, those who suffer out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) have only a 9.5% chance of surviving.  Roughly 4000 Marylanders suffer SCA each year and this bill can change the odds for them.   By training students in CPR in school, every year we’ll be increasing the number of citizens in our communities prepared to respond in a cardiac emergency. 

Help us celebrate:  Send a message to your legislators.

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Why Everyone Should Know CPR!

I know most of you have a very keen awareness about the need for CPR training - why else would you be reading the American Heart Association's You're the Cure blog?  I recently had an experience that really crystallized how important it is that we're all educated in this lifesaving skill.  Last week, a colleague of ours who shares office space with the AHA here in Manhattan had a health scare.  She sat down at her desk and almost immediately, her world went topsy-turvy.  She became extremely dizzy, felt flushed, and had some back pain.  Her office mates, ran over to where the AHA staff sit and asked if anyone knew CPR.  I can't tell you grateful I was that I've been trained!  I headed over and kept her company while we waited for EMS to arrive.  Thank goodness she remained conscious the entire time; it gave us plenty of time to chat about our goal to improve CPR awareness in the city. 

In this case, we were able to clearly track the timeline for EMS to arrive since she had looked at her computer's clock right before feeling sick.  Her colleagues called 9-1-1 at 4:20pm.  Guess what time EMS arrived to her side?  4:37pm.  God forbid we had been dealing with a more serious emergency, like a cardiac arrest!  For every minute that passes, your chance of surviving decreases by 10%.  After just 10 minutes, if CPR isn't administered, you're in serious trouble! 

The 9-1-1 dispatcher was told it was a possible heart-related situation which would put her in a Level 1 incident (most urgent).  EMS would rush to the scene.  However, our office is in midtown.  Traffic is always a nightmare around here, but it gets especially bad around rush hour.  And as we always like to remind's one thing to get to the curb in a short amount of time; it's another concern to get up to the 18th floor of our building with all the necessary equipment.  This is why everyone - kids, adults, emergency personnel and every bystander on the street - should be trained in CPR.  If someone suffered a cardiac arrest, would you know what to do?  Would someone nearby know what to do if you were a victim?

I'm happy to report that our colleague is back in the office and doing well.  She's gone through some tests but is still waiting for a diagnosis.  I spoke with her today and she's keeping tabs on her blood pressure (which was extremely high during her incident.)  I am grateful that she agreed to let me tell her story to all of you.  I hope it inspires you to take action on our alerts in the "Action Center" so we can make sure we train all NY students in CPR before they graduate from high school!

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Jodi Lemacks

Jodi Lemacks, Virginia

In June of 2003, my third child, Joshua, was born via c-section.  Diagnosed with a Critical Congenital Birth Defect (CCHD) before birth, he was immediately whisked away to the hospital next door for his first of three open heart surgeries, without me even getting a glimpse of him.  The first time I saw Joshua the next day, it was hard to see the baby beneath the tubes and wires hooked up to him.  It felt surreal, like I couldn’t possibly be looking at my own baby. 

Joshua managed to survive the first surgery, but then struggled against infections and other complications for almost two months.  My husband and I, along with Joshua’s brothers and other relatives, stood by Joshua’s crib praying that he would make it, but mostly praying that this little guy would not suffer. Then one day, Joshua turned a corner—truly a miracle—and we finally got to bring Joshua home in August; he has made it through two more open heart surgeries since then.  Today, he is a happy, healthy nine-year old who loves baseball, golf, his family and life.

This scenario would have been entirely different if Joshua had not been screened for CCHD (in his case, before birth).  Working for Mended Little Hearts, a national non-profit that helps families who have children with heart defects, I know too well the devastating consequences of lack of screening for CCHD.  I get emails, and sometimes calls, from parents of babies who died or coded because their heart defect was not caught in time, and it breaks my heart. 

Joshua’s type of heart defect is 100% fatal if not caught—usually within a couple of weeks of life.  About half of the babies with this heart defect are not caught pre-birth, so screening soon after birth becomes vital and life-saving.  There are about 10,000 babies each year born with critical congenital heart defects that, like Joshua’s, can be caught through screening.  The sooner a baby is screened, the more likely the baby will get life-saving care.

Parents are looking to their hospitals and their states to help them.  Pulse oximetry screening, now mandatory in some states, is simple, non-invasive and inexpensive.   (For more information on pulse oximetry screening in states visit  This website was created by Kristine Brite McCormick who lost her baby, Cora, due to lack of screening.)  Most states already conduct newborn screening, and many are working to include pulse oximetry screening in their standard newborn screening panel.   In New Jersey, such a law saved at least one life within 24-hours of implementation.  

As of April 2014, in AHA's Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, You're the Cure advocates and Mended Little Hearts have helped make pulse oximetry screening for all newborns the standard of care in MD, VA, NC, and SC, and I am proud to have been able to support the process.

Live in VA?  Thank VA legislators for making this happen for our littlest citizens and their families!


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Getting My First Stents

Part II of a Special Guest Series by Steve Irigoyen, a You’re the Cure Advocate who’s an 9-time heart attack survivor and 2-time stroke survivor

After the paramedics arrived and found me on the garage floor, they asked me “on a scale of 1-10 what’s your pain level?” and I replied “10+”!  With a 1-2-3 I was loaded on a gurney and hoisted into the ambulance by strong Paramedics and EMTs.  I’d never been in an ambulance before, and it was a rush.  I could feel us speeding along, and quick hands attached EKG leads on my chest.  They gave me three nitros, which didn’t work at all, and then gave me morphine, which barely seemed to dull the pain. Sirens were blaring and lights were flashing.  I winced, realizing that things were actually be pretty bad. 

Once I arrived at the hospital, I was quickly unloaded in the emergency room and seen immediately for treatment.  Cardiologists discovered two main arteries were blocked – one at 98%, and the other at 95%.  My Mom and Dad arrived, and I felt myself slipping away and could barely speak. “Mom, Dad, I’m so sorry but I’ve gotta go.  But don’t worry I’ll be by your side every day.”

They were sobbing, and my Mom pleaded, “No! No Steve we need you to stay with us!”

Consciousness started to drift away and I closed my eyes.  My parents watched my lips turn blue and thought I was dead.  A Cardiologist zipped in and explained, “We’re taking him in for an angioplasty. Don’t worry – he still has a chance! Hold tight!” and wheeled me away.

When I regained consciousness, I realized I felt immediately 100% better. What a difference!  I WAS ALIVE!!! Two stents were placed in my arteries, providing access to critical blood flow.  Two days later I was discharged and went to my parent’s house for a little extra care.

Those two stents saved my life.  Since my first heart attack, I discovered that the American Heart Association has funded lifesaving research – including important developments in stents – that saved me.  Years ago, I wouldn’t have had a chance at survival, and would have made good on my promise to my parents that I’d be by their sides in spirit. Thankfully, I am alive and am grateful to be an advocate for research. 

In addition to the lifesaving research of the American Heart Association – the National Institutes of Health research has provided critical advances in cardiac care.  Sadly, NIH continues to be woefully underfunded.  Heart disease and stroke remain our Nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, respectively, but NIH invests only 4% of its budget on heart research and a mere 1% on stroke research.  Join me to advocate for research – and help improve the future of cardiovascular disease and stroke treatment.  Visit to learn more about our call on Capitol Hill and find out how to be further involved.

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Ohio Advocacy Day: Did You Make Your Voice Heard?

Yesterday, dozens of fantastic You're the Cure advocates decked in red joined us at the Statehouse to meet face to face with their lawmakers for Ohio Advocacy Day. What were they talking about? Shared Use, Stroke Care and Quality PE Class. Even if you couldn't join us, you can still make your voice heard!

Studies show that people who have parks or recreational facilities nearby exercise 38 percent more than those who don't have easy access. Unfortunately safe places to get physical activity aren’t always available—but they could be. Schools are present in nearly every Ohio community and can offer a variety of safe, clean facilities, including running tracks, pools, gymnasiums, fitness rooms, and playgrounds. Unfortunately, schools that might like to offer these facilities to their communities often close their property to the public after school hours due to concerns about liability. Shared use legislation would not mandate that schools open their facilities after hours, but would simply alleviate concerns around liability for those that would like to provide access to the surrounding community. 

When a loved one suffers a stroke, time lost is brain lost. Time is critical in treating stroke, but in far too many cases a fragmented and disorganized delivery system prohibits Ohio's stroke victims from getting the care they need before it's too late. The good news is that the time is finally here for legislation that would improve care for our stroke victims--saving lives and reducing long-term disability for Ohioans. Even if you aren't a medical professional, YOU have the power to ensure Ohio's stroke victims receive appropriate, timely care and the best chance for a full recovery. Send your message today asking your lawmakers to support quick passage of Ohio's stroke legislation!

Did you know that the physical education class today's Ohio students experience is much better than what we had as children? In fact, since 2007, Ohio has taken steps to improve the quality of physical education class so that our kids have information and experience to make healthy choices throughout their lives. Students do not learn these lifelong skills in extracurricular athletics, band or cheerleading, but through a quality physical education program that improves their overall health, increases school performance and reduces behavioral issues. Please send your message now, asking Ohio's lawmakers to support removal of physical education waivers to give all students the opportunity to experience quality physical education.

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Celebrating Big Win for Babies

These are exciting times in VA!  Governor McAuliffe has signed House Bill 387 and Senate Bill 183 into law, and pulse oximetry screening of all newborns will soon be the standard of care in Virginia.  This new statewide policy will guarantee that each newborn in Virginia is tested for Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHD), and that the testing is done in a consistent, scientifically proven manner.

Newborns whose CCHDs go undetected can be discharged from the hospital before their condition is identified and treated. These infants are at risk for serious complications within the first few days or weeks of life, and often require emergency care.

New research suggests that when all infants are screened using pulse oximetry in conjunction with routine practices, CCHD can be detected in over 90% of babies. When identified, these babies can be seen by specialists and receive care to prevent death or disability.

Please take a moment to thank the Commonwealth’s elected officials for unanimously acting to help to save the lives and protect the health of all newborns in Virginia.

See a lucky baby and his mom in the news about this issue on CBS affiliate WUSA9 Feb 21, 2014. 

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Stroke Survivors Come Together to End Stroke

On February 25th over 60 stroke survivors, caretakers and advocates came together to share their personal story about stroke and ask the legislators to support creating a tiered stroke system of care.

We know that stroke is the No. 4 cause of death among adults in the U.S. It kills 128,000 people a year – that’s about one in every 19 deaths and that every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. On average, every four minutes, someone dies from stroke. We know that calling 9-1-1 gets stroke patients to the hospital fast during a stroke emergency. Yet, according to research, more than a third of stroke patients don’t go to the hospital by ambulance and when someone recognizes a stroke and acts fast by calling 9-1-1, the patient has a greater chance of getting to an appropriate hospital quickly and improving the outcome. This is why it is so important to create a stroke system of care. 

The rapid identification, diagnosis, and treatment of stroke can save the lives of stroke patients and in some cases can reverse neurological damage such as paralysis and speech and language impairments, leaving stroke patients with few or no neurological deficits. Although treatments are available to improve the clinical outcomes of stroke, many acute care hospitals lack the necessary staff and equipment to optimally triage and treat stroke patients, including the provision of optimal, safe and effective emergency care for these patients. An effective system to support stroke survival is needed in our communities in order to treat stroke patients in a timely manner and to improve the overall treatment of stroke patients in order to increase survival and decrease the disabilities associated with stroke. There is a public health need for acute care hospitals in Massachusetts and to establish a designation for Primary Stroke Centers to ensure the rapid triage, diagnostic evaluation and treatment of patients suffering a stroke. It is in the best interest of the residents of Massachusetts to establish a program to facilitate development of stroke treatment capabilities throughout the State.  This program will provide specific patient care and support services criteria that stroke centers must meet in order to ensure that stroke patients receive safe and effective care.

To prevent the incidence and death of stroke, it is important to address the whole system from prevention to rehabilitation. Massachusetts can officially recognize the best medical centers to treat stroke to ensure that the best care is delivered promptly. The AHA has already identified the criteria for care that facilities should meet to provide patients the best care possible. Massachusetts has been a leader in the field of stroke with the help of the STOP Stroke Program, but 10 years after we established the primary stroke service hospital designation, we need to do more. We need to make sure that patients are getting to the hospital quickly after having a stroke and we need to make sure that the hospitals are in fact delivering high levels of quality of care.

Join with us and ask your legislators to support a stroke system of care, because together we can end stroke!



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Juddson Rupp

Juddson Rupp, North Carolina

I didn’t remember anything from my week in the hospital, but when a friend brought in a copy of the six o’clock news from October 27, 2000 I quickly realized that either that was a slow news day or that I was one lucky miracle survivor with an important story to share.

"Being at the right place at the right time and near the right equipment may have been a real life saver for a man working out at the YMCA,” the TV anchor began. Her co-anchor added, "Judd Rupp, not your typical heart attack victim - he's in his 30's and was at the gym.  Thanks to some people who knew exactly what to do, he's alive today."

Reporter Steve Litz brought the story to a close saying: "Two important notes to add- It was difficult identifying Judd Rupp as he was not wearing any kind of I.D.  Everything worked in Rupp's favor at the YMCA because so many know CPR there.  Another note, Juddson Rupp is an employee here at WSOC-TV.  We all wish him well in his recovery."

After getting choked up watching news clips like the one above a decade ago, I knew that internally and externally my life had changed.  I could no longer be a just a private citizen.   I had to share my story publicly for several reasons.  I now strongly believe that being and advocate and sharing your story is an important duty as a survivor.

The American Heart Association approached me to ask if they could use my story for the upcoming Heart Ball.  The Marketing Director told me that sharing my story could help save hundreds, if not thousands of lives through the years.  Then the publicity became a 'no-brainer' for me.  Why wouldn't I help save others by informing people to learn CPR or by encouraging them to purchase AED's and stop cardiovascular disease with added research and funding?

After the initial Heart Ball work in 2001, I was asked to be in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that ran on Charlotte TV stations and throughout the Carolinas in a commercial also featuring my wife and two children urging people to 'Learn can save lives!'  I became the poster boy for the American Heart Association, as my wife had joked.  She also knew that I was honored to do this and practically anything to help AHA grow its cause...and be the cure.

My volunteer time and work became even more empowering after meeting Betsy Vetter in 2004.  She asked me to join You’re the Cure, and become an advocate for AHA.  My initial role had me traveling to Washington, DC and visiting with Federal Legislators on Capitol Hill.  I am proud to say that I have not missed an AHA Federal Lobby Day since.

Since then I have held multiple roles including communications/media chair for the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee and co-chair of the Smoke-free Mecklenburg Advocacy Committee. I have also been active with Emergency Cardiovascular Care and the Heart Ball, and attended numerous state lobby days at the General Assembly in Raleigh where I share my personal experience with state lawmakers to help them better understand the importance of supporting strong public health policies.

Speaking with countless legislators and their staff to put a face on heart disease, and fight for so many who are not with us anymore is the most empowering reason I do this.  

*On December 14, 2013 Juddson was the recipient of the 2013 Dr. Robert Blackburn Award for Advocacy Excellence which honored all of his advocacy work at the American Heart Association.

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I'm Too Young To Have A Heart Attack

Part I of a Special Guest Series by Steve Irigoyen, a You’re the Cure Advocate who’s an 8-time heart attack survivor and 2-time stroke survivor

The reason I advocate is because someone advocated for me and I want to give back.  It’s my turn to go out and save another life.  My first heart attack was in 1999, I was getting ready for my son Tristan’s open house at school and I had a bit of a headache, some chest pains and a touch of nausea.  My left arm started to hurt a bit but I was in a hurry to get out the door and just shook it off.  Must have been a touch of the flu or a cold I thought to myself. 

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you who was more excited for the open house – me or Tristan!  At 5 years of age, Tristan was very excited to be in kindergarten.  Although he was a bit of a mommy and daddy’s boy who loved being at either my ex-wife’s house or mine - he truly relished being at school and making new friends.  For weeks he’d been working on craft projects with his new teacher and really looked forward to showing them off.

On the way to the open house, my headache got worse.  I stopped off at 7-Eleven to pick up some Tylenol, and then was back on the road and shortly arrived at the school.  The open house was great – I enjoyed meeting Tristan’s teacher, and of course all the artwork Tristan had so lovingly made.  Tristan went home with his mom and I headed back to my condo. 

When I arrived home the headache and pain in my chest had not gone away, so I decided to call my sister Roberta, who knows all kinds of homemade remedies.  After telling Roberta my symptoms she said, “Steve! You’re having a heart attack!” and I didn’t believe her.  So she put her husband on the line and I reiterated my symptoms and he said, “Steve, you’re having a heart attack! Call 911 right now!”

I replied, “I’m 39 years old. There’s no way I’m having a heart attack.  But I’ll drive to the hospital and get myself checked out.” 

I walked to the garage to get back in the car – and hit the floor.  The crushing pain knocked me down.  Despite my protests, fortunately Roberta dialed 911.  Because of her quickness to call 911, and a robust emergency response system, I was saved.  

Since my heart attack, I’ve learned that sadly, where you have a heart attack matters in terms of the type of care you receive.  Where I lived in Rancho Cucamonga, there was a quick emergency response system in place ensuring that heart attack patients arrived to the right hospital with advanced cardiac equipment.  Part of my advocacy work now with the American Heart Association is advocating for timely emergency response systems.  Everyone deserves the best chance at quick, timely treatment!    Join me by taking action here on to help ensure that all cardiac patients get the best of care.



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Join Us So Together We Can End Stroke

We are looking for stroke survivors and passionate advocates like you to participate in our Together to End Stroke event at the Massachusetts State House on February 25, 2014. This event will help us celebrate 10 years of Massachusetts having a Stroke System of Care and help us work towards continuing to improve and create a comprehensive system that increases the recognition and timely care of stroke to prevent death and disability. Please register to join us and invite other family and friends.

Stories make all the difference when we are meeting with legislators, would you be willing to share your story about how stroke has affected your life either as a survivor, caretaker or passionate advocate?  The day will begin at 10:00 AM with an Advocacy 101 to help prepare you for your legislative meetings. We will provide a boxed lunch and then you will have the opportunity to meet with your legislator or their staff to share your story and express the importance of a Stroke System of Care. Speaking points will be provided as well as a staff person to go on the visits. The day will end by 4:00 PM.

Please join us and register here: Feel free to reach out to me, at (781)-373-4522 or email at with any questions or concerns. Once we hear from you, we will confirm all the details for your participation! 



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