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Advocate Spotlight: Darion Hutchinson

Darion Hutchinson

My name is Darion Hutchinson and, at the age of 20, I am a stroke survivor. A month before the stroke, I got a migraine that never really went away. I pushed through the pain and actually played the best basketball game of my career. The following Monday I was back in school feeling a little under the weather with what I thought was the flu. Later that day I pushed through practice, even though I felt nauseous.

The next day my headache was more severe and I felt sick to my stomach. I asked my best friend and teammate, Kylee, to stay with me while I tried to rest before practice. The next thing I remember was seeing Kylee with a concerned look on her face asking me what was wrong. I wasn’t able to speak, and I tried to sit up but couldn’t even roll over. I finally pulled myself up with my left arm and then fell, almost hitting my head on the bathroom door. Kylee called 9-1-1, then my sister and my coach. As I lay on the floor I started to panic. I couldn’t speak or move the right side of my body. I didn’t know what was going on.

EMS soon rushed me to the hospital, where I stayed in the stroke ICU for five days. During the first two days I had to lay perfectly still, and by day four I was walking around. After being released from the hospital, the first thing I wanted to do is practice with my team.

I never thought I would be a stroke survivor, and especially at my age. I now realize that a stroke can happen to anyone, and we all need to know the signs and what to do.

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Ohio Legislators Go Red!

As part of American Heart Month, the first Friday of February is designated Wear Red Day.  It is a chance to raise awareness on the risk of heart disease.  In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women – killing more women than all forms of cancer combined. Most women don’t notice the symptoms of heart disease until it’s too late, which is why heart disease has been called the silent killer.

Again this year, Ohio legislators joined together for a photo shoot on one of our snow filled days.  They will be sharing information through their constituent communications and meetings through the month.  Click on the picture to see more photos on our Facebook page!

         

You can join them!  Make sure you have your red on today and throughout the month.  You can also visit our Action Center to learn about policy efforts to improve heart health.

 “What it means to Go Red":

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and eat healthy.
  • Realize Your Risk: We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills 1 in 3 women.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Don’t be silent: Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our No. 1 killer. Raise your voice at GoRedForWomen.org.

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Ohio Legislators Go Red Again!

As part of American Heart Month, the first Friday of February is designated Wear Red Day.  It is a chance to raise awareness on the risk of heart disease.  In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women – killing more women than all forms of cancer combined. Most women don’t notice the symptoms of heart disease until it’s too late, which is why heart disease has been called the silent killer.

Again this year, Ohio legislators joined together for a photo shoot on one of our snow filled days.  They will be sharing information through their constituent communications and meetings through the month.  Click on the picture to see more photos on our Facebook page!

         

You can join them!  Make sure you have your red on today and throughout the month.  You can also visit our Action Center to learn about policy efforts to improve heart health.

 “What it means to Go Red":

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and eat healthy.
  • Realize Your Risk: We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills 1 in 3 women.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Don’t be silent: Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our No. 1 killer. Raise your voice at GoRedForWomen.org.

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February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and February 7th is National Wear Red Day!   

Heart Disease is the No.1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer.

It's time to take a stand against heart disease in women.  Together, we can put an end to heart disease.

How can you help make February a great Heart Month? To learn more about ways to show your support, please visit the Go Red For Women website.

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Heart Month this February!!

February is American Heart Month and February 7th is National Wear Red Day and, although it’s wonderful to see so many people supporting heart-health awareness this month, it’s important to remember that the battle against heart disease is fought year-round.

How can you help make February a great Heart Month? Macy's encourages everyone to Color Your World Red in support of Go Red For Women! To learn more about other ways to show your support, please visit the Go Red For Women website.

Thank you for helping advance heart-health in our communities!

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Spotlight: Ariel Walker, Ohio

Ariel Walker Ohio

At 19, my life was totally normal for a college student.  Eat, sleep, class, repeat.  And then one day, my heart quit beating.  I was giving a final presentation in front of a class full of people when everything went dark.  When I woke up, I was on the floor with a paramedic looking at me.

It took almost 4 years to diagnose what had caused me to pass out.  I was lucky.  I had a mother who had worked in a hospital for 25 years, and a supportive partner who drove me four hours each direction every couple of weeks for tests.  For such a dramatic event, it was extremely difficult to convince doctors that anything was wrong with me.  I passed every test.  Most appointments ended with the explanation that I was probably passing out because I was thin and therefore probably not eating enough. 

However, with my mom’s stubbornness and understanding of the heath care system, I was able to get an appointment with a cardiologist who was willing to send me for a tilt-table test.  I laid strapped flat to a table for an hour and then they flipped me vertically to see what would happen.   As everyone waited to see if I would pass out, the surgeon suggested that if I switched my snacks to salted peanuts and Gatorade, I would probably be fine.  I don’t remember much after that because I did pass out, and my heart stopped beating. 

I had cardio-inhibitory vasovagal syncope and I would need a pacemaker to keep me from passing out in the future.  A million things raced through my mind, the first of which was relief… I finally had a diagnosis.  The second was, would I ever look good in a bikini with a pacemaker implanted in my chest.  A month later, I was in surgery: the only 24 year-old on the cardiology schedule. 

My surgery was not easy.  It was supposed to be less than 24 hours in the hospital and I ended up there for three days.  My body was going into shock every time the pacemaker tried to pace my heart.  I was sent for x-rays in a wheelchair and brought back in a gurney because I kept losing consciousness.  It was terrifying.  Not for me so much, I was just exhausted. But for my family who had to watch helplessly, it was a nightmare. 

What I didn’t realize at the time, and what is impossible to explain to someone who has never been in such a situation, is that I not only became aware of a problem that day, I also lost the ability to trust that my heart would ever beat the way it was supposed to.  We don’t think about our lungs allowing us to breathe or our heart pumping our blood. It just happens.  I can’t explain the sense of loss, or the fear that develops of your own body, but I can encourage people not to take it for granted. 

I am now on my second pacemaker and, although that surgery wasn’t easy either, I live a healthy and active life with my amazing husband and two dogs.  To give back, I also joined the Board of Directors for my local American Heart Association so that I can encourage others to live well and take care of their hearts.  A coronary event can happen to anyone, at any stage of life.  It is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you and seek a doctor’s care whenever your heath circumstances change.  Treat your heart with care and never take it for granted.

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Advocate Spotlight: Polly Hunt, Kentucky

Polly Hunt Kentucky

The thought of stroke didn’t even cross my mind. I was, after all, a very active, healthy 29-year-old with no medical problems or risk factors.

July 21, 2001, began like any other summer Saturday.  I awoke to feed my 13-month-old daughter while my husband and other three children slept. When my daughter, Hannah finished nursing and had fallen asleep, I returned her to her crib and went to the living room to enjoy the few minutes of peace and quiet before our usual busy day began. This was a luxury that did not often occur in my household with an infant; 3-year-old twin sons, Jake and Jared, and 9-year old son, Josh. Shortly after this, as I was enjoying reading, something aggravated my sinuses and I sneezed uncontrollably several times. From that moment forward, my life was forever changed.

Although I didn’t initially recognize it, I was having a stroke. Almost immediately, I experienced blurred vision and intense dizziness or vertigo. I also had a sudden, severe headache. It began on the left side of my skull right at the base and ran through to the right temple, and felt intensely hot. The only word I have ever been able to use to describe this pain was “searing” and it radiated from my skull into my cervical spine.

As I stood to walk to the kitchen to search for ibuprofen, the room felt as if it were tilting. I had to hold on to the furniture to keep from losing my balance. This scared me and I called out for my husband, David. At the time, I was an RN working in the Emergency Department at a local hospital. In that role, I was exposed to people with all kinds of unknown illnesses. I remember thinking that with this excruciating pain in the left occiput and into my neck, that I might have viral meningitis, as I had experienced cold symptoms for a couple of days.

When I began telling David my symptoms, he immediately insisted we go to the ED. While my cognition and language were normal, my speech was slightly slower and more deliberate. This was my first indication there might be more than a simple, viral illness; but, again as a young, healthy individual, I still wasn’t even considering the possibility of a stroke.

By the time we got dressed, waited for my mom to arrive to baby-sit, and drove 20 minutes to the Emergency Department, we arrived at the hospital about an hour after my symptoms began. I was triaged and taken to a bed where I was promptly evaluated by the RNs and physician on duty.  As I expected, with my symptoms, especially the sudden, severe headache and neck pain, a lumbar puncture was performed to rule out meningitis. This and migraine were in the initial differential diagnosis.

The lumbar puncture showed numerous red blood cells, so a CT scan of my head was ordered to rule out subarachnoid hemorrhage. This was negative. However, the physician – who worked with me and knew me well – wasn’t convinced and ordered an MRI. At this small hospital on a weekend, MRI was normally not available and I would have had to wait until Monday.  As it happens, though, this particular day, a tech had come in to perform a test as a favor to one of the local nephrologists. Because of this, I was able to have the MRI, which showed a moderate size ischemic stroke in my left cerebellum. The physician was as incredulous as I was when he came to tell me the result. Because ischemic stroke had not even been a consideration, by the time the actual diagnosis was made I was outside of the window for tPA. 

By the time I was admitted, my symptoms had worsened to the point that was unable to walk without assistance due to left-sided ataxia, my fine motor ability in my left arm and hand was impaired, I had a slight facial droop, and my speech was very dysfluent. In addition, the headache and vertigo had worsened and I was vomiting. All in all, I was in the hospital seven days, had several diagnostic tests to determine the source of my stroke, was started on anticoagulation, and had multiple therapy sessions.  

Initially, the only abnormal finding was a patent foramen ovale (PFO), which I later had repaired as part of a clinical trial.  More than anything else from that time, I remember feeling extremely vulnerable and afraid. My week in the hospital was the beginning of an emotional roller coaster of sorts.  I remember getting upset because I was scheduled for a cerebral angiogram and I wanted to shower and shave my legs first, but my sitting balance was so poor that I couldn’t do it myself. It is a humbling experience to have to ask someone else (my husband in this case) to do something this personal for you, especially when you are as independent as I am. The worst part of all of this was that my 13-month-old daughter was terrified of me. I can only assume this was due to the dysarthria.  This was a child that a few days earlier was still breastfeeding and now she wouldn’t come near me.

I returned home with much help and support from family and friends. My mom and mother-in-law came to our home, day in and day out, so my husband could return to work and I could go to therapy. My sister, Leanne, took me for outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy daily for several months until I was able to drive again independently.

All in all, recovery was a lengthy, deliberate journey that involved both physical and emotional healing. I was fortunate to have recovered enough to be able to return to work four and a half months after my stroke. Thankfully, my supervisors continued to hold my job long after what the law requires and support my return while I was still continuing speech and physical therapy for several more months.

Emotionally, this was a time of turmoil. It was six months before I could carry my children safely. I learned to be thankful for the little things; I could still hold the kids as long as I was sitting; I could basically perform all of my own self care; and most importantly, I was getting better every day. To help improve my dysarthric speech, Jake and Jared would sit on my lap while I read book after book to them.  I discovered that playing the piano, which I had always enjoyed but not really taken the time to do much in those years after the kids were born, helped improve my fine motor ability. 

During that first year, I remember doing a lot of reflecting on things that had happened and decisions I had made in my life. I discovered I was truly content. My life was good. I had beautiful, happy, intelligent, healthy children, a loving family and supportive friends and coworkers. I had a good job in a profession I genuinely liked and was good at. This awareness led me to be much more appreciative of those “little things” I had been too busy to notice or just simply took for granted.

It has also led me to become more involved in stroke care than I ever would have thought.  I had been an ED nurse for several years, had worked on a telemetry unit, and worked on then managed a rehab unit in another town. I realized my entire nursing career had involved me in various aspects of stroke care. As I did more and more research, I learned how great the need was for improvement in stroke systems. Many people don’t even know the signs and symptoms of stroke, let alone what to do if they experience them. The variability in the care at different hospitals was disturbing. 

I am now the stroke program coordinator at a different hospital in my community. I have taken an active role in improving stroke care at this hospital for the past six years. We are a Joint Commission certified Primary Stroke Center and have reduced our door to needle (DTN) time every year since our JC certification. Our average DTN time is 39 minutes this year and 100 percent of eligible patients received the clot-busting drug, tPA, over the past 2½ years. I have seen stroke care evolve at this facility to the point that it is second nature for the team here to provide high quality care. I work with an exceptional medical director and team of physicians, nurses, technicians and therapists who provide excellent stroke care according to evidence-based guidelines. For the past three years, we have received the Get with the Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus award and for the past two years, the Target: Stroke Honor Roll from the American Stroke Association. We have also received stroke care awards from other agencies including HealthGrades and CareMark.  We use the latest ASA recommendation of the 4.5-hour window for IV tPA and we have advanced stroke resuscitation options, such as intra-arterial tPA and clot retrieval procedures available to patients who meet specific criteria. I am very proud of the care our team is able to give. One of the best parts of my role is being able to affect the lives of each patient experiencing stroke. While evidence-based care is essential to quality, so is the individual time and attention that each patient needs and deserves. 

Until today, I have only shared this story with a few close friends, but never shared it so publicly. I must say it brings back the feelings of vulnerability I experienced immediately after my stroke. I watched the video of my oldest son’s 10th birthday, which was 10 days after my stroke, and the memories and feelings it evoked are hard to describe. I don’t often watch videos from this time for this reason. However, I have told many patients my story over the past 11 years.  Sometimes a person just needs to talk to someone who has had a similar experience. Other times seeing someone who has overcome the obstacles and is doing well can help get you through the rough parts. All in all, if you met me for the first time today, you probably would never know that I have had a stroke. I still have some mild residual ataxia, which most people dismiss as clumsiness. I leave a nightlight on at night to help me compensate visually for my lack of proprioception. My speech is slower than it used to be and somewhat more deliberate, but again, if you didn’t know me before you wouldn’t notice. These symptoms worsen dramatically when I am very tired or ill and my close friends often notice this before I do. I tell patients to expect this because I remember how frightening it was the first time it happened to me.

I hope you can see that this was not a story about being a victim or one of just surviving, but one of physical and emotional recovery. It is also the story of learning to thrive by living each day with the knowledge of how quickly the simple abilities we take for granted can be taken away. It is the story of persevering with a thankful spirit, and a passion to make a difference for others in similar situations.

I will forever be indebted to my ex-husband, David, and our five children for their patience and support throughout my recovery even as it continued many years later; to our parents, our siblings, and the many friends who helped with caring for our children and our home, prayed for me, and transported me to and from the countless hours of therapy over those first few months. I am also very grateful to those caregivers who helped me on my path to recovery. They included Drs. Joseph Bajorek, David Bush, Jon Walz, Lee Haikal, Jason Yuan, and Larry Latson.

Even when bad things happen, they often lead you to a place in life you may not have found otherwise. I am truly blessed and I am definitely not a victim. It really bothers me when people describe stroke patients as victims. I am certainly a survivor, but even more than that I am thriving as a direct result of this stroke.

 

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Kentucky's Debbie Rogers is headed to DC. Will you 'be there' with her?

I knew my chances of having heart disease were increased because of family history and high cholesterol. After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I sought a cardiologist for heart issues related to RA. After routine test, he confirmed three blockages in two arteries and I had to make a decision immediately to correct the problem. I had no symptoms, am a non-smoker, have normal blood pressure, am not overweight, eat healthy and yet this silent killer could have taken my life at any moment. A “Go Red For Women” Heart Health Awareness event, along with a persistent daughter, saved my life.

Attending the Rally for Medical Research is important to me because I believe we need more federal funding for research projects and other medical advancements for early detection of heart disease along with insurance coverage of procedures and tests.

I am asking you as a fellow advocate to please support our efforts by signing on to the ‘Hearts for Research’ photo petition. Each name and picture submitted in support for prioritizing our nation’s investment in medical research will be delivered to Congress during the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day on September 18th.

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Spotlight: Connie Strong, Ohio

Connie Strong Ohio

On October 22, 2010, I suffered the same type of medical condition that took the life of comedian John Ritter and many others, but fast action on my part and a correct diagnosis saved my life.  It was only the power of God and His divine Holy Spirit that led me into action that dreadful morning.

I had worked at Hillcrest Hospital for 18 years, but this day would be the day that would change my life.  Coming into work very early was not the norm, but I had volunteered to meet and greet the third shift employees with goodies as part of the Employee Activities Committee, and made the emergency department my last stop.

When I arrived back to my office at 7:00 a.m., I began to orient a new employee, Brittany.  As I sat down with her I immediately experienced a discomfort in my chest.  I got up from my desk walked around thinking this would relieve the strange feeling.  I sat back down and experienced the same sensation.  It was now 7:08 a.m. and I realized something was definitely wrong and I had to act fast.
 
As a hospital employee, we are taught to use special codes which will dispatch a medical team to assist in cases of emergencies.  If I had used the special assist code, a wheelchair along with a medial team would have come to my rescue and then I would have been wheeled to the Emergency Department.  

However, for some reason I felt I needed to act quickly and instead of using that code and waiting for help I chose to walk to the Emergency Department and asked Brittany to accompany me.  The Emergency department was a good distance from my office and in addition to the walk I had to take an elevator to the next floor. 

 While we walked I gave Brittany my husband and daughter’s phone number and asked her to call them immediately and let them know I was headed to the Emergency Department. 

 As I was rushed back into the emergency department, this time for treatment for myself, I caught the emergency staff by surprise and they sprang into action.  Once I was ushered into one of the treatment room,s a fellow employee came over and began praying for me.  I could hear her praying for me when I lost consciousness. 
 
My daughter alerted my son and they all arrived to the hospital in record time.  After a series of test my family was informed I had a tear on my aorta and immediate surgery would have to be performed in order to save my life. 

 I was transported by emergency helicopter to the Cleveland Clinic Heart Institute to undergo immediate, high risk, heart surgery.  I never fully regained consciousness until the next day.
 
After surgery I found that the surgeons and doctors were amazed that I was able to walk to the emergency department with a torn aorta, yet they didn’t know that my daily  prayer is for God to walk before me.
 
When I was in the Intensive Care Unit one of the nurse was having a hard time reading my oxygen level through my polished manicured fingernail.  She asked if she could remove the polish from one of my fingers. I agreed.  Now when I get manicures I polish all but one fingernail, the right index finger.  It is my own personal testimony of God’s miraculous provision of healing for me.  Now all the ladies in my family paint all but one fingernail in remembrance of heart disease and my personal testimony.

Six weeks after surgery I began thCe cardio rehab program and returned back to my administrative position at Hillcrest three months after surgery.

The fourth month after surgery I attended the American Heart Association “Go Red Luncheon” which brings awareness of the leading cause of death in women and shared my testimony to all the women sitting at my table. 

Ten months after surgery I walked three miles in the American Heart Association Heart Walk with my family, sister, coworkers and my six grandchildren in support of heart disease. 

 Two years ago I wore red in support of the American Heart Association and their Go Red for Women Campaign raising awareness about this No. 1 killer of women.  Today I wear red as a Heart Survivor.

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Advocate Spotlight: Cathy Seitz, Pennsylvania

Cathy Seitz Pennsylvania

On January ‎4‎th, ‎1994‎, I suffered from a heart attack‎. ‎I was only ‎33 ‎years old‎. ‎My youngest child was born three months earlier‎. ‎I was holding him ‎and feeding him a bottle when I felt shortness of breath and a little chest discomfort‎. ‎Then my arm started to ache. I thought he was getting ‎heavy, so I finished feeding him and laid him down‎.  ‎And that is how my story begins‎.

I thought I had a toothache, I thought I was having an ‎anxiety attack, I thought I was going to get sick, I thought of everything except a heart attack‎. ‎My mom called, I told her that I wasn't feeling right. She said to call the ER and to call her right back‎. ‎The ER said that it sounded like angina and that I should come over to get checked‎. ‎Till this ‎day, I think my mom saved my life‎. ‎I would not have gone to the hospital--in fact, I thought it was pretty ridiculous‎.

When I arrived at the ER, they took me right back and started hooking me up to IV, blood test, etc‎. ‎I kept thinking that I was just having an ‎anxiety attack and couldn't get it under control‎. I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about and it was making me nervous. Then a cardiologist came in to talk to me, he said that I was having a heart attack. He gave me ‎nitroglycerin and a shot of TPA‎. ‎I laid there thinking, am I going to die here in the ER‎? ‎I knew nothing about heart attacks except what you see on ‎TV: man grabs his chest, falls to the floor, the end‎. ‎He tried to reassure me that I was going to be just fine, but ‎I didn't believe him‎. ‎He is still ‎my cardiologist today, ‎19 ‎years later‎.

The sad part is that until last May, I didn't know what to ‎believe. Because of the so called ‎"‎rare‎" ‎heart disease, Spontaneous Coronary Artery Disection ‎(‎SCAD‎)‎, that I was diagnosed with was never researched. I was told that ‎most people do not survive a SCAD‎. ‎I didn't know anything and couldn't find any information about SCAD‎. ‎My doctors explained that ‎it is very rare and believe it is caused by hormones during pregnancy and suggested that if I didn't get  pregnant again, SCAD would not ‎happen again‎.

18 ‎years later, I decided to check for information again and I found it‎! ‎I found a SCAD Survivor Group on Facebook‎. ‎I learned so much this past year ‎about SCAD I feel like I woke up from a bad dream‎. ‎The group consists of approximately ‎300 ‎people world-wide, mostly young, healthy women, Not all ‎due to pregnancy.

‎I am on a mission to spread awareness‎. ‎Research at the Mayo Clinic is underway and has begun to unravel ‎the mystery of SCAD‎. ‎To learn more about SCAD, go to www‎.‎scadresearch‎.‎org‎. ‎I believe this research will prove that this is not as rare as ‎previously believed to be and will help save many lives in the future‎. ‎This is just the beginning‎. ‎Thanks for reading my story and Bless Your ‎Heart‎!  

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