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Gene Johnson New Brighton, MN

On Sept.11,2002 I had a heart attack, followed immediately by a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). I had a series of miracles and fortuitous events that followed. My daughter called and told my wife to check on dad. I was laying on the driveway with the garden hose spewing water when my wife found me and called 911. The police picked up on the call and were only a few blocks away with a defibrillator. They were at my side in 3 minutes and shocked me two times before the ambulance arrived. I was taken to a nearby hospital where I had a quadruple bypass. I spent nice 9 days in the hospital...fully recovered after ten years. I changed my diet and exercise and am living a wonderful life!

Before my heart event, I worked hard to place AED’s in the community of New Brighton, Minn. and train people to use them. Little did I know that this work would save my life one day. As a result of that incident I have helped to place many more AEDs in police cars and emergency vehicles in the community.   My neighbors and the rest of the community have even organized the "Have a Heart Walk" to raise funds for the city to buy more defibrillators!

I also became one of the founders of the Minnesota Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivors group, which provides support and information to other sudden cardiac arrest survivors. I love being a strong advocate for CPR and AED training, providing instruction to hundreds of people each year and speaking to thousands more to raise awareness. I was very fortunate and excited to work closely on the CPR in Schools bill in Minnesota that passed in 2011.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, North Carolina

Dr. Blackburn started his career as a volunteer with the American Heart Association in 1973.  In a nutshell, why did he get involved? He was working with students and saw the impact tobacco was taking on their lives.  The tremendous need for our youth to have better health started him on a path that he has followed for more than forty years.

Dr. Blackburn took his passion and turned it into reality by creating a heart health training center at Gardner Webb University, where he was teaching.  At the same time he became more involved with the AHA helping on various committees and wherever he could make a difference.  He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Affiliate of the American Heart Association in 1991, and on the NC Board from 1990-1994.

He has served on the national steering committee for Jump Rope for Heart and been a long time member of the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee.  From 1973 to now, he has stayed true to one theme: improving health for students through prevention.

When asked what was the one moment that rose above the rest, he responded it came in the late seventies when he worked with the AHA to create a curriculum for physical education teachers’ called "Putting your Heart in the Curriculum."  He said it was a great experience that included a visit to AHA’s National Center in Dallas.

With more than forty years as a volunteer, Dr. Blackburn has witnessed a number of remarkable policy advances including NC’s smoke-free law. 

Dr. Blackburn is a native of North Carolina.  He is retired now and reports that his favorite things to do are spending time with his grandchildren, walking, and being with others.  Retirement hasn’t meant slowing down as a volunteer.  Dr. Blackburn says the work must continue because major challenges still exist and his commitment to prevention and the AHA mission remains strong.

He ended the conversation with some wisdom he’s gained along the way:

· Don’t burn bridges and don’t get mad at your legislators, two years from now you may need them.

· See the big picture and keep moving forward.

· You can make a difference – stand up and advocate!   

On behalf of You’re the Cure and the American Heart Association, thank you Dr. Blackburn for your advocacy! 

 

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.

Sincerely,

Kami Sutton