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My name is Tatum Weishaupt and I joined the AHA in April 2016 as the Mission Lifeline Director of the Capital Region of New York State.  Before I tell you about myself, let me share a little bit about Mission Lifeline.  The American Heart Association developed Mission: Lifeline to transform heart attack patient outcomes by connecting healthcare providers, prehospital providers and community stakeholders in a proactive system of care that saves and improves lives—from symptom onset through cardiac rehabilitation.  I am excited to be applying my skills and expertise to this lifesaving effort in Upstate New York.

Throughout my education and career, I have focused on medicine and healthcare systems. I attended Union College, graduating with a major in Neuroscience and Minor in Public Health, and continued to pursue my interest in the sciences earning a Masters Degree in Neuroscience from Georgetown University and George Mason University.

My career prior to joining the AHA included varying aspects clinical trials management at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I worked in various roles over a 6 year period. While I enjoyed oncology research, my transition to systems of care quality improvement at the American Heart Association has allowed me to combine my broad interesting in healthcare. As a Mission: Lifeline Director for the Capital Region, I work with local health care providers – including EMS agencies and hospitals – to ensure that the system of care for heart attacks can work in a coordinated way.

The systems of care work lead by the AHA is truly impactful in the community, and I am thrilled to join in these efforts. On May 16, 2016 I had the opportunity to join the AHA advocacy team at a Stroke Lobby Day, and learn about another aspect of our organization. The day spent at the New York State Capitol included meetings with Senators and Assembly members discussing a bill which would provide a three tiered stroke system of care. The goal is to ensure that all stroke victims receive the appropriate level of care, as rapidly as possible. This was truly an awe inspiring day, and lead to the bill passing the Senate 60-0 on June 9th!

Catherine Zalewski is a mother of 2, a certified personal trainer, a former Mrs. New Jersey and a stroke survivor. She suffered her first stroke at the age of 28, about 6 months after giving birth to her daughter. It was discovered that she had a hole in heart which was repaired through surgery. She suffered another stroke shortly after the birth of her second child.

When Catherine had her first stroke, she was home alone with her infant and didn't know what was happening. She didn't receive treatment until 7 hours later. It took weeks for her to relearn how to do everyday tasks like walking and taking care of her baby. During the second stroke, she was at work with a client and someone realized what was happening. They called 911 immediately and she was taken to the hospital. She received tPA within an hour and it made a world of difference. This time, she went home within a week and was able to go back to her normal routine quickly.

Catherine knows firsthand how important it is for stroke patients to receive quality care in a timely fashion. That is why she is a volunteer advocate for the American Heart Association| American Stroke Association. Recently, Catherine testified before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on legislation that will improve the stroke system of care in New Jersey. She looks forward to continuing her advocacy as the bill makes it's way through the Legislature.

In December of 2006, I was a healthy 45 year old woman, newly divorced, with a high stress job and living by myself for the first time in my life. I started having severe headaches and couldn’t figure out why.  Two weeks before the onset of the headaches, I had begun to take birth control pills again for premenopausal symptoms.  I was in and out of the hospital and clinics for two weeks while trying to figure out what was going on. 

My youngest sister had come to stay with me to accompany me to my neurologists. On the morning of the appointment, I woke up, tripped getting into the shower and didn’t quite feel right. After dressing, I reached the top of the staircase and couldn’t figure out how to get down.  I ended up sliding down the staircase on my butt. My sister asked if we needed an ambulance but since I could still talk, I told her no. 

She quickly drove me to the doctor’s office and asked the doctor if I had had a stroke. He told my sister that I hadn’t but he was going to admit me to the hospital for some additional tests. 

A couple of days later, the doctor said I had actually had a stroke.  I spent that night crying myself to sleep unsure how I was going to be able to go home and live independently let alone return to work.  I couldn’t figure out how to work my Blackberry (this was 2006) or dial the phone that was next to my hospital bed. I couldn’t even wash my hair.

A few days later, I asked one of the wonderful nurses how a healthy 45 year old could have a stroke.  She said that it’s becoming more common. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  My family genetics at work!  

As far as anyone can tell, my outcome was positive, no noticeable deficits.  I was lucky! My stroke was a wakeup call. It made me “Stop and Smell the Roses”.  Now I play as hard as I work.   

I’m thankful for the work the American Heart and American Stroke Association does to educate the public on what can be done to prevent heart disease and reduce stroke.  I’m also very thankful for the support of my family and friends who helped me through a very frightening time.