American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Matthew and Sherry Pickett Kentucky

My Stroke Hero is my son, Matthew Pickett. Matthew was born on June 2, 1999, and within 24 hours, he coded. Also during that time, he had stroke. Unfortunately, the cardiologist had to wait days for the bleeding to stop in order to do his first open heart surgery.

As I visited with Matthew while he was in NICU, the nurse was feeding him by bottle. Matthew aspirated on milk and required a Gtube. We taught Matthew to eat by dipping a pacifier in baby food to get him to eat and were finally able to remove the Gtube in 2007, as he was eating table foods and gaining weight.

Matthew has made tremendous progress over the years. He is up to 116 pounds, has a great appetite and loves vegetables and meat. This semester, as we were transitioning Matthew to high school, the speech therapist reported that he has met all his goals and agreed to discharge him from his speech therapy. For the first time in 15 years Matthew has no therapies and we are so proud of him.

Matthew is not only my Heart Hero but my Stroke Hero. I'm very blessed and proud to be his mom.

Ginnie Gick, Maryland

May 20, 2010, started out like many mornings in Ginnie Gick’s household. Ginnie was making breakfast for her three kids. Her husband Dan, who happened to be running late that morning, was gathering his things and getting ready to leave for work.

That morning changed Ginnie’s life forever.

While searching through her pantry, Ginnie suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. After calling 911, Dan performed CPR and was able to keep blood (and therefore oxygen) circulating through her body until an ambulance arrived to treat her with a defibrillator and rush her to the hospital.  

“If he hadn’t been there,” says Ginnie. “I wouldn’t be here.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the US, and only about 1 of every 10 people who experience this devastating event outside a hospital survive. Importantly, however, many people who have a sudden cardiac arrest CAN survive if they receive immediate CPR and are treated quickly with a defibrillator.

After her sudden cardiac arrest, Ginnie immersed herself in learning more about sudden cardiac arrest, and became an active member of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) You’re the Cure network. Among her long list of contributions to AHA’s mission, Ginnie was the top fundraiser at the 2010 Howard County Maryland Heart Walk, she lobbied Congress in 2013 to support medical research funding for the National Institute of Health, and she has served on the Silent Auction Committee for the Howard County Heart Ball for the past 5 years.

Ginnie has also become a vocal advocate for CPR training in schools in Maryland. In 2014, Ginnie lobbied alongside the American Heart Association to successfully pass Breanna’s Law, which made CPR training a requirement for high school graduation in Maryland. Speaking from her personal experience, Ginnie says, “We live in a time of such important advances in medical research and technology. But when you’re having a sudden cardiac arrest, none of that matters if you aren’t immediately given CPR.”

Although Ginnie is still here today to tell her story, many other sudden cardiac arrest victims are not. Sadly a few years ago, Ginnie’s oldest brother had a sudden cardiac arrest and did not survive. After his death, Ginnie began genetic counseling, and discovered that she and other members of her family have a genetic mutation that significantly increases their risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Having this information has motivated Ginnie and her family to take steps to better prepare themselves should they experience sudden cardiac arrest in the future.

Working with You’re the Cure has enabled Ginnie to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest, raise funding for medical research, and advocate for policies to increase CPR training. “I am grateful for the opportunity to make sure people are prepared and able to act if something happens,” says Ginnie.

We are so thankful for Ginnie’s amazing contributions!

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<Special thanks to You’re the Cure intern and advocate Hannah Jones, for help developing this story>

Bill Forester recalls the moment he heard the doctors tell his family that he was gone. At 51-years-old, he was a college professor, realtor, director of labor and public speaker who led a healthy lifestyle. "I was a vegetarian, I ran and I never smoked," said Bill, which is why it was such a shock when he had a stroke that left him in a coma for three days.

Thankfully, Bill awoke, but was paralyzed and unable to speak. When he first regained some ability to speak, his vocabulary was limited to just four word, but he was determined to get his life back. At times, he would study a single sentence for hours just to learn it. "I wanted to fully recover, and I didn’t care what it took." After lengthy physical, occupational and speech therapy, Bill regained his speech and has even been able to run a half marathon. He has since found a new talent and passion--painting.

Bill offers some advice to others who are going through a similar situation. "Never, never give up!"