American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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For the first time in my life I’m spending a lot of time in bars.  Much to the surprise of my family, I know every bar in the community and enjoy my visits with the owners, employees and customers finding out how they deal with secondhand smoke. 

I’m Brenda Pollard, the Pocatello grassroots coordinator for SmokeFree Idaho, a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals that believe no one should have to choose between a job and good health!

All of my adult life I have been involved in community organizations, mainly focusing on neighborhoods and community engagement.  Community organizing is a natural outcome for a party planner that loves organization and healthy living environments. 

After losing an aunt and an uncle to causes related to smoking I determined it was time to be more vocal about the devastating effects of tobacco use.  I was thrilled to find an organization where the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and American Cancer Society teamed up to advocate for the health of Idahoans.  I learned that there is NO SAFE LEVEL of exposure to second-hand smoke.  

Now I work to share that information with folks in Pocatello and Chubbuck.  I have visited small businesses, community leaders and city councils.  I present at schools, service organizations and association meetings.  I have enjoyed calling Bingo at the Senior Center, sharing alarming facts such as- for every seven people that die from tobacco use, they take one nonsmoker with them.   I promote SmokeFree workplaces at health fairs and community events, chamber of commerce meetings and fun runs. 

Some of the highlights of my work include visiting with Don Aslett at his Museum of Clean where he told me of a book he wrote titled, “Why I Would Rather Clean up after a Cow than a Smoker.”  Also, the photo booth shoot at Poky High School organized by their Idaho Drug Free Youth Club and sponsored by McCord Orthodontics where students posed with signs reading, “I Support SmokeFree Idaho.”  Currently I am working with students from each high school to promote a campaign to “Blow Bubbles – Not Smoke”  Check out the inspirational ad that inspired our theme.

We’ll be in the Idaho State University Homecoming Parade Saturday, October 17th.  Come get your free bubbles and help us blow away secondhand smoke!

Nicole is the mother of twins—Julianna and Jacob—who were born five weeks early on June 3, 2004. Jacob Ryan Wells was born with a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. With this CCHD, the left side of Jake’s heart–including the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle and mitral valve—was underdeveloped.

Since birth, Jake went through six open-heart surgeries, a few medi-flight helicopter rides to Stanford, a few gastrointestinal surgeries, as well as surgeries that were experimental and hadn’t quite been FDA approved.

His little, brave life endured much triumph, pain, trials and struggles. Through it all, and during the long hospital stays, he had such a strong spirit, always having a smile on his face. He was the happiest little boy you could ever know, with only half a heart, his mom says.

Sadly, Jacob lost his battle to his heart disease on April 26, 2011, at the young age of six years old after having complications from another corrective heart surgery.

Since Jacob’s passing, Nicole has been an active supporter of the American Heart Association, raising funds for Heart Walk and sharing her son’s story to help pass newborn heart screening (pulse oximetry) legislation in California. She and Jacob’s father, Bryan, have been involved with the San Joaquin Heart Walk since 2011 and formed the team “Jacob’s Heart” in his memory.

Jacob was such a true inspiration to so many people and touched so many hearts during his short little life,” said Nicole. “My intent is to keep Jacob’s memory alive and make ‘Jacob’s Heart’ a recognizable icon in our community. My hope is that being involved in raising funds for the American Heart Association will help make a difference.”

Nicole and her family host an annual shrimp and pasta feed and the Jacob’s Heart Memorial Golf Tournament to raise money for the Heart Walk. In total, the team has raised more than $52,000 since its inception.

My son, Jacob, had such a huge spirit which has impacted me and so many others,” said Bryan. “I know he is looking down on us and smiling.”

Julianna, now 11, helps with the fundraising. She got her elementary school to take part in Jump Rope For Heart using the slogan “Jump For Jacob.”

“She [Julianna] had shirts made for all the kids. It was really heartwarming” Nicole said. “Jacob was our hero on earth, and he is now our angel in heaven.”

For the full story, please visit here.

The AHA Alabama Advocacy Committee consists of eleven Alabama residents from a variety of backgrounds united to advance the advocacy priorities of the American Heart Association. Throughout the fiscal year, we’ll introduce you to some of the members. Today, we’d like you to meet Vickie Evans Fuller.

How do you stay updated on current public policies in your state? AHA, the newspaper, TV and keeping the conversation going at community events

If you could help advocate for one change in your state, what would it be and why? Schools to work with the AHA to educate children at a young age to eat healthy and exercise more

What have you learned in your time being a You’re the Cure advocate? How powerful advocacy can be! I'm very happy to learn of the states that have passed laws to ensure newborns receive a pulse oximetry screening to detect heart issues.

Why would you tell a friend or family member to join You’re the Cure? Because heart disease affects everyone at some time, whether it's them or someone in their family.

Tell us one unique thing about yourself. I am currently working on my finance degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I have two daughters, one granddaughter and one grandbaby on the way in February.