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Jennifer & Joel Griffin, Virginia

On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin, a 7th grader at A. G. Wright Middle School, collapsed in cardiac arrest.  Several critical minutes passed before her father, Joel, reached her. CPR had not been initiated. “There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to,” said Joel. Gwyneth’s mother, Jennifer, stated “It was after the results of the MRI, 3 weeks later, that we decided no one should ever have to go through what we were going through. What became evident was the need for CPR training in schools."

While the couple immersed themselves in caring for Gwyneth at the hospital, friends and family were busy back home in Stafford learning CPR. Joel and Jennifer’s daughter, Gwyneth, passed away Monday, July 30, 2012, not from her cardiac arrest, but because CPR was not initiated within the first few minutes. Their home community mobilized, and at least 500 people have become certified in CPR since.

Jennifer and Joel involved themselves in working with the American Heart Association and their legislators to establish legislation that would assure every student was trained in CPR before graduation.  Through their efforts and perseverance, and in honor of their daughter, Gwyneth’s Law was passed in Virginia in the 2013 General Assembly session.  The law has three components: teacher training in CPR, AED availability in schools, and CPR training as a graduation requirement.

Here’s a look at how the Griffin's determination led to success:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Since passage of the Virginia law, the Griffins have continued to work to help other states accomplish the same goal.  They visited Maryland legislators during the 2014 General Assembly session, and were instrumental in getting a similar law passed there.  Now they are actively working to make it happen in DC schools, including a series of legislator visits, a television interview, and providing testimony before committees They hope their story will help inspire others to support CPR training in schools as well. 

The legacy that Gwyneth leaves behind is one that will save countless lives. Help honor her legacy. This quick video will help you become CPR smart (and might get you dancing too):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGpp6mStfY

 

Gwyneth Griffin

 

Special thanks to You’re the Cure advocate/writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for help crafting this story.

 

Christi Nelson Ohio

I was 29 years old and completely healthy. October 18, 2006, was just like any other day at Akron Children’s Hospital where I was completing my internship to be a Child Life Specialist.

I went out to a bridge that connects the hospital to a parking garage to make a phone call, and that is when my life changed. I collapsed and my heart stopped - I died on that bridge. Security caught my collapse on camera and called a code blue. I went five minutes before my first responder arrived and began administering CPR and AED shocks. Staff from the E.R. at Akron Children’s arrived at the scene and took over my treatment and after approximately 20 minutes of working on me, they decided to transport me to Akron General Medical Center.

I was without a heartbeat for 62 minutes and received 13 shocks with an AED before doctors at Akron General were able to revive my heart but I was not out of the woods yet. I was put in a hypothermic coma in an attempt preserve any possible remaining brain function and my family was given a less than 5 percent chance that I would ever wake from my coma. However, after almost a week, I did wake up. I spent a month recovering in the hospital where I had to relearn to how walk, talk, and eat. I received a defibrillator/pacemaker and underwent dialysis as I also experienced kidney failure. 

I have since been diagnosed with Primary Electrical System Disease which means I have a severe arrhythmia in my heart that tends to put me in Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib), which is the most serious type of cardiac rhythm disturbance. My defibrillator will save my life.  I have also received two heart ablations since my cardiac arrest. 

Seventeen months after my cardiac arrest I gave birth to an amazing little girl who is the light of my life and I thank God each and every day for my second chance at life and the chance to fulfill my dream of being a mom.

There is something important to note about my story. In the security footage, you can observe individuals who passed me on the bridge and left me laying there, not attempting to help me before my first responder came on the scene. Once she did arrive and started CPR, nobody attempted to help her either. It is evident that people do not always know what to do in an emergency situation; therefore, they do nothing. This is why passing CPR in Schools legislation in every state is so important. The more individuals we can train with bystander CPR, the more lives we can save. While I am a story of survival, there are too many stories that are not.  Let’s work together to make a difference.

My name is Kristin Salvi and I am the newest member of the Government Relations team in New York! I look forward to the opportunity to champion our policy goals related to the prevention of heart disease and stroke.  Coming from doing advocacy work for the New York State Nurses Association, and most recently working for the state of New York, my background includes advocating for public health issues such as the CPR in Schools law, sugary sweetened beverage (SSB) tax bills, childhood obesity prevention programs, and many other important campaigns. I am excited to join with all of you here at the American Heart Association because I value the great work the organization has achieved on tobacco control, the healthy food and active living initiatives, access to care, and many other important public health topics.

 

As a new staff member of the American Heart Association, I've been learning about our platform, "Life is Why." (To learn more, click here.)  Being a relatively new mom of almost three year old twins, they are my 'why.' I want my kids to grow up in a world where receiving quality physical education in schools in the norm, healthy food is accessible to all regardless of where you live,  everyone has access to quality health care regardless of income, and everyone can live and breathe in a smoke-free environment. Although I may be aiming high, my reason for being so passionate on these issues is to make the world a better place for them. I look forward to working with all of you on all of the good stuff we are planning to do in the future!

Anne Efron, Maryland

Following a long day at work Anne Efron and her husband Dave were getting set to grill for dinner.  After making a quick trip to the store Dave returned to find Anne unconscious and without a pulse, in full cardiac arrest. She had a history of what had been diagnosed as benign cardiac dysrhythmia. Dave, who is Director of Adult Trauma, and Chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, immediately began CPR and dialed 911.  One of the questions that rang in his mind was this: how long had her brain and other organs been without oxygen before he arrived?

Dave continued performing CPR until EMS arrived about 10 minutes later and took over.  Only after transport to St. Joseph’s in Towson, the closest facility, and eight attempts at “shocking” did Anne’s heart resume “normal rhythm.”  Her heart was badly stunned and her condition continued to worsen.  Her medical team determined that the care Anne needed to survive was beyond the scope of St. Josephs. To stabilize her enough to make the trip, the Interventional Cardiologist at St. Joe’s skillfully placed a balloon pump in her heart. 

Once arriving at John’s Hopkins, Anne spent sixteen days in the Coronary Care Unit.  After the extraordinary care of the first responders, the care she received at St. Joe’s and the cutting-edge mechanical support techniques and critical medical care she received in one of the top hospitals in the world, she was able to walk out of the hospital and returned to work just five weeks after her cardiac arrest. 

Anne got involved with the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure grassroots network, and advocated actively for a Maryland Bill which would make CPR and defibrillator training a graduation requirement in Maryland public high school.  That bill became law in 2014.   Anne states “CPR is a simple lifesaving skill and one that gives those with this skill a “sense of empowerment.  Learning CPR will save many lives.” 

Click here to Be CPR Smart:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<Thanks to YTC advocate/volunteer writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for helping craft this story>

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