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Gail Harris-Berry

No one in Prince George’s County is more passionate about heart health than Gail Harris-Berry. Since becoming a You’re the Cure advocate in 2012, Gail has worked hard to keep her friends, family, and community informed on how to live a heart healthy life.

Gail has been an active Prince George’s County resident since 1969. She spends her time assisting senior citizens, as well as serving as an ordained minister. Her role as a minister gives her the opportunity to speak with community members and share her amazing story, which you can learn about HERE. As an American Heart Association ambassador, she frequently speaks to local government leaders, and advocates for CPR in Schools and the need for more comprehensive studies of heart disease among women.

Gail believes in being proactive about her heart health. To her, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

“Because we live so long, it is important to be as healthy as possible, to truly enjoy that time and enjoy the highest quality of life possible. Be proactive in preventing disease; not reactive. The benefits will come.” 

As someone who has experienced heart episodes in the past, she understands better than most how much prevention, such as improved nutrition, can make a difference in improving quality of life and reducing the risk of heart disease. Improving nutrition in Prince George’s County Maryland is particularly important to her because she has so many friends and family, including grandchildren, who live there. As a You’re the Cure advocate, Gail educates her community that better nutrition can reduce obesity, diabetes, and improve heart health.

Gail believes that healthy food options should be available for everyone, including in vending machines.

“Adding nutritious foods to vending machines would give everyone the chance to eat a little better. So many people live with heart disease and obesity, especially in Prince George’s County.  Having better food options would help to prevent diseases down the road and save people from expensive medical bills.”

Gail is an active You’re the Cure advocate in Prince George’s County and the Greater Washington Region and invites anyone who wants to make a difference in reducing heart disease and stroke to join the network at www.yourethecure.org.

 

 

 

<Special thanks to You’re the Cure intern Spencer Davis for development of this blog post>

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Share Your Story: Hayden Grimm

Hayden Grimm Iowa

Hayden was born January 21, 2011, and at the time his parents had no idea anything was wrong with him. Twelve hours after he was born though, he was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He was diagnosed with Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome. Hayden had his first open heart surgery at six days old, second at five months and third at three and a half years old. Hayden will never be "fixed," but he is doing well. He is currently on 3 daily medications, loves pickles and salad and stays active. He just finished up Preschool and is excited to go to Kindergarten in the Fall!

Join Hayden and his family on September 11, 2016 at the McGrath Amphitheatre for the Cedar Rapids Heart Walk to help fight heart disease and stroke in Iowa!

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Share Your Story: Bill O'Neal

Bill O'Neal Missouri

Bill O'Neal's heart stopped while he was giving 40 students an ACT test.  "I always think it’s a bit ironic that I taught for two years at the Collegiate School for Medicine and Bioscience and I gave the kids some hands on experience," O'Neal said.

This teacher of more than 30 years has spent his career giving lessons at the head of the class. But he had no warning of the big one he'd be giving right at this spot in this St. Louis magnet school on April 19. "I don't remember coming up to this room to proctor the ACT," said O'Neal, who is 59.  "I have no memory of the event at all."

Without warning, Bill suddenly collapsed in front of another teacher and more than 40 students taking a test. Statistically, that should have been the end of the story. Ninety percent of people whose hearts stop suddenly outside of a medical setting, don't make it to a hospital alive. Read More.

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Advocate Highlight - Eric Rothenberg

We are so excited to share with you the news that Washington advocate/volunteer Eric Rothenberg was the recipient of this year’s American Heart Association Western States Affiliate Volunteer Advocacy Award. The award was presented at the AHA’s annual volunteer awards dinner in Los Angeles on June 6, 2016.

Eric began volunteering with the AHA after he survived sudden cardiac arrest while playing tennis in 2009. He credits quick action from bystanders for saving his life. “Fortunately the club has two AEDs (automated external defibrillators) and there were a few doctors playing on adjacent courts. They began CPR within about 30 seconds of me going down and a friend ran and got an AED. They shocked me twice and I was revived before the medics arrived,” he recalls. “Without CPR and that AED, the outcome would have been very different.”

Eric has been a volunteer for the AHA’s Puget Sound Division for many years and was instrumental in lobbying for required CPR instruction in Washington high schools, which became Washington state law in 2014.

He also serves as chair of the AHA’s Washington State Advocacy Committee and was honored for exceptional grassroots advocacy achievement in support of a historic increase in funding for the Washington State Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program. His leadership helped to secure an annual expenditure on bicycle/pedestrian projects of $10.25 million.

Thank you Eric for everything you do and we are so glad that you received this recognition. We could not do what we do without our volunteers.

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Share Your Story: Lexie Amerin

Lexie Amerin Kansas

My name is Lexie Amerin and I am a 17 year old senior at Southwestern Heights High School. My heart problems occurred while I was in my mother’s womb but weren’t realized until after I was born.

I cried once but then I stopped breathing and they had to resuscitate me. This is how I entered the world.  I was immediately airlifted to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City where they discovered my heart defect. I had been diagnosed with severe Pulmonary Stenosis plus a hole in my heart. My pulmonary valve’s opening was the size of the tip of a pencil. It was too small for my blood to flow through.

In my first 24 hours of life, I had a Heart Catheterization done to allow my blood to flow to my heart. I was in the hospital for 21 days, where twice I code blue and had to be resuscitated. I had severe acid reflux and had surgery to place a feeding tube in my stomach to prevent me from throwing up my food and allow me to gain weight and grow. I was tube fed until I was 5 years old.

As time went on, I grew and continued to thrive. I went to my cardiologist in Wichita every 3 years and my heart was doing well. I played sports such as volleyball and basketball, and I participated in gymnastics and dance. Everything was going great.

When I got to junior high I wasn’t feeling so great, however. I felt like my heart kept skipping beats and had an abnormal rhythm. We went to my cardiologist and they had me try numerous heart monitors but none of them seemed to work. I still didn’t feel right. I went back up to the doctor to do more stress tests where I was told I had to limit my exercise and I couldn’t play sports anymore.  I decided to become the manager so that I could still be a part of my team.

My oldest sister, Kaylee who also has pulmonary stenosis but not as severe, was seeing an adult cardiologist in Kansas City. He said that he would take me as a patient, so I made the switch as well.

My freshman year I was cleared to cheer and play softball at my own pace. I was the JV pitcher and I felt that I was improving throughout the year. I went to the cardiologist for an appointment and learned that I needed more tests. The next visit I was given the news that I needed open heart surgery to replace my heart valve. We decided on replacing it with a pig valve.

June came around and before we knew it, our journey began. We drove to Rochester, MN to the Mayo Clinic where they began running tests. When I was there, I found out that I have another rare heart defect called Ebstein’s Anomaly. This is basically that my tricuspid valve wasn’t formed normal and so it made my blood backflow, causing my heart to enlarge even more. My right ventricle was so enlarged, it was the same size as the rest of my heart. The day before my surgery, we decided to wait for my heart to enlarge a little bit more so the valve could be replaced with an adult sized pig valve which would last longer. They wanted to wait another year before the surgery.

But then sophomore year came. I had to quit cheerleading because yelling took too much of my breath away. Softball was where I, and everybody else, could really see me going downhill. I tried my best throughout the year but my body just physically could not take it. I couldn’t run my own bases anymore, I couldn’t pitch more than an inning. I couldn’t play summer softball because the heat took too much out of me. I would sleep for 12-14 hours to recover after a game or any activity.

One day at softball camp for the little kids, my mom came and told me that she got the surgery scheduled for July 16. I was happy but honestly I was so scared, it was so soon. Before we knew it, July was here.

We started on our 15 hour journey again. We got up to Minnesota and I went through the same tests that I did before. I knew it was for real this time. I was prepared for the surgery. My surgery was to replace my pulmonary valve with a pig valve, to fix my tricuspid valve, and to close the hole in my heart. The last thing that I remember is seeing bright lights, and the doctors looking over me, then I was out.

I woke up around midnight in the ICU. I had a breathing tube that had to be taken out which was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. When they moved me from the ICU to the PCU after surgery, I walked a wheelchair all the way up. Looking back, I have no clue how I did that. I stayed in the hospital for only 4 days. I walked up and down the hallway each day, progressing more and more. On day 3, I finally got to go outside. On day 4, I finally got released from the hospital. It took me about 6 weeks to get back to a full day of school, but finally I made it back.

I went to the doctor three months after my surgery for a post-op checkup where he cleared me to full activity and told me that my heart has shrunk down to a somewhat normal size. It still doesn’t feel like it happened but I feel so much better. This softball season will be the first season I’ll be able to play like a normal girl on the team. I’ll be able to run, pitch, and hit like everybody else for the first time in my life.

Having this surgery doesn’t mean that it’s over. The valve will need replacing in about 15 years.  By then, I won’t have to have open heart surgery, but rather just a one day surgery where they replace it with what is called a melody valve. I’m just one of the many examples of someone living with a congenital heart defect. Without my surgeries, I wouldn’t be here today. My surgery was the best thing that has ever happened to me, it saved my life.  I will go back for my 1 year checkup in July.  I encourage everyone to educate themselves and spread awareness of heart disease.

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Hailey Auster, New York

Hi, my name is Hailey Auster and in September I will be in 6th grade at Van Antwerp Middle School in Niskayuna, NY.

I believe the quest for health in New York State is very important and on July 5th, I testified before the Schenectady County Legislature to support increasing the tobacco purchase age to 21.  I think it’s important that lawmakers hear the opinion of people from a different generation when deciding what laws to pass.  I also believe that adolescents still have a lot to learn about drug awareness and by age 21, when  their school career is almost finished, they can make a more educated decision about using tobacco.   After my Tobacco 21 testimony, I was excited to be featured on the local news – they even spelled my name correctly and used my tagline:  Smoking Upsets Your Health and Not Smoking Sets Up Your Health.

The American Heart Association, I think, is really important to the State of New York because they teach people CPR and help keep kids from smoking!   I am proud to be an AHA advocate!

 

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Trenton Fryman, Kentucky

Trenton Fryman Kentucky

For more than a year, North Oldham High School Class of 2016 senior, Trenton Fryman, has been an outspoken advocate for training students in CPR. Thanks in part to his dedication, this past March, Kentucky became the 29th state to pass legislation that will ensure all students learn this lifesaving skill.

After working as a lifeguard during a summer and receiving CPR certification himself, Trenton came to realize that most of his classmates did not know how to respond to a cardiac emergency. Trenton took it upon himself to coordinate and host three Hands-Only CPR training sessions in his high school, as well as several other small events within his community, borrowing mannequins from local EMS. From there, he applied for and received a grant from a local business to purchase his own CPR mannequins to expand the reach of his classes. 

Trenton has written letters to the editor urging legislators to support CPR in schools training, and has been an excellent example of how easy the training is to complete. In addition, he participated in two Kentucky Advocacy Day press events to demonstrate for lawmakers how quick and easy hands-only CPR is to learn. Trenton is a well-spoken, passionate volunteer and has participated in several TV interviews surrounding both our advocacy and education efforts. 

The American Heart Association was honored to present Trenton with the 2016 Young Hearts Award for his inspiring commitment to CPR education.

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Norman is Why!

Meet Norman Petrik, one of AHA's top volunteers!

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What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

I have always been an advocate for lobbying, and after my heart surgery, that became important oo.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

Urging people to eat healthy and exercise.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

Going to the Minnesota legislature with other AHA members to speak to my legislators.

What is your favorite way to be active?

Biking outside if it is safe, or using the fitness center at Minneapolis VH when I am there to visity heart surgery patients for Mended Hearts.

What is your favorite fruit of vegetable?

Orange and apple every day for lunch, lettuce salad for supper.

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Helping Us Fight the Silent Killer

High blood pressure is called The Silent Killer for a reason.  It has no symptoms, so you may not be aware that it's damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. When left untreated, possible health consequences can include heart disease, heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

But, the sad fact is that too many people have high blood pressure. Currently in Vermont, 31% of adults suffer from high blood pressure. That means 128,688 people! And that number is predicted to climb to more than 174,000 people by 2030 if current obesity trends continue.

That’s why we’re excited by an effort by one of our Vermont partners, the YMCA, to treat high blood pressure. The Y’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program helps adults with hypertension to lower and manage their blood pressure. With the help of a Healthy Heart Ambassador, the four month program focuses on regulated home self-monitoring of a person’s blood pressure and the participant is provided with individualized consultations and nutrition education for better blood pressure management.

The program will include nutrition education seminars each month that focus on dietary approaches to reducing hypertension, reducing sodium intake, shopping, cooking and food preparation, and eating for your heart.

A really neat bonus to the program in our area is a 30 day family membership at the Greater Burlington YMCA. Find out more and see if you're eligible by contacting Kristin Magnant at kmagnant@gbymca.org or at (802) 652-8196 .

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Callie Ponder, Rhode Island

Callie Ponder began working with the American Heart Association at the end of May 2016. Her role with the organization is an Associate Regional Campaign Manager for the Pawtucket/Central Falls ANCHOR (Accelerating National Community Health Outcomes through Reinforcing Partnerships) grant, funded by the CDC and aimed at reducing obesity. She will be with us until the end of September.

Callie recently graduated with a BS from Rhode Island College in Community Health and Wellness, with a concentration in Public Health. Previously, she received a BS in Exercise Science from the University of RI and a specialization in Health Care Administration from Rhode Island College. Callie’s most recent work experience was at the RI Department of Health under the Community, Health, and Equity Division as a family planning intern. She also assisted with our Providence ANCHOR grant (year 1 of the project) by assessing the foods and beverages sold at a hospital and several worksites. Her work at Care New England Health System laid the foundation for the implementation of a system-wide policy requiring the vending machine supplier to adhere to American Heart Association nutrition guidelines.

Callie and her husband of two years are sponsored racquetball players who travel to tournaments within the New England area and occasionally around the country. She enjoys reading, watching movies and television shows, and spending time with family and friends. One of her favorite things to do is to sit on the rocks near the ocean at Beavertail Park in Jamestown, RI to watch the sunset with her husband.

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