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My Experience Supporting CPR in Schools

Guest Blogger: Mattea Nicole Clarke, AHA Volunteer and Current College Student

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women—being responsible for every 1 in 4 deaths. This statistic hit much too close to home when my Grandmother, LaVerne Clarke, had her second major heart attack. After undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery and receiving a pacemaker, she decided to take her heart into her own hands by engaging in more physical activity and adapting healthy eating habits. Seeing the incredible changes in her energy, activity, and happiness, I knew Women’s Heart Health was a cause worth fighting for.


In February of 2016, my friend and fellow colleague, Julia Bortolazzo, and I teamed up to be the directors of UCLA Alpha Phi’s annual philanthropy—The Red Dress Gala. This event hosted 450 people who share our passion in supporting the Alpha Phi Foundation for Women’s Heart Health. Together, we raised approximately $40,000 at this event. This year Julia and I decided not only did we want to contribute at our national level, but also at our local community level. In order to accomplish this, we reached out to the American Heart Association team in Los Angeles and partnered with them where we became involved in their events, such as Go Red for Women, to help bring energy and advocacy toward their cause. Additionally, we decided that 25% of our proceeds from this year’s Red Dress Gala would be donated towards the American Heart’s initiative of passing policy to train all students Hands-Only CPR skills prior to high school graduation.


In donating roughly $10,000 to this campaign, we were able to supply Warner Elementary School with enough resources to train every student and faculty member Hands-Only CPR skills. Since 4 out of 5 sudden cardiac arrests outside of a hospital and only 10.4% of victims survive the event, we felt the need to play a role in helping secure resources for people of all ages to be informed and capable to react in the unfortunate case of a cardiac emergency.


At the state level we have an opportunity to take action and support AB 1719 (Rodriguez) and train all California students on Hands-Only CPR. With more hands becoming trained more hearts can be saved.  If you want to get involved, please contact Kula Koenig, Government Relations Director, today!

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Staying Active in the Heat of Summer

If you’re like me, summer is the best time of the year.  Ample sunshine, longer days, vacations, sporting and music events galore, what’s not to love about summer?  But now that we’ve hit August, being active in the sweltering heat can be more challenging. 


Here are some of tips to staying cool while it’s hot outside:

  • Timing is key: Try to avoid exercising outside in the early afternoon. It’s usually hottest between noon and 3 pm (or 7pm if you’re inland).
  • Hydrate: Drink water before, during and after physical activity, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Dress for success: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Moisture-wicking fabric can also be a big help.
  • Listen to your body: Take frequent breaks in the shade, and allow yourself time to adapt to the heat -- some experts say that this can take about 4-14 days. You may not be able to work out as long or as hard as usual when it’s very hot. When it’s too hot, do something active indoors.      
  • Doctor’s orders: Check with your healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine or moving your workout outdoors if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, other chronic disease or any medical concerns. Healthcare professionals also recommend that certain medications like beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.
  • Buddy up: If you can, work out with a partner for safety ... and fun!


For more tips and tricks, visit here.  

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Advocate Spotlight: Cindy Peterman

After 35 years of smoking, bouts with bronchitis and increasing prices, Cindy Peterman decided it was time to quit and she credits the recent price increase for tobacco products in Nevada with helping her.


“Last year on July 4th weekend when I went to buy cigarettes I realized with the increase I can’t do this anymore; I have rent to pay. I am so grateful for the increase. It led to me quitting for good,” said Cindy.

In addition to the tax increase, Cindy’s can-do attitude and positive outlook on life made it easier for her to quit. Prior to moving to Las Vegas to be near her son and grandkids, she owned both a restaurant and home in Texas. When the recent recession hit, Cindy lost the restaurant and then her home.


“After going through all that change, I thought I can make another change in my life,” she said. 

Upon deciding to quit, Cindy visited her doctor and received the patch (covered by Medicaid). While the patch has four cycles, Cindy only used it for the first cycle.


“I have not smoked or used the patch since,” she said.


Her son is overjoyed that she quit and she notes how important it is to be a good example for her grandkids. In her job at checkout at Walgreens, Cindy has discovered many of her customers are quitting since the tobacco tax increase. She shares her story to encourage them and now they have formed a small support group. Cindy also hopes by sharing her story with the AHA/ASA, she can inspire even more people to quit.


Most of all, Cindy is enjoying her new smoke-free life.


“At age 65, I enjoy having the time to start my life over,” she said.


Thank you, Cindy, for sharing this wonderful example of how smart, strong public health policy can positively affect the lives of individuals and communities. Keep up the good fight, Cindy!

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Find the Heart Walk Near You

The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s premier community event, helping to save lives from heart disease and stroke. More than 300 walks across America raise funds to support valuable health research, education and advocacy programs of the American Heart Association in every state. Our You’re the Cure advocacy movement – and our public policy successes along the way – are all made possible by the funds raised by the Heart Walk. Whether it’s CPR laws passed to train the next generation of lifesavers or policy to regulate tobacco products and prevent youth smoking,  together we are building a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The Heart Walk is truly a community event, celebrating survivors, living healthy, and being physically active. We hope you’ll join us and visit the site today. If there is not a walk listed in your area soon,  it may be coming in the spring season or you can join a virtual event. And don’t forget to connect with your local advocacy staff and ask about your local Heart Walk day-of You’re the Cure plans - they may need your help spreading the word. Thanks for all you do, and happy Heart Walk season.

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Legislative Session Update

Now that we’ve made it to July, here’s a brief recap of some of our recent successes this legislative session: 

CPR in Schools (AB 1719):

I am pleased to share that we are only a few steps away (one committee, one floor vote, and hopefully a Governor’s signature!) from having California become the 35th State to pass policy to train students hands-only CPR skills.  With Missouri passing CPR in Schools legislation back in June, 2 million students nationwide will be taught CPR skills prior to graduation, and California is on track to train over 400,000 students on Hands-Only CPR prior to graduation every year.  Teaching this skill in high school will empower our youth and profoundly improve the chain of survival in California. 

We need your help to get AB 1719 past the final hurdles! We’re hosting two teleconference calls (Wednesday, July 20th from 2 – 3PM or Thursday, July 21st from 10:30 – 11:30AM) and hope you can join us as we talk strategy and plan grassroots activities. If you are interested and available, please contact Josh Brown for the call-in details.  

Safe, Clean Water Investment:

On June 16th, Governor Brown signed a state budget which included key priorities that invest in improving access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water for Californians.  This budget investment includes a $9.5 million budget allocation for school filtration systems to ensure California students have access to safe drinking water and $500,000 for nonprofits to provide support for outreach and technical assistance.

Providing free, clean, drinking water in schools is an important strategy to increase consumption of water and decrease consumption of sugary drinks. Overconsumption of sugary drinks can contribute to heart disease, tooth decay, and diabetes, and increased access to water can play a huge role in steering youth away from unhealthy beverages.

Furthermore, this appropriation is important as it helps to ensure that more than 100,000 California students, particularly those living in low-income communities or areas of acute water shortage or contamination, have access to safe drinking water. For many students who live in communities impacted by unsafe drinking water, school is one of the only options for access to free, fresh drinking water. 

Tobacco Control Legislation:

Dating back to October of 2015, we worked with Legislative Leadership to prioritize passing strong tobacco control legislation during the Governor’s Special Session on Health.  Thanks to the timely actions from advocates across the state like yourself, Governor Brown signed a package of 5 tobacco control bills that will increase the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, add electronic cigarettes to state tobacco regulations, close loopholes in the smoke-free workplace law, require all schools to be tobacco-free, and update the state’s tobacco licensing fee program. This package of historic legislation paves the way for California to start reestablishing itself as a public health leader in regards to tobacco control.  For more information, please visit here

Keeping it moving, we are still continuing to actively support the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 which officially qualified for the November Ballot on June 30th. This Tobacco Tax Act, Proposition 56, will increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes sold in California from 87 cents a pack to $2.87 and place equivalent taxes on all other tobacco products. 

If passed in November, Prop 56 will fund healthcare programs through the CA Department of Health Care Services, smoking prevention programs administered by the CA Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program and the Department of Education, and medical research on tobacco-related disease through the University of California. This initiative will shift some of the enormous healthcare costs that tobacco use creates for the users of these products, defraying some of the costs to taxpayers. Only those who use tobacco products will be the ones to pay.

Please start sharing the word of “Yes on 56” in the coming months with your friends, family, and community!  If you would like to get involved, please email Josh Brown or join the supporter list on

Thank you for all you do! You Are the Cure!

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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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My Experience Collecting Signatures for the Tobacco Tax

By Jeffrey Massin, Activist, Advocacy Intern, and Student at California State University, Northridge

As a student at California State University, Northridge, I chose to intern with the American Heart Association and support their advocacy efforts by volunteering to collect signatures to qualify the Tobacco Tax Initiative for the upcoming Presidential Ballot in November. If passed, the $2 Tobacco Tax would fund cessation programs, tobacco use prevention in schools, research on tobacco-related illnesses, and expand Medi-Cal for Californians trapped in the coverage gap. Here's a link to the campaign.


I partnered with a group of about 10-15 dedicated student volunteer based in Greater Los Angeles between the months of February through May to collect signatures and raise awareness about the ballot initiative.  Many of us were new to the process and the issue, but we owned it and worked diligently to secure signatures for the campaign. 


My first week I secured almost 80 signatures! Unfortunately, the weeks preceding turned to have lower turnout rates. While it was challenging to match my first weeks return, being out in the field regularly helped me appreciate how diverse my community is.


As a volunteer new to this process, collecting signatures for a ballot initiative was challenging as the biggest obstacle I faced was the backlash of the public. I was turned down repeatedly, but it was rewarding meeting fellow community members who are passionate about the cause and those interactions made the hard work worthwhile. 


This experience taught me to understand the unique perspectives that come from living in such a diverse state. I learned that as a public health advocate, a community’s opinion is very strong and definitely has its presence known in the voting polls. But, their diversity also brings communities together for a cause and it was rewarding working on such an impactful campaign. One positive highlight includes having the opportunity to participate in a 5k at Dodger Stadium where I encountered many folks from different walks of life that were passionate about health that enabled my partner and I collect a combined 100+ signatures.


Overall, the Save Lives Campaign collected over 1 million signatures. The measure is undergoing verification of signatures by the State Controller’s office.  Pictured are just a few of the highly engaged representatives of the Save Lives Coalition that participated in the delivery of the million signatures. 


If you haven’t yet, please contact your local Government Relations staff, listed below, to get involved with this campaign locally!  If you don’t reside in the areas covered by one of the staff listed below, please feel free to contact Josh Brown, Grassroots Director.


Brittni Chicuata, Greater Bay Area

Callie Hanft and Kula Koenig, Sacramento

Claudia Goytia, Greater Los Angeles

Erica Phung, San Diego

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Help Protect PE for Kids Like Me!

Guest post from Reagan Spomer, 6th grader Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board Member & You’re the Cure Advocate

I have two words for you… scooter hockey.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  Scooter hockey, along with cage ball and 3-way soccer are some of my favorite activities in gym class, which I have a few times a week.

I’m glad I have physical education for a number of reasons.  It keeps me active and teaches me to try new things.  It helps me focus on my school work.  It relieves my stress.  And most of all, it makes me feel great! 

But I know a lot of schools don’t have regular PE like my schools does.  That means a lot of kids are missing out on the benefits of being active during the school day.  I think this needs to change.   

Will you help?  As part of the nationwide campaign to protect PE in schools, Voices for Healthy Kids has created a photo petition map to show how many people across the country love PE like I do.  As people share their pictures, the map will change colors.  I’ve added my “I heart PE” photo for South Dakota.  Will you do the same for your state?  It’s really easy:

  1. Print an “I heart PE” sign (or make your own!)
  2. Take a picture of yourself holding the sign.
  3. Click on your state to share your photo.

Thanks for helping to protect PE for kids like me!

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Advocate Highlight - Claudette Kenmir

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.

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Will you help influence scientific research?

We need to hear from consumers like you as the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) partner together on the future of research. Your experience could lead to the next research study to improve heart disease and stroke treatment.

As an advocate we’ve asked you to speak out for increased funding for medical research and you’ve answered by contacting lawmakers and sharing your personal stories as survivors, caregivers, and loved ones touched by heart and stroke disease. Now we invite you to share your experience, the decisions made in determining your or your loved one’s treatment plans and the factors that influenced those decisions. If we better understand your experience it can help guide the research that will lead to better care tailored to the specific needs of patients.

If you’ve had a heart attack, suffered a stroke, or you know a loved one who has, your unique understanding could help guide research to solve un-met care challenges faced by individuals like you and improve heart and stroke treatment.

Here are the details:

  • We are focused on un-met challenges faced by patients and caregivers like you. 
  • To join this challenge, you’ll be asked to provide a written submission of your first-hand experience after a heart disease or stroke event.
  • The story and description of the concerns you faced and the decisions you made should be personal and not a general case.
  • A team of scientific professionals and patient representatives with expertise in heart disease and stroke will review your story. Learning more about issues and concerns important to your decision-making can help them improve experiences and outcomes for patients in the future.
  • If your submission is chosen, you could win $1,000 and possibly help shape the future of cardiovascular research.
  • All submissions must be received by June 8, 2016.

Please take this important challenge and share your insights. Your story matters. Take the challenge today!

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