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Research Saved Grace's Life

Our team of nine climbers, all volunteers for a Kenyan orphanage, had begun the journey in a downpour, and the wet equipment, high elevation and ubiquitous beef stew had begun to take its toll on my body. Blurred vision accompanied exhausted muscles that pleaded for rest. But one foot in front of the other, I followed the team to summit. My body had experienced that type of complete physical exhaustion only once before – in June 2011, when I went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) at age 18. Read Grace's story of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and how research saved her life.

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Shannon and Tristan Rowley, Ohio

Shannon and Tristan Rowley

On February 25, 2015, I started out having what I thought would be a normal day at work. Instead I ended up at the Emergency Room to find that my son, Tristan, had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. He had received CPR, a shock with a defibrillator, was intubated, and was unresponsive. I rode in a helicopter for the first time in my life as he was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital, where we spent the next week getting many tests and then a surgery to implant his cardioverter pacemaker/defibrillator.  

As he slowly regained consciousness we experienced, first-hand, the effects of a hypoxic brain injury as he was unable to recall even simple things for more that 1-2 minutes at a time, and he would need to be reminded of why he was in the hospital literally a hundred-plus times a day. We were told that there was a 20-50% chance that his neurologic deficits and memory issues would be permanent.  At first he needed help going to the bathroom, remembering what day it was and who had visited him less than an hour ago.

I wish someone could have told me then that a year later we would be taking him out to dinner, that we’d be discussing plans for his graduation party and that he’d be working on practice tests to help him prepare to take his computer networking certification exams.  February 25, 2015, was the worst and the best day of my life. Only  5-6% of people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive. We are incredibly lucky and so, so happy that he survived.

The truth is that the ONLY reason Tristan is alive is because he was in the right place at the right time and with the right people. Those people knew CPR and how to use an AED. Those people were his teachers, as well as a fellow student, who had also learned CPR. The only reason he remains neurologically intact is because he received CPR and defibrillation quickly by trained individuals.

Tristan’s story is a perfect example of why we should be educating our young people on how to help save lives!

--Shannon Rowley 

P.S. Learn CPR!!

 

 

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Grace Firestone

Grace Firestone Delaware

Grace Firestone was given an incredible gift--a second chance at life. Just days after her high school graduation, her brother saved her life by performing CPR until EMTs arrived and what she’s done since is extraordinary. Grace understood that her story had the ability to inspire and worked with American Heart Association staff to convince decision-makers that teaching every student hands-only CPR was not only feasible, but necessary. Thanks to her dedication and a two-year effort, all Delaware students will now graduate with the skills to save a life.

In addition to her health advocacy work, Grace is preparing for Fall 2016 entry into medical school, serves on the patient advisory board of Christiana Care Health System and is captain of her club soccer team, a sport she wasn’t sure she could return to. For a woman barely in her 20s, Grace has already left a lifesaving legacy and her work is just beginning.

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Christi Nelson, Ohio

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.

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You're the Cure at the Ohio Statehouse - March 9, 2016

You're the Cure at the Ohio Statehouse

March 9, 2016

Make plans to join us at the Ohio Statehouse as we meet with legislators in support of policies to improve the heart health of all Ohioans. 

We will be urging legislators to vote yes on House Bill 113 - CPR in Schools, which will train the next generation of lifesavers.

 

Registration: Registration for the event is now closed. Please contact ohadv@heart.org to register.  (Advocates are district matched and appointments scheduled according to your home address. Pre-event registration is required.)

Details:

Before the event: We will host briefing conference calls to allow participants to learn the priority issues, logistics for the event, and tips on speaking with legislators. There are two call options on the registration form - you need only participant in one.

Call Options: Friday, March 4 at noon or Monday, March 7 at 10am

Event Day: Registration and training will be held in the Capitol Theatre Lobby at the Riffe Center, 3rd Floor, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio.

Advocacy Day Agenda:

8:30-9:00am Registration 3rd Floor, Riffe Center
9:00-9:30am Final Issue Training and Logistics 3rd Floor, Riffe Center
9:35am Participant Photo 3rd Floor, Riffe Center
9:35-10:00am Group Strategy Meetings 3rd Floor, Riffe Center
10:00am Legislative Meetings Begin Statehouse and Riffe Center

Notes:

  • Lunch vouchers will be provided and can be used in between your appointments.
  • Please note that legislative meetings may continue up until 2:30pm.
  • The Capitol Theatre Lobby will be open throughout the day. Participants are encouraged to return between meetings and to fill out meeting evaluation forms following their appointments.
  • Driving Directions and Parking Information.
  • Accessibility at the Statehouse.

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2016 Is the Year We Make KY No. 28: Join Us Feb 9th for KY Advocacy Day!

Now is the perfect time to register and make plans to join us for Kentucky Advocacy Day: You're the Cure at the Capitol. Join others from across the state as we meet with lawmakers in support of heart-health policies, like ensuring all Kentucky students are trained in lifesaving hands-only CPR.

Twenty-seven states now have policies in place to ensure all students are trained in hands-only CPR. Your voice on February 9th can help make Kentucky No. 28!

AGENDA
Arrival/Check-in: 8:30-9 am in Capitol Annex (Room TBD)
Issue Overview/Q&A: 9-9:30 am
Scheduled Meetings With Lawmakers: 9:30 am - 1 pm (Lunch in Capitol Cafeteria at your convenience)
Media Event in Capitol Rotunda: 1-1:30 pm

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY and then watch your inbox for more information as the event nears!

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Michael Flynn, Pennsylvania

Michael Flynn Pennsylvania

On March 23, 2015, Michael Flynn was working in the city of Philadelphia when he went into full cardiac arrest at the VA Administration Building. A co-worker secured the site and they found a nurse in the building that started CPR. An AED was used on Michael two times. Medics quickly arrived and transported him to Temple University  Hospital. Michael had just turned 35 at the end of February, has a 3 year old daughter, Della, and his wife Julia was pregnant and due in May. He said he didn’t feel well, but other than that, there were no signs or symptoms. 

Michael awoke at Temple University Hospital. Doctors did a heart catheterization and found 100% blockage on the lower left side. He spent his first week in the hospital heavily sedated while on a breathing machine before his stent went into place. Among his visitors at the hospital was his supervisor who told him that, “everyone should be trained in CPR.” 

Michael was released from the hospital approximately two weeks later, has finished six weeks of cardiac rehab and is now back to work. There was damage to his heart and he is still working to get his heart rate up to where it should be. In the meantime, he welcomed his son, Cade, into the world in May 2015, and he is committed to a healthy lifestyle so that he will be around a long time for his family.

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Roy Varghese, M.D., Kentucky

Roy Varghese, M.D. Kentucky

After more than thirty years of caring for patients in his Eastern Kentucky community, Dr. Roy Varghese unexpectedly became a patient himself. Dr. Varghese had been suffering indigestion-like symptoms throughout a long day of caring for patients, when he made the decision to go to his local emergency room, ARH Mary Breckinridge Hospital in Hyden. That decision saved his life, as he was suffering from an acute inferior myocardial infarction, or heart attack.

Shortly after his arrival in the ER, Dr. Varghese's condition worsened and he required an electric shock to restore normal heart rhythm. He was transferred to Hazard ARH for additional cardiac care, and eventually on to UK Chandler Medical Center and the Gill Heart Institute, where he arrived on a ventilator and remained unconscious for more than a week. Thankfully, his family elected not to have life support withdrawn and with determination and the support of his loved ones, Dr. Varghese recovered. He continues his cardiac rehabilitation by walking three miles daily in his Hyden community where he returned to his practice.

Dr. Varghese recently put his passion for advocacy for heart disease research and prevention to work, traveling to Capitol Hill to share his story with lawmakers during the Rally for Medical Research. Since returning from DC, Dr. Varghese, has met again with staff from Senator McConnell's and Congressman Rogers' local offices to speak with them about his own research. Dr. Varghese is piloting a study examining how 2-3 cups daily of homemade yogurt containing the probiotic lactobacillus can help reduce or prevent the intestinal bacteria the leads to trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). TMAO in the blood allows fat and cholesterol to enter blood vessel walls and start the process of atherosclerosis. It is thought that by suppressing the production of TMAO, much of the entry of cholesterol into blood vessels could be prevented. 

We thank Dr. Varghese for his dedication to cardiovascular research and look forward to continuing to work with him to advocate for research funding.

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Join the Patient Support Network Today!

Improve your life and the lives of others when you join the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Support Network, a virtual support community. Share your experiences. Give and get emotional support. Our communities and conversations offer survivors, caregivers and family members a place to ask a question, share concerns or fears, provide helpful tips, and find encouragement and inspiration. Whether you are a heart disease or stroke survivor or someone who loves them, our goal is to connect you with others who are going through similar journeys. Join the network today!

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Have a Story to Share? We'd Love to Hear It!

Are you a heart disease or stroke survivor or have a loved one who is? Were you saved by CPR (or have you saved someone else)? Please take a moment now to Share Your Story with us!

Like Melinda's story of survival, your story can make a difference. Whether it’s working to ensure our students learn lifesaving CPR or helping create smoke-free cities and states, personal stories illustrate for lawmakers how important heart-healthy policies are to those in their communities.

Want to share your story via video? Upload it here! Want to share your story in writing? Just click here! (We'll follow up to get your permission before using your story.)

We hope you'll take a moment now to tell us your story. We'd love to hear it!

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