American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Matthew and Sherry Pickett, Kentucky

Matthew and Sherry Pickett Kentucky

My Stroke Hero is my son, Matthew Pickett. Matthew was born on June 2, 1999, and within 24 hours, he coded. Also during that time, he had stroke. Unfortunately, the cardiologist had to wait days for the bleeding to stop in order to do his first open heart surgery.

As I visited with Matthew while he was in NICU, the nurse was feeding him by bottle. Matthew aspirated on milk and required a Gtube. We taught Matthew to eat by dipping a pacifier in baby food to get him to eat and were finally able to remove the Gtube in 2007, as he was eating table foods and gaining weight.

Matthew has made tremendous progress over the years. He is up to 116 pounds, has a great appetite and loves vegetables and meat. This semester, as we were transitioning Matthew to high school, the speech therapist reported that he has met all his goals and agreed to discharge him from his speech therapy. For the first time in 15 years Matthew has no therapies and we are so proud of him.

Matthew is not only my Heart Hero but my Stroke Hero. I'm very blessed and proud to be his mom.

--Sherry Pickett

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Garry Beltz, Ohio

Garry Beltz Ohio

At 72 years young, Garry Beltz is no stranger to speaking up for causes he believes in. When he lost his wife to cancer, his world was changed forever. He turned his grief to advocacy, initially with the American Cancer Society and then, after becoming a heart disease survivor himself, to the American Heart Association. As a passionate voice for change, Garry has attended Congressional Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. 23 times, most recently this past May when he joined nearly 400 advocates from across the country for AHA's You're the Cure on the Hill. 

Garry's passion for change extends beyond meeting with lawmakers. When he's not taking time out of his busy schedule visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill and at the Statehouse in Columbus, he volunteers at his local HeartWalks and serves as an AHA Canton Board member. 

Garry believes, "Advocacy is a very valuable thing one can do. It is a platform to speak your truth and it's very satisfying to have such opportunities." His feels his successes show how well advocacy can work and he's proud to support the AHA mission.

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Grace Firestone

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 studying to take the MCAT 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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Advocate Spotlight: Tonii Rizzo

Tonii Rizzo Kentucky

In April 2006, Tonii Rizzo was the picture of health. An avid runner who exercised every day, he never expected to have a "widow maker" heart attack that would forever change his life. According to Tonii (pictured here with Senator Julie Denton), the good news is that he’s still "green side up," but that doesn’t come without some trade-offs, including blood thinners, regular visits to his cardiologist, ultrasounds and EKGs.

Fortunately, Tonii has been able to resume his active lifestyle of exercising, running a business and giving back to his community. "Giving back" includes serving on AHA’s Kentuckiana Board of Directors for the last 5 years in positions that include past Heart Ball Development Chair and current Board Chair. In addition, Tonii advocates for heart-healthy public policies at the local, state and federal levels at every opportunity. His actions have ranged from writing letters-to-the-editor to calling his lawmakers to meeting with them face-to-face on issues ranging from smoke-free indoor air to CPR training for Kentucky’s high school students.

According to Metro Director, Kathy Renbarger, "Tonii is a passionate advocate for the mission of the American Heart Association. He has been instrumental in raising awareness of heart disease and stroke in our community."

As Tonii says, "God allowed me to live that day so that I could help raise awareness about heart disease." Thank you, Tonii, for your tireless efforts to improve Kentucky's heart-health!

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Advocates in Action: Mr. Embleton goes to Washington

My experience in DC was one of the most uplifting and energizing experiences I have ever had. I hope to participate in future years.

Attending the Rally for Medical Research was important to me because my family has been impacted by heart disease. None of the males in the last four generations of my family have lived beyond 60 years. We lost my mother to heart disease. Six years ago, I suffered an unexpected heart attack that even 10 years ago would have required open heart surgery and the entire risk attendant with surgery. Fortunately, I was treated by a team of cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic and was a candidate for medicated stents. I was in and out of the hospital in three days and playing golf a week later! My cardiologist received his first research grant many years earlier from the American Heart Association and for him, I am eternally grateful. My treatment would not have been possible without the research that was initially funded by AHA. As a volunteer with AHA, I have met so many doctors, researchers, and patients who have been directly impacted and benefited by the efforts of the dedicated staff and volunteers of AHA. I am committed to helping improve the cardiovascular health and treatment of others through the efforts of AHA.

I am asking you as a fellow advocate to please support AHA’s efforts by visiting our Take Action center to send your message in support of ongoing heart and stroke research funding today.

Jeff Embleton

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Laura Gipe and Jacob Murray

Laura Gipe and Jacob Murray

When nurse Laura Gipe trained her grandson's Boy Scout troop in lifesaving CPR, she never imagined that, at just 15-years-old, he would use that skill to save her. Watch Laura and Jacob's touching story.

Like Laura's, 88% of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home. For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 7-10 percent. Thankfully, Jacob had been trained how to perform CPR until help arrived. You might be surprised to learn that we can teach ALL our high school students CPR in just one class period.

Together, we can ensure that this generation of students becomes the next generation of life savers. Visit today and raise your voice!




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Ella Thomas Beames

Ella Thomas Beames

My name is Ella Thomas Beames. I’m 11 years old. I live with my mom and dad and my dog, Lucky, that we adopted a year ago. He’s awesome. I’m a UofL fan and I love Jennifer Lawrence – she’s my idol.

Friday, September 2, 2011, started out like any other morning. But when I got to school everything changed. As I was walking into my classroom, I fainted. I’m told I turned blue because there was no oxygen going to my brain because my heart was beating too fast and wasn’t pumping the right amount of blood through my body with each heart beat. My principal, Deb Rivera, and my Librarian, Heidi Keairns, saved my life performing CPR on me. What I remember next was that I was sitting in a chair with oxygen and there were firemen all around me. Then my mom and dad got there. I remember everyone looking at me as they rolled the stretcher with me on it down the hallway through school. Then the ambulance took me to Kosair Children’s Hospital.

I remember my aunt and uncle came to see me in the ER and they started crying and so did I. I also got sick. I was just so scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt like a completely different person. They took me to do tests. When we were taken up to a room in the hospital, they did a brain test where they attached lots of cords to my head and they drew on me too. They used a strobe light and it made me feel kind of sick afterwards. Then the doctor came and told my mom and dad and my granny and me that I had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. I didn’t know what it was but my mom was very upset. This is when part of the heart muscle thickens and can make pumping blood hard. It also can mean life-threatening arrhythmias – when your heart starts beating too fast and too irregularly. That’s what happened to me at school.

They told me I was going to have a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted in my chest. I was taken to the PICU. I had the nicest nurses who washed all the gunk out of my hair from the brain test and braided it. They were awesome. Then my friend Olivia cam to visit me along with my counselor and my old principal, Mrs. French. Over the next 4 days, about 45 people came to see me. Everyone in my class made me cards and we taped them on the wall of my half of the room. The surgery for the "device" went well. I got to go home just a couple days later. I had to sleep with my arm in a sling wrapped to my chest to the pacemaker leads would heal into my heart. I didn’t like it much, it felt very tight. But I had to do that for six weeks.

I had to quit playing soccer because I need to work at my own pace. But, I started a Drama Club at my school (we’re in our second year) and I’m in the scouts and I play violin. I also love to paint, draw and be creative. I’ve had to get used to being the "girl who fainted" at my school, but now it doesn’t bother me, because I’ve gotten to be a Heart Ambassador for helping my Coach at school, also, I feel strong because I’ve had to face my fears when my defibrillator fired four different times last April. My medicines are keeping my heart steady and my doctors tell me I’m doing great! My school has been doing Jump Rope for Heart for years, but this year I really wanted to get involved but I don’t jump rope, so I decided I could help by raising lots of money! We shared my personal page on my mom’s Facebook page and through that we raised more than $1,600.00! It makes me feel good.

I would tell other kids who learn they have a heart condition to be strong – it will be ok. Be comfortable to walk around the block with your pet. Like Lila in The Golden Compass said, "master your fear". And that’s my story.

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Grace Firestone

Grace Firestone Delaware

On June 4th, 2011, I spoke at my high school graduation at Tower Hill in Wilmington, Delaware. I was in peak health, with hopes of playing collegiate soccer in the fall. Two days later, I went tubing on the Brandywine with my best friend, and trained at the local YMCA in the afternoon. Around 11pm that night, I was on the floor of my home in Sudden Cardiac Arrest. I had barely reached my mom's bedroom to tell her "I don't feel so good," collapsing on her bed. She picked me up, already dead weight, and laid me on my back as instructed by 911. My brother rushed downstairs and immediately started chest compressions, later followed by rescue breaths. EMTs arrived in 3 minutes and took over CPR without delay. The technicians administered AED shocks to my chest a total of 6 times in order to get a pulse, as my heart stopped 3 times throughout the night. Because my veins were collapsing, they also drilled into my shin bone marrow to get IV fluid into my bloodstream in a procedure called intraosseous infusion.

In the ER, I was put on ice under therapeutic hypothermia to prevent organ damage. Once I stabilized and started breathing on my own, doctors moved me to the ICU, where I stayed for 10 days. When I walked- slowly- out of the hospital the following morning, I found myself fitted with an ICD in my left chest and a new appreciation for life. The summer consisted of remedial physical and cognitive rehab, such as making schedules and walking 25 minutes on the treadmill. I still struggle with short-term memory loss and complex idea retention because of swelling in my brain that resulted from lack of oxygen supply when my heart stopped. After passing a neuropsychology exam in late July, however, I decided to start college in the honors program that August. Against my doctor's recommendation, I also started playing for the university women’s club soccer team. Since then, besides being a student, I have worked in the nonprofit world. Last January, I volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage for 3 weeks and then climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a group of volunteers.

I am now an intern at the AHA doing research on congenital heart defects and working to advocate for CPR as a DE high school graduation requirement. Without my 24 y.o. brother's knowledge of CPR (which was retained from his Red Cross certification in 6th grade!), I would not be here with only a scar to show from being minutes away from death or severe injury. Doctors believe a virus attacked my heart, but that is only their best guess. There is no evidence that I have a congenital disease or other heart defect. No prevention could have targeted me. I am here because of the preparedness of my responders.

Together, we are the cure, and it is our responsibility to advocate now for change that can save lives forever.

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Senate Leaders Block Kentucky's CPR Bill

Despite Kentucky's CPR in Schools bill passing the House of Representatives unanimously and the overwhelming support and outreach to lawmakers from fantastic You're the Cure advocates like you, ultimately Senate leaders blocked the measure from being heard in the Senate. 

Each year, nearly 424,000 people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and only a fraction of victims survive. CPR has been proven to double or triple the chances of a victim surviving cardiac arrest, and over time this bill would ensure that Kentucky has hundreds of thousands of individuals who know how to administer CPR. 

On behalf of the American Heart Association, THANK YOU for your support and dedication and we look forward to working with you over the next year to ensure passage of CPR training for Kentucky's high school students during the 2015 session! Urge those you know to show support for training Kentucky's high school students in CPR by asking them to sign up at!

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