American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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2016 Is the Year We Make KY No. 28: Register Now for KY Advocacy Day on Feb 9th!

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!

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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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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