American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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The Csigi Family

For a parent, there may be no greater fear than losing a child.

Wojo and Cari Ann Csigi, of Waihee, experienced that loss in 2011 when their infant son Shayden died from complications related to congenital heart defects. Now they are finding solace through their support of the American Heart Association whose work includes efforts to improve outcomes for babies born with heart defects.

Shayden was born on July 19, 2011 six weeks pre-mature. After experiencing early signs of labor, Cari Ann called Kaiser Permanente, her medical provider and explained her symptoms. She was told to go immediately to her doctor who then had her transferred to Maui Memorial Medical Center. After an hour there, she was told that she would be transferred by air ambulance to Kaiser’s Medical Center on Oahu.

“My doctor explained to me that if I gave birth on Maui, my baby would be flown out to Oahu immediately after birth to receive the advanced care needed because he was pre-mature,” said Cari Ann. “I cried the whole plane ride over. Wojo met me and we were taken to Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center.”

“As I was wheeled into the operating room for a C-section I was super nervous, anxious and scared, but those feelings disappeared when I heard my baby boy cry for the first time,” Cari Ann continued. “Because he was six week premature, they had to take him immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit. When I finally got to hold him two days later he instantly stole my heart.”

“We were told that he may need to stay in the hospital until his original birth date. As the days went by, the hospital staff told us that Shayden was doing well and that he might be able to come home sooner. Then within three days of what we thought would be his release date, were told that they had discovered that Shayden had a heart defect and that he would have to be flown to San Diego for surgery as soon as possible. Everything happened so quickly.

Shayden had been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening defect called aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the main artery carrying blood flow out of the heart to other organs in the body. In San Diego, he would undergo five different procedures, including two open heart surgeries. Following those procedures, doctors there were concerned that Shayden’s heart function wasn’t improving and suggested a transfer to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Wojo and Cari Ann, nervous and afraid, made the drive to the Bay area.

Shayden spent the next three and a half months at the Stanford Medical Center. In the first week he underwent a third open heart surgery. Two weeks later he went into cardiac arrest.

“That was the scariest day,” Cari Ann explained. “His blood pressure dropped, his heart rate dropped, his color changed; I thought that I was going to lose my baby that day. After 12 minutes of CPR they were able to revive him, but he was never the same after that.”

Cari Ann and Wojo said that many up and down days followed.  Shayden went through additional procedures to try and improve his condition. He contracted an infection in October and Cari Ann and Wojo were told that he might not recover, but the infection cleared. Kyra and Cari Ann’s mom were then able to visit for two weeks, the first time that Kyra and her parents had been together since their being in California.

“That was the best two weeks,” said Cari Ann. “I was so happy to finally spend time with my baby girl and my mom. Kyra got to spend time with her little brother. It was super hard to see them leave.”

One week later, Shayden contracted another infection. This time doctors sat Cari Ann and Wojo down and told them that they needed to prepare themselves and their family for the worst.

“Thanksgiving week was a really rough week for Shayden,” remembered Cari Ann. “As the days went by he began retaining fluid and got weaker. On Thanksgiving night, Wojo and I decided that it was time. While we still wanted to give Shayden every chance we could, we knew that he was telling us that he was ready to go.”

“The next day, our nurse called early and said that he was more swollen than he had ever been and that they had to increase his sedatives and turn up the rate of his ventilator to help him breathe. We got ready and went straight to the hospital.”

“When we walked into his room, I could see how swollen he was. Tears rolled down my face. We talked with our nurse and had the doctor, social worker and chaplain come in. Slowly they turned off the pumps for his medications and feeding. I got to hold him for a little while.”

“Throughout the day and night we watched as Shayden’s blood pressure and heart rate elevated then dropped, but he hung on. The hospital staff came in and talked and listened to music with us. It helped us to not feel so sad. At 1:23 a.m. on Saturday, Shayden passed. I think he was comfortable in leaving us. He could hear us with the others and knew that we would be OK. The staff let us give him a bath and put clothes on him. We got to hold him for a couple of hours, then it was time to say goodbye.”

“Losing Shayden was hard on our entire family and his memory is something we’ll carry with us the rest of our lives,” explained Wojo. “After his death, getting involved in supporting the American Heart Association has helped us to heal a little bit.”

Cari Ann’s and Wojo’s support for the American Heart Association has included organizing a team to participate in the Heart Walk event. They have also become members of the organization’s grassroots advocacy network called You’re The Cure, helping to support state legislation to improve methods used by Hawaii hospitals to screen all newborns for congenital birth defects using a technique called pulse oximetry screening.

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Poll Results are in on Sugar Sweetened Beverages and You Might Be Surprised

The American Heart Association and its coalition partners are working hard to reverse the obesity epidemic in Hawaii. While there is no one thing that will fix the problem we have seen that educating people on the amount of sugar in some of the most commonly consumed beverages helps to reduce the consumption of these beverages. Reduced consumption of these drinks can lead to better health.

We believe that another way consumption of sugar sweetened beverages can be reduced is through a small 1 cent per ounce fee added to the price of the drink.

The Hawaii Public Health Institute recently released polling data on SSB fees and found that the public is more supportive of this fee if the money generated from it goes to combating obesity in our state than state lawmakers believe.

The poll showed that 81% of those polled thought that consumption of SSB played either a significant or very significant role in the states obesity epidemic. And of those polled two-thirds supported the implementation of a 1 cent per ounce fee if all revenue generated from it went to programs designed to combat obesity, diabetes and heart disease in Hawaii. 

These polls show us that voter support is strong and that Hawaii residents know the obesity epidemic is a problem.

With help from advocates like you we hope that our work on this issue will be heard by lawmakers and they will ultimately support this 1 cent per ounce fee in order to help fight obesity in our state. Please keep your eyes open for our emails on this issue and take action when you are able.

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The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 Livestream

Join us for this exclusive virtual event where top designers and celebrities demonstrate their support for women's heart health during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Heart disease is not just a man's disease. Each year, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke. We can change that--80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Help break barriers against heart disease and stroke by joining us for the Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 live online at on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern. See you there!

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Hawaii's 2015 Legislative Session is Just Around the Corner

The 2015 legislative session kicks off in just a few days and with your help we plan to make it a big year for Heart and Stroke legislation!

We want to make Hawaii a healthier place for everyone and have some important issues on the table:

Improved Stroke Care - We are asking the state to require all acute stroke care hospitals to participate in a stroke registry, operated by the State Department of Health to gather data to be used to optimize Hawaii’s stroke system of care.

Tobacco Control – Hawaii was one of the first states to pass a clean indoor air law. We want to expand the current law to include e-cigarettes so that the indoor air we breathe is not polluted by these new tobacco products. The AHA will support state efforts to raise the age for legal purchase of tobacco products to 21. We will also defend against efforts to divert money from the State Tobacco Prevention and Control Fund (the fund established from the State’s legal settlement with the tobacco industry from damages caused by its products) from their intended use—community tobacco prevention, control and cessation services. 

Obesity Prevention – We will continue laying the groundwork for establishing a 1-cent per ounce fee on sugar-sweetened beverages. Revenue derived from the fee would be designated to fund obesity prevention and control in our state.

CPR in Schools – We are continuing our efforts with the State Department of Education to implement policy that would require all high school students receive CPR training as part of their health class (which is already a required class for students).

Newborn Heart Screening (Pulse Oximetry) – We made progress on this issue last year and hope to achieve final passage into law this year. Pulse Oximetry screening is a non-invasive screening that can detect congenital heart defects. We want all newborns to receive this screening before they are discharged from their birthing center.

We hope we can count on you for your continued support in the upcoming legislative session. We could not do the work we do without your help. Keep an eye open for our emails, follow our policy updates by “liking” the American Heart Association Facebook site, and take action when you are able.

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Meet the New Surgeon General

Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December to serve as the next surgeon general of the United States. The surgeon general is America’s top public health official, and his responsibilities range from managing disease to promoting prevention and a healthy start for our kids.

At 37, Vivek Murthy is the youngest person and the first Indian-American to hold the post of Surgeon General.

Since this position was created in 1871, just 18 people have held the job. Dr. Murthy, the 19th, replaces an Acting Surgeon General who has filled the role since 2013. Dr. Murthy’s confirmation was delayed for nearly a year due to political issues, but in that time he received the endorsement of more than 100 public health groups, including the American Heart Association.

Dr. Murthy has both business and medical degrees from his studies at Harvard and Yale. He completed his residency at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he most recently served as an attending physician. He has created and led organizations to support comprehensive healthcare reform, to improve clinical trials so new drugs can be made available more quickly and safely, and to combat HIV/AIDS.

His resume is remarkable, and we look forward to working closely with Dr. Murthy to improve the health of all Americans.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kami Sutton

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.


Kami Sutton

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You're the Cure Year End Successes, Let's Celebrate!
It was another banner year for You’re the Cure advocates championing heart and stroke policy change across the country. Year end is a time to look back at what we achieved in states, think ahead to the work still to do, and celebrate the power of volunteers.
What did we accomplish last year?
Below are just three of many victories that made 2014 so successful.  


  • 35 states now have laws protecting our littlest hearts. Pulse oximetry, a simple detection screening for heart defects gives newborns a chance to survive thanks to early detection.
  • We reached a major milestone in ensuring all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. Now more than 1 million students, in 20 states, will graduate each year with this lifesaving skill.
  • 6 states increased funding for heart disease and stroke prevention programs.


Want to see more accomplishments? Check out the video below.

These are just a few highlights and for the full story be sure to check out the state by state wrap-up online. We couldn’t achieve these great accomplishments without the power of YOU our advocates. Your work to educate lawmakers, recruit family and friends, and share your story and expertise are what makes change happen. So from your AHA staff partners a big, Thank You!
P.S. – You can help inspire others to join the movement by sharing our accomplishments highlight video.

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Building Healthier Communities is Why

Guest blogger Kimberly Baptista, Event Planning Manager

Working for the American Heart Association has encouraged me to be more of a public health advocate. To my family and close friends that sentence might sound shocking, but over the past year the value of being an engaged advocate has become clearer.

Working here has given me insight into different issues, such as the connection between sugar-sweetened beverages and heart disease, the value in knowing CPR, and how the overall environment impacts the lifestyle choices we make. When you look at the food environment, the healthy choice is not always the easy choice. That’s why the AHA/ASA supports policies that help Americans make healthier diet choices, such as menu-labeling in restaurants and reducing trans fats and sodium in the food supply. Where you live should not determine how healthy you are or what food you can buy. Get the facts about the role of our physical environment and community health outcomes.

Lifesaving skills are also an important part of building healthier communities. Everyone should be taught the skills that could one day save a life, such as CPR. If given immediately, this easy-to-learn technique can double or triple a victim’s chances of survival. In a world where complications from heart disease is still the number one killer, all communities should be learning CPR.

For these reasons I have started to be more engaged in local initiatives that impact my community.

I have called, tweeted, and written letters to my local officials to share my passion for building a healthier community. We all have a responsibility to not only hold public officials accountable, but also ourselves, to make our neighborhoods safe and healthy. So next time, take the stairs instead of the elevator, pick fresh foods over processed foods, and choose water. Make the healthy choice your first choice as we work to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

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Hawaii County Moves Towards Adding E-Cigarettes to Clean Air Ordinance

On Thursday November 6 the Hawaii County Council held the first committee vote on Bill 302 which would add e-cigarettes to the current clean air ordinance, thus banning the use of e-cigarettes anywhere other tobacco products are currently prohibited including beaches. The committee vote was 6-2 in support of the bill. The next step will be for Bill 302 to be voted on by the entire council and then if passed sent to the Mayor for his signature. If Bill 302 passes the full vote Hawaii County will be the first county in our state to amend their clean air ordinance to include e-cigarettes.

The Honolulu City Council also took up the debate at its November 12 meeting with a proposal to add e-cigarettes to its local smoke-free ordinance. As the e-cigarette debate continues to gain momentum please take a moment and think about what can you do in your community to make sure the e-cigarette industry’s aggressive and unregulated marketing efforts do not obscure the harmful effects of smoking.  For more information on e-cigarettes and public health click here.

Earlier this year the American Heart Association released a statement on e-cigarettes click here if you would like to read it.

If you are interested in seeing how you can help our efforts, please contact Don Weisman or contact Grassroots Director Grace Henscheid.

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Giving Thanks for a Great Year!

As fall draws to a close, we are taking the time to thank all of our volunteers and celebrating a great year. Together, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, successfully advocated for heart healthy and stroke smart policies in their communities and states. We could not achieve the positive change in our communities without each and everyone of you. We are truly thankful for all that you do!

Below are just a few of the accomplishments we are thankful for this year: 


  1. Six new states require CPR as a graduation requirement. That means over 1.1 million students will be trained in life-saving CPR every year! With your help, we can add even more states to this list!
  2. Twelve new states require newborn screening for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital. The earlier we can detect an issue with these little hearts, the better chances at a healthy life. Thirty-two states now require this screening.
  3. A half-a-dozen states increased funding for heart disease and stroke related programs.
  4. Advocates from all over the country made their voice heard in Washington D.C. on issues from more physical education in school to increasing funding for more heart and stroke research.

Once again, thank you for all the work you have done this year and for years to come! We cannot wait to see what the next 12 months brings us, but with your help, we know we will improve the lives of heart and stroke patients across the country.

Want to learn more about what we do? Check out the video below and share it with others!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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