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Brenda Pollard

For the first time in my life I’m spending a lot of time in bars.  Much to the surprise of my family, I know every bar in the community and enjoy my visits with the owners, employees and customers finding out how they deal with secondhand smoke. 

I’m Brenda Pollard, the Pocatello grassroots coordinator for SmokeFree Idaho, a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals that believe no one should have to choose between a job and good health!

All of my adult life I have been involved in community organizations, mainly focusing on neighborhoods and community engagement.  Community organizing is a natural outcome for a party planner that loves organization and healthy living environments. 

After losing an aunt and an uncle to causes related to smoking I determined it was time to be more vocal about the devastating effects of tobacco use.  I was thrilled to find an organization where the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and American Cancer Society teamed up to advocate for the health of Idahoans.  I learned that there is NO SAFE LEVEL of exposure to second-hand smoke.  

Now I work to share that information with folks in Pocatello and Chubbuck.  I have visited small businesses, community leaders and city councils.  I present at schools, service organizations and association meetings.  I have enjoyed calling Bingo at the Senior Center, sharing alarming facts such as- for every seven people that die from tobacco use, they take one nonsmoker with them.   I promote SmokeFree workplaces at health fairs and community events, chamber of commerce meetings and fun runs. 

Some of the highlights of my work include visiting with Don Aslett at his Museum of Clean where he told me of a book he wrote titled, “Why I Would Rather Clean up after a Cow than a Smoker.”  Also, the photo booth shoot at Poky High School organized by their Idaho Drug Free Youth Club and sponsored by McCord Orthodontics where students posed with signs reading, “I Support SmokeFree Idaho.”  Currently I am working with students from each high school to promote a campaign to “Blow Bubbles – Not Smoke”  Check out the inspirational ad that inspired our theme.

We’ll be in the Idaho State University Homecoming Parade Saturday, October 17th.  Come get your free bubbles and help us blow away secondhand smoke!

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An Update on our Smokefree Idaho Efforts

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

No one should have to choose between their job and their health. Yet, in Idaho, many workers are faced with this choice every day.

In bars, hotels, and even small businesses across the state, gaps in second hand smoke laws leave workers vulnerable to the harmful effects of second hand smoke. In Boise and Ketchum, the AHA joined the Smoke Free Idaho Coalition to support city ordinances to strengthen smoking laws and protect the workers in these cities.

Now, we are working to do the same in Pocatello.

We know the harmful impact second hand smoke can have on an individual- heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many other chronic and critical illnesses are all possible consequences when you breathe second hand smoke on a regular basis. And in Pocatello, many people are at risk while trying to put in a hard day’s work. 

We don’t think anyone should have to choose between their health and their job.

The Pocatello City Council discussed a possible smoke free ordinance for the city in a work session held on September 10th. No action has been taken yet, but we want the Pocatello City Council to understand how important it is to ensure all workplaces protect their employees by going smoke free.

We will continue our work and discussions with City Council, constituents, employers and workers to ensure that Pocatello remains a leader in the state, and that smoke free laws are in place to protect all citizens.

If you live in the Pocatello area, we encourage you to contact your Mayor and City Councilmen and ask them to support a Smoke-Free Pocatello.

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World Stroke Day is October 29th

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fifth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age. Timothy Gamble is a prime example of this as he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage. 

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit

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Advocate Highlight - Brianne Cassidy

At age 24, Brianne Cassidy’s personality made a 180-degree change. She went from someone who made herself sick over the thought of a job interview or public speaking, to a young lady who gained so much confidence that she uprooted from her childhood home in Suburban Seattle and moved to the city, and back to the suburbs again, ended a long-term relationship, found a new boyfriend and started her own photography business. [GH1] 

It’s a nice coming-of-age story about a young woman taking control, only there’s a cruel twist.

This overhaul came following a stroke that nearly ended her life at age 24.

After a fun day out on Puget Sound with friends in 2013, Brianne was suffering from a headache after taking a spill off of a tube attached the back of a boat. She flew four feet in the air, landing on her head and toppled across the water as if doing a cartwheel.

In the days following, the pain increased in her head and the left side of her neck. She began suffering from blurry vision in her right eye and the tips of her fingers on her right hand were numb. It wasn’t until two weeks later that the worst headache yet hit while she was at work which sent her home for the day.

She went to the doctor the next morning. A snag over insurance paying for a CT scan meant a delay of several hours, so she went home to rest. She cuddled up with Casper, her golden retriever, and fell asleep. About 20 minutes later, Casper jumped up and started running around the room, barking. He never did that.

The noise woke Brianne and she tried to get up.

Brianne could barely move and knew something was wrong. She called her mom in a panic and at first her mom thought it was joke when her words came out garbled. She quickly realized it wasn’t and headed over, also calling a neighbor who got there right away and called 9-1-1.

Doctors at a nearby hospital diagnosed the stroke and gave her the clot-busting medicine tPA before transferring her to a larger facility. At the hospital the doctor’s performed a specialized medical procedure that removes a clot from a patient’s brain. Days later Brianne was walking and talking remarkably well and she finally had relief from the terrible headache.

Up to that point, Brianne was like most people in that she thought strokes were something that happened to old people. Since her recovery, she has learned that stroke is the No. 5 killer of Americans, and a leading cause of adult disability. And, of course, that stroke can happen to anybody at any age. Brianne is now a proud volunteer for the local American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, spreading awareness about the warning signs and the facts that stroke is largely preventable, treatable, and beatable.

To see Brianne share her story and talk about stroke click here.

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Advocate Spotlight - TJ Haynes

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


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Close the Gap, Share Your Story

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

Do you know someone who falls in the healthcare coverage gap in Idaho? Do you fall in the gap? Do you, your family, your friends, and coworkers have access to the care needed to ensure you stay healthy?

Odds are, you know someone who currently falls in the healthcare coverage gap. With approximately 78,000 individuals in Idaho who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage, yet earn too little to qualify for subsidies on the healthcare exchange, thousands of Idahoans go without healthcare every year. We want to hear your story.

When people don’t have access to health care, they ignore signs and symptoms that lead to more serious issues, or they don’t seek treatment at the first signs of a problem. For example, someone with high blood pressure could monitor it with regular check-ups and medication. However, without access to care, this same person may not be aware of the problem until it leads to a heart attack or stroke.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Idaho is working with the Close the Gap Coalition to help improve healthcare coverage in Idaho, so everyone can take responsibility for their health. Through the Healthy Idaho Plan, those who cannot currently afford health insurance will be able to purchase affordable coverage in the private market. This can help lower costs to our healthcare system, save taxpayer dollars, and improve healthcare throughout Idaho.

Your story matters. If you or someone you know are currently in the coverage gap, we want to hear from you. We encourage you to share your story with your elected officials as well, so we can all solve this problem and close the gap.

Call 1.844.HELP78K (1.877.435.7785) or visit You can also join Close the Gap Idaho on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, @closethegapID, and help show your support with #78000cantwait and #healthyID. To learn more, visit Your support helps improve health for all Idahoans.

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Healthy lunch ideas for the back to school season

Guest Blogger - Kami Sutton Grassroots Coordinator

Now that the kiddos have picked out their first day of school outfits, packed those backpacks and started to settle in to class, it is important that you send them off each day with a heart healthy, nutrition packed lunch they will actually eat! 

Here are a few ideas to get started. When it comes to sandwiches, don’t be afraid to mix it up each time with a slight switch in sandwich styles. Use different breads including 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps or whole wheat pita pockets. To add some veggies to the mix, try shredded carrots or avocado slices. And for a fun twist, use cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches into their favorite shapes. Who wouldn’t love to bite into a dinosaur or teddy bear shaped sandwich?


One great option are PB & J spirals with healthy Whole Wheat Tortillas, reduced fat peanut butter or almond butter, and 100% all fruit spread. Follow these easy steps to a delicious lunch:


1. Set a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until hot. Place the tortilla in the skillet. Cook for 20 to 30 seconds per side, or until just warm.

2. Place the tortilla on a cutting board. Spread the surface evenly with the peanut butter followed by the fruit spread. Roll into a tube. Slice into 8 equal pieces. Also don’t forget a delicious and healthy snack to go with their sandwich! Try Carrot, Celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.


Visit How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch for more nutrition packed ideas to get your kids fueled up for learning!

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Every Idahoan Deserves Access to Affordable Healthcare

Right now in Idaho, approximately 78,000 individuals fall into what is known as the coverage gap. These are Idaho workers, veterans, and others who do not have access to affordable healthcare because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid programs, but not enough to receive tax subsidies to purchase their own insurance. This coverage gap must be closed and that is what the Healthy Idaho Plan wants to do.

The Healthy Idaho Plan was created as a collaborative effort based on recommendations from the Governor’s Health Exchange Working Group. This consisted of a diverse array of individuals and organizations including physicians, legislators, business owners, and non-profit organizations to ensure hardworking Idahoans are able to seek care and receive the necessary services they need in order to stay healthy.

Currently, Idaho is failing to take advantage of federal dollars that could go towards covering healthcare costs, while at the same time continuing to spend millions of dollars in catastrophic and indigent care. In 2015, it is calculated that by not accepting federal dollars, Idaho forfeited $173 million in savings.  Just think of the investment we could make in Idaho’s future with that money.

Under the Healthy Idaho Plan, federal dollars would be used to help Idahoans purchase affordable health care coverage in the private insurance market, while others would gain coverage through a new Medicaid plan focused on personal responsibility and accountability. This plan saves taxpayer dollars, eliminates redundant government spending, maintains our autonomy to make healthcare decisions, and addresses our state’s needs.

The American Heart Association supports these efforts to ensure all Idahoans have access to affordable health care. If you are one of the 78,000 without access to affordable care, we want to hear from you.  If you are living in the coverage gap, we want you to share your story. You can call 1.844.HELP78K (1.877.435.7785) or visit You can also join Close the Gap Idaho on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, @closethegapID, and help show your support with #78000cantwait and #healthyID.

To learn more, visit Your support of American Heart Association and our coalition partner’s efforts will help us secure affordable, accessible health care for all Idahoans.

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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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Advocate Spotlight - Tim Gable

Meet Tim Gable, a young survivor who had a stroke at age 25 and spent his 26th birthday in the hospital.  Tim’s a new AHA/ASA volunteer who has become a key advocate for our upcoming Saving Strokes Event in Provo. Here’s Tim’s story…

My friends and I had decided to go on a short vacation for Easter weekend. On March 31, 2013 during breakfast I began feeling very dizzy and nauseous.  I informed my friends I was going to go lay down until I felt better. I was walking back to my room when suddenly my left leg would not hold my weight and I fell in the lobby.  I managed to pick myself up thinking what did I trip on? But I saw nothing. I made it to my hotel room door where I once again fell to the floor.  This time however I was unable to get back up and this was the first time I started to feel scared about what was wrong with me.  I lay on the floor just out of reach of the door.  I was there for 20-30 minutes before one of my friends came looking for me. 

He found me on the floor unable to get up.  He dragged me into my room and tried sitting me up but my body wouldn’t hold.  I kept falling over so my friend ran for help realizing something was wrong. He had another friend come and help him pick me up they then ran me out the back door into another friend’s waiting car.  They drove as quickly as possible to the nearest hospital emergency room.  When we arrived the hospital quickly took me in and diagnosed me with having a stroke. I was given TPA then put on an ambulance and rushed to another hospital that was better equipped to handle stroke. 

As soon as I arrived at the other hospital I was taken into surgery where they located the blood clot in my carotid artery in the right frontal lobe of my brain.  There were multiple attempts to remove the clot but every time it was removed it reformed and re blocked the blood flow. The surgeon tried everything he knew but he could not stop the clot from reforming, eventually it had to be left or the surgery was going to kill me.  The clot is still lodged in my head but I’m told there is no risk of it moving. 

The next day I awoke in the neural critical care unit with the worst headache.  Nurses were called in to check on me.  I was rushed to an MRI and it was determined that my brain was now swelling due to the damage done from the stroke and was pressing on the inside of my skull threatening more damage.  The surgeon gave my parents two choices they could remove a portion of my skull in an attempt to relieve the pressure or allow nature to take its course and allow me to pass away. The decision was made to have the bone flap removal surgery.  Which luckily worked and ended up saving my life. 

I spent two weeks in the neural critical care unit and was then transferred to another hospital where I immediately began occupational, physical and speech therapy each day for the next month and a half. My doctors pushed me to do as much therapy as possible due to my young age the more I did early on the more I had the chance of getting back. By the time I was released to go home I was able to walk on my own with little to no assistance.  I immediately started outpatient occupational, physical and speech therapy each day. I continued this for the next year continually improving until I was finally able to pass the driving tests and get my license back!

I returned to school and finished my degree in business management. During this time I felt the need to do more for people like myself who have suffered a stroke and recently participated in an event called Saving Strokes.  As a result I have become a volunteer for American Stroke Association and hope to build a career where I might be able to use my experience and story to help others.

For more information about the Saving Strokes program click here.

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