American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Jocelyn Gomez

August 7th, 2015 was the start of the most life-changing event of our lives. My father, mother, and I were sitting in the emergency room that night waiting to be called on. As the minutes went by a tragedy was about to occur without even knowing. My father was at the emergency room for the pain he had on his left foot. His pinky was swelled up, bruised, and a very bright red mark was on the top part of his foot. 

That night my father found out he was diabetic when his blood sugar level was at 750. My father was already a survivor of three heart attacks and the news of him being diabetic was just another thing to add to the plate. Unfortunately, my father has a rare condition where he creates blood clots very easily. This became a massive problem to his foot. The pain was due to the lack of blood circulation and the different techniques that the doctor’s applied were just not enough. After the unsuccessful peripheral bypass surgery, there was no other option than to have an amputation below the knee.

Recovery is and will always be difficult because it is not only a physical recovery, but a mental recovery as well. His loving family and friends always surround him, which is a huge support. Today, my father is slowly adapting to his new lifestyle with a very optimistic attitude. Being diabetic has given him a different view to life and is thankful that he is still alive to tell his story.

My experience at the American Heart Association as an advocacy volunteer has been one of a kind. I’ve learned remarkable things and became part of a community that works very hard to prevent serious health conditions such as diabetes. Working on the SSB campaign has helped me gain more understanding on how much sugar we are consuming without even knowing. Avoiding sugar sweetened beverages and learning how to prevent health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes is extremely important. My father did not care much about his health until his unfortunate amputation. After this life experience, my interest in working in the public health arena has skyrocketed. Educating my own family on healthier choices to prevent any further health conditions is just the beginning. It is never too late to live a healthy lifestyle!

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Healthcare Expansion - What Almost Was

The 63rd Idaho State Legislature adjourned on March 25th, 2016. This means most legislators will go back to their districts to begin campaigning, and to discuss their accomplishments this session. However, the accomplishments for the session are tempered by the major issue they failed to address – the healthcare coverage gap.

When the 2016 legislative session started, we and our coalition partners had one goal – to get a bill introduced to expand healthcare to the 78,000 Idahoans who fall in the healthcare gap.  Getting a bill printed was something that we had not been able to accomplish in the prior three legislative sessions.

We are proud to say that we got much further this legislative session but sadly we were not able to close the gap this year. Significant movement was made on the issue in an effort to save lives, provide support to struggling families, and save the state millions of dollars. Nonetheless, on the final day of the session, all efforts to begin the process in Idaho were killed on a party line vote in the House.

Several bills were introduced throughout the session to address the healthcare coverage gap including SB 1205, the Healthy Idaho Plan, which allowed Idaho to seek a waiver to implement Medicaid expansion in a way that was unique to the needs of the state through a managed care plan, supported by Medicaid dollars. SB 1205 was heard in committee after a massive constituent turnout on the part of our Close the Gap Coalition efforts.

Story after story was shared about how the healthcare coverage gaps costs our state money and even more tragically costs people their lives. Despite all our efforts as session progressed it looked like we would not be able to close the healthcare coverage gap but then in the last few weeks of session two new bills were introduced on the issue, HCR 63 and HB 644.

HCR 63 would have formed a formal legislative committee to study and make recommendations regarding the gap population, and HB 644, which would have provided $5 million in grants to community health centers and collected data from these programs on the medically underserved gap population.

The final two days of session left us waiting with baited breath after the Senate amended HB 644 so that it would start the process of applying to the federal government for a Medicaid expansion waiver. After HB 644 was amended it was sent back to the House for approval. In the hours between the Senate returning the bill to the House Governor Otter publically supported the bill to start the waiver process.

Sadly on the last day of session and one of the last votes of the year the House voted to kill the bill down party lines. Instead the Speaker of the House has announced he will appoint a legislative committee to study the problem and present recommendations during the 2017 session. Frustratingly this means Idaho tax payers will pay for a fourth study when the first three recommended a full coverage solution like what the Healthy Idaho Plan would have provided.

For those of you who supported our efforts this session and throughout the year, we appreciate your time and support. We have not given up on this important issue. 

If you would like to get involved in our efforts to close the healthcare coverage gap contact Erin Bennett to learn more.

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AHA President Says: The Science is Clear on Sodium Reduction

Check this out! In a new video, the President of the AHA, Dr. Mark Creager, explains that the science behind sodium reduction is clear. He says that robust evidence has linked excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. And, he points out that you can do something about it: join AHA’s efforts to demand change in the amounts of sodium in our food supply.

“Nearly 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods” says AHA president Dr. Mark Creager. The video shows the 6 foods that contribute the most salt to the American diet: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches."

To see the video, head over to our Sodium Breakup blog!

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Idaho Youth Lobby Day 2016

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

The Idaho Division of the AHA / ASA hosted the 6th Annual Youth Lobby Day, on Thursday, February 4, 2016. In partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, the YMCA, and others, over 75 students spent the day at the Idaho Statehouse talking to Legislators about Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS).

At the Youth Lobby Day, students connected with almost half of the Legislature to share the importance of SRTS, and how health and safety measures can be incorporated into all communities. Legislators joined students on walking meetings, and learned how different infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects can impact opportunities to be physically active. Students were recognized on the House Floor by Legislators, and in the many committee meetings they attended throughout the day.

The impact from Youth Lobby Day carried over into National Wear Red Day on Friday, February 5th when Rep. Gestrin, a recent survivor of quadruple bypass, spoke on the floor about how important physical activity is to taking care of your heart. He complimented the students on their efforts, and encouraged support for Go Red activities and other efforts that can improve heart health.

Overall, the 6th Annual Youth Lobby Day was a success, and Legislators continue to talk about the SRTS program and the students they had the opportunity to meet. We will continue to work on SRTS programs throughout the year, to help improve the safety and access of walking and biking pathways in all communities.

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Healthcare Coverage Gap

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

The Legislative session is still moving fast, with a number of important pieces of legislation still being discussed and debated. We have been working with a number of partners throughout the session to support legislation that will provide health care coverage to over 78,000 Idahoans who currently fall in the gap between Medicaid qualification and state health exchange subsidies. We need legislators to know before they leave Boise, doing nothing is not an option.

We know full health care coverage will help Idaho. It will help those people who currently don’t have health care of any kind from delaying treatment because of costs. It will help those with heart disease ensure that a medical complication won’t send them into poverty or crippling debt. It will help individuals obtain primary care and preventive services. It will also lower health care costs. It will make our health care system more cost effective and efficient. It will save tax dollars currently going to other states that have taken advantage of available federal funding for health system changes, dollars that can be used to stimulate economic productivity and improve Idaho’s health care system.

Above all, the reason we need full health care coverage is because it can save lives. Throughout the Legislative session we’ve been in contact with Legislators to tell them how important a full coverage solution is to all Idahoans, and we need to continue letting them know that we support a full health coverage plan. Full coverage saves lives, please continue contacting your Legislators to show your support.

Message state legislators today because doing nothing is not an option.

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Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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Update on Christian Lybbert

Aimee Lybbert, Mother of CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Survivor, Christian, updates us on his life now and what she sees every day as a “Heart Mom”

You can catch up on Christian’s story from nearly two years ago here.

Christian will be three at the end of next month. He's been through two more open heart surgeries and four open abdomen surgeries and one surgery through his ribs on his diaphragm. He's now living at Seattle Children's and is currently on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

He has quite the collection of scars. We as his parents do too.

We have been at Seattle Children's for almost 5 months now with most of our time spent in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).

We have seen our share of families and children go through the CICU.

I've seen parents waiting anxiously for their surgery pagers as they wait for any update, I've seen parents hugging surgeons. I've seen rooms that have one little body in the room surrounded by scores of machines and staff working together to get the child through it all. I've seen parents cry with joy as their child had the breathing tube removed and they start to talk again. I've walked past rooms where moms are holding their children for the first time in forever as the nurse takes pictures. I've watched as they get transferred to the recovery floor, and I've watched parents take video of their toddler as he walked out the front door of the hospital after he conquered heart surgery. I've seen such joy at the many triumphs and miracles that happen here. 

I've also seen complete and utter despair. Sometimes things don't go as anticipated or as hoped.

Christian was like that. He had several emergency surgeries and he once bled out from a Gastrointestinal bleed and he had to be intubated and scoped while they transfused almost the entire volume of his blood. There were days that I didn't know how I could go on.

When my son headed off to one of his emergency surgeries I was a complete mess and was sobbing in the elevator on my way to the cafeteria. Another heart mom saw me. She asked me my son's name and told me that she saw me crying and couldn't leave me alone like that. She gave me a hug and said she'd pray for me.

She got off on her floor and I kept traveling down. The next day a card arrived with a note and a Starbucks gift card from her.

She had her own troubles and she took the time to look out for another person in need.

There are a surprising amount of kids and parents whose journey includes a hospitalization and or surgery in order to keep their CHD in check. Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect. Approximately 25% of kids with a CHD will require a surgery or other intervention to survive. If you're on the outside looking in the most important thing to do is just to listen and quietly let them know you love them. If you're on the inside of the CHD storm it is important to realize that you're not alone.

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Update on the Healthy Idaho Plan

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

As part of the Close the Gap Coalition in Idaho, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has been working hard to support the Healthy Idaho Plan, which would expand health care access to the 78,000 Idahoans who currently cannot afford health insurance, but do not qualify for Medicaid.  The Healthy Idaho Plan comes from a recommendation from the 2014 Governor’s Task Force, which examined ways to improve health care access and analyzed cost efficiencies.

Senate Bill 1205, introduced by Senator Schmidt, was heard in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday, February 2, 2016. This legislation introduced the Healthy Idaho Plan to the committee as the comprehensive solution that is most effective for providing adequate levels of care, as well as most efficient in use of state and federal funding.  The committee room was overflowing, and too additional rooms were opened to provide opportunity for those not in the room to listen to committee testimony. Most of the crowd showed support of SB 1205, and in the hour of committee testimony -- only one organization stood in opposition to the Legislation. Representatives from counties, doctors, hospitals, and other health care organizations were all in favor of seeing the Healthy Idaho Plan moved forward. Even a few tragic and personal stories were told, highlighting the need, and the devastation that comes without health insurance.

Despite the overwhelming support, the committee considered this an informational hearing, and did not make any motions or take any votes on the legislation. We continue to work with the Close the Gap Coalition to urge legislators to support health care coverage through the Healthy Idaho Plan in SB 1205. We know how important health insurance is to those with cardiovascular disease, or recovering from a stroke, and the many other Idahoans with chronic disease and other medical challenges.

At the close of the hearing, Sen. Schmidt stated, “I’m not sure you should be making public policy choices based on tragedy. You should be making public policy choices based on good policy. Tragedies do happen. And if we can make good policy to prevent them, that’s our job.”

We believe the Healthy Idaho Plan in SB 1205 is good policy, and we ask you to contact your legislators to support health care for all Idahoans.

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Safer Routes to Schools means safer, healthier kids

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) means safer, healthier Idaho kids. SRTS is a project that provides funding to improve infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects that encourage walking and biking to school. Over the past several months, we have been working closely with partners to help educate policy makers on the need for funding SRTS.

Since the 1960s, the percentage of kids who walk or bike to school has decreased from 47% to approximately 12%, while those riding in personal vehicles has increased from 12% to 45%. Research shows that each hour per day spent in a car increases likelihood of obesity by 6%. We know that increased physical activity throughout the day helps reduce obesity and the associated health risks, and walking and biking to school is an easy way to boost the amount of active time in a child’s day.

Safety concerns for kids walking and biking on highly trafficked streets, as well as things like lack of sidewalks, walk or bike paths, and crosswalks are often cited for this dramatic change in how kids get to and from school. This is where SRTS funding is essential. SRTS provides dollars to school districts to support infrastructure changes, as well as non-infrastructure improvements, such as a program manager, or volunteer training for walking school buses.

Along with improved safety and health outcomes, we know that increased activity has a positive effect on academic performance. After physical activity, students show improved test scores, demonstrate better classroom behavior and reduced discipline issues, experience less absenteeism, and indicate a higher level of comprehension.

We will be focusing on SRTS in our youth advocacy efforts during the 2016 Legislative Session, because of the health, safety, and academic improvements that can be seen when Safe Routes are implemented effectively. We hope you’ll join us by reaching out to your local district, administrators, parents, and legislators, and encouraging everyone to support Safe Routes to Schoo

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