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Advocate Spotlight: Kathy McCormick

When I woke up at 6:30 AM on October 22, 2013 I knew something was terribly wrong. I tried to get out of bed and found it difficult to walk. I called for my husband, who had just returned from the gym, he found me slumped on the bed and with the slurred voice I said, "I think I'm having a stroke."  I convinced him to not call for an ambulance,   - I didn't want the fanfare- instead, I asked him to drive me to the hospital. Not a smart move!

My ride to the hospital was very difficult because my equilibrium was off and with every turn and bump in the road I began to feel more nauseous and it also seemed to take forever to get to the hospital.  Once in the hospital I was told I had a mild stroke due to the long-term effects of hypertension.  I knew I had high blood pressure - and I was even on medication for it. My doctor had even increased my dosage a few months earlier, but a small vessel in the base of my brain, called the Pons area, ruptured and a piece of plaque was released.

After three days in the hospital I was sent home with strict instructions: change my diet, take a daily reading of my blood pressure, get plenty of sleep and begin physical therapy. Now the hard work would really begin.

For the next several months my life took on a new normal for me. Friends brought food, family members took turns coming to help care for me and strenuous physical therapy sessions helped to awaken my muscles. I had to learn to do many things all over again. I struggled with walking, speaking, reading, and even writing legibly.  I had to also re-learn how to swallow liquids and learn to drive a car again.

Once I was able to return to my gym I used a personal trainer to help me continue working on my strength, balance and coordination.  Today, I feel healthier than I did before my stroke.  I am working each day to continue my improvement both physically and mentally.

I used to think strokes happened only to older people; however, I now know that's not true. They can happen to anyone at any age. I have learned so much from the American Heart/Stroke Association and will continue to pledge my support for them and I am willing to lend support to fellow stroke survivors.

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Spring is in the air, and that means many exciting activities at the AHA

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

The legislative session will wrap up any day but we are happy to announce the Governor signed the appropriations bill for the Millennium Fund, with $4.7 million dedicated to tobacco prevention, cessation, and treatment. That is an increase of over $1.5 million from last year’s funding. During session we were also able to discuss with Legislators the importance of physical education and nutrition in schools, and will work during the interim with Legislators, the Department of Education, and other organizations to improve the health of all Idaho students.

Another big spring event for the American Heart Association is our annual Heart and Stroke Walk. We are in the middle of preparations for the walk, which will take place on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at Julia Davis Park in Boise. We have a number of teams signed up but it’s not too late to register if you are interested in participating in this great event. We are excited to have people join us at this free community event promoting heart health.

Make sure to swing by the Advocacy booth to learn more about what we will be working on in the upcoming months. We will be spreading the word on our efforts to help cities go smoke free, helping eliminate the harms of second hand smoke on workers throughout Idaho. We will also be educating people on the high amount of sodium in most of our diets and how it effects our heart health. Be sure to sign the sodium pledge and commit to reducing your sodium intake in an effort to love your heart.

I encourage you to join us for the Heart Walk, gather your own team, or join a friend’s and register here: Boise Heart Walk. Stop by our booth and learn about all the exciting things we’ll be doing over the next few months to advocate for the health of all Idahoans.

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Help us Take 5 for the Pledge

 

Thank you for your continued support of the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission.

Recently, we developed a full and robust campaign to help us drive sodium awareness and reduction efforts, featuring the tagline: “I love you Salt, but you’re breaking my heart.”



The goals of the campaign are:

  • increase awareness of how much sodium we eat and the impact excess sodium has on our health
  • build a base of supporters who will actively engage with decision makers to effect policy changes that reduce sodium in the food supply
  • inspire behavior changes to reduce the amount of sodium people eat

The American Heart Association’s goal is to build a movement to change America’s relationship with salt. We ask that you take the pledge to reduce your sodium consumption.  We plan to use these pledges to urge the FDA and food manufacturers to reduce sodium in the food supply. Why the food supply? Currently, the average American consumes more than twice as much sodium than the American Heart Association recommends, and nearly 80 percent of it is coming from pre-packaged and restaurant foods. Plus, when you take the pledge, you will receive information, tools and tips as to how you can personally reduce your sodium intake – break up with salt and save your heart a potential lifetime of heartache! 

We need your help in extending our reach significantly beyond our current base of supporters.

To do this, we set up a simple “Take 5 for the Pledge” process for you to follow:

Visit the website: www.sodiumbreakup.heart.org/pledge

  • Take the pledge
  • Send an email to 5 of your friends, family members or contacts and ask them to take the pledge

Please email Cherish Hart at Cherish.Hart@heart.org or Josh Brown at Josh.Brown@heart.org if you have any questions or need additional information. I truly appreciate you taking the time to help drive our sodium awareness efforts. Together, we can make a difference.

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Help secure funding for this life-saving AED program today!

This is a critical time in Congress. Lawmakers are deciding on their funding priorities and the next round of budget negotiations are beginning. Even in this difficult economy, there are several federally-funded programs that are vital to the heart community, and we need to let our lawmakers know they must be a priority.

One such program helps buy and place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in rural communities. The program also trains first responders and others in the community to use and operate these devices. The Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program ensures those who live in rural areas or small towns have access to the tools they need for the best chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, the program currently only has the resources to operate in 12 states.

Please contact your lawmaker today and ask them to prioritize funding to save lives from cardiac arrest!

People in every state should be given the best shot at surviving a cardiac arrest. Communities with aggressive AED placements have increased survival rates from about 11% to nearly 40%, which is an incredible improvement. But 38 states are still waiting for funds for this life-saving program.

Deadlines in Congress are looming, so please contact your elected officials TODAY!

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Amber Johnson

Written By: Sara Stout, Business Development Director

Heart disease hits close to home for Missoula’s Johnson family. Amber, a mother of three beautiful and creative children survived 32 years and two normal pregnancies only to find out while eight months
pregnant, she had been born with not one but two potentially life-threatening congenital heart conditions: Long QT Syndrome (a Sudden Cardiac Arrest electrical disorder) and Junctional Bradycardia (an arrhythmia disorder).

As the cardiologist who diagnosed her explained, Amber defied the odds for three decades, simply by staying alive. In 2013, Amber underwent surgery to have a pacemaker implanted which takes just seconds to shock her heart back to life when her heart malfunctions. Amber shares her story of survival to inspire others to take charge of their heart health and is thankful that she thrives today because of the research developed by the American Heart Association.

Unfortunately Amber’s eldest daughter, Laurelei, has the same potentially life-threatening congenital heart disease. Ten-year-old Laurelei shares her mother’s passion and energy for life knowing that one day she will be able to receive the same surgery as Amber. Until then, Laurelei will continue to carry her portable AED with her wherever she goes because it will save her life.

Amber and Laurelei shared their powerful story at the Go Red For Women Luncheon in Missoula on February 13th, reminding the 170 people in attendance that life is precious and to live every moment to the fullest. The Johnson family devotes their time to learning, creating, dancing, supporting each other and advocating for the American Heart Association.

Nearly 1 out of every 100 births a child is born with some form of heart disease.  Join the Go Red movement for families like the Johnson’s and in support of friends, family and other loved ones in the community who battle heart disease. www.goredforwomen.org

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February was a Busy Month

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

February was a busy month for the Idaho AHA, with the first annual Go Red Week taking place. February 3-7, 2015 had the AHA team, volunteers and community partners teaching hands-only CPR across the Treasure Valley and we now have over 2,000 new trained lifesavers. We also had a successful Stroke Education workshop for health care professionals and several wonderful opportunities to spotlight our amazing volunteers, survivors and sponsors.

We’ve also been busy in the Legislature, working with the Time Sensitive Emergency Council on creating rules and standards for approval. The Time Sensitive Emergency Council was formed in 2014 to create a more comprehensive system of care dealing with medical emergencies where time to treatment is critical, specifically trauma, stroke and heart attacks. The rules and standards for trauma have been approved by both the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees.

In 2015 we’ll continue to work with the Council to develop the standards for Stroke and STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, a particular type of heart attack that affects a large area of the heart muscle). These rules will be amended to include the standards for STEMI and Stroke designation criteria after the Legislature adjourns for the session. These designation standards will help improve the health care system statewide by improving the coordination between emergency responders, hospitals and other health care elements critical during an emergency.

We’ve also seen the recommendation for tobacco and substance abuse prevention and cessation funding from the Joint Legislative Millennium Fund Committee, with 18 programs receiving requested funding, and over $5 million going specifically toward tobacco cessation and abuse prevention. This represents an increase over previous years funding by over 25% toward the CDC recommended funding goals.

We have many other activities in progress and will continue to reach out to our volunteers and supporters as we move forward, working to improve heart health, decrease risk factors, and prevent heart disease and stroke.

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Idaho Youth Lobby Day 2015 - What An Amazing Day

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

On January 29, 2015 the American Heart Association created a buzz in the Idaho State Capitol with the 5th Annual Youth Lobby Day. The AHA Youth Lobby day brings together student advocates with legislators to discuss what can be done at the local level to improve heart health, and how we can work with younger audiences to focus on prevention efforts.

With approximately 40 students and volunteers, youth advocates were able to meet with over 25 legislators at the Capitol, focusing on physical education standards and requirements in school, as well as introducing legislators to new ideas regarding nutrition and Smart Snacks in schools. During a breakfast reception student lobbyists taught legislators, capitol staff, and visitors easy physical activities they could do throughout the day to help improve their own heart health, as well as teaching them hands-only CPR.

The students were also given recognition on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives, for their commitment to the American Heart Association and dedication to improving health and reducing risk of heart disease and stroke. Youth advocates were able to have great discussions with many legislators and helped build support for AHA priorities in Idaho. The students were well received and provided insight to many legislators new to the Capitol as well. The 5th Annual Youth Lobby Day at the Idaho Capitol was a great event that helped further the mission of the AHA thanks to the amazing students and fantastic volunteers!

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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 GoRedForWomen.org/RedDressCollection on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern. See you there!

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An update on One of Our Youngest Advocates - Coulter Cross

You might remember our littlest advocate Colter and his mom Bobbie from last year. With Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week upon us (February 7-14) we wanted to give you an update on how he is doing.  This message was written by his mom, Bobbie:

Colter celebrated his 3rd birthday in November as well as his 3rd Heart-a-versary! Colter's busy as ever playing with all of his favorite superheroes, Batman in particular! Colter's been perfecting his football moves as he wants to be just like his favorite football player, Russell Wilson. It's been such an honor to be a part of his journey to living a healthy life.

Medically, Colter is doing very well, he had a stent placed in his conduit this last August. Due to some complications during the stent placement, the routine angioplasty wasn't done on his pulmonary arteries. So we've had monthly checkups with his Cardiologist to monitor him very closely until June, when he'll have another catherization to open those arteries back up. I still can't believe some days that there's anything wrong with his heart, the amount of energy that boy has is incredible! He plays football from sun up to sun down. We look forward to 2015 and all the year has to bring!”

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Smokefree Idaho Poll Results are In

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

The Smokefree Idaho coalition is doing great work encouraging cities across the state to go smokefree, and recent polls show we have a good deal of support in our efforts. The American Heart Association is working with the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, along with other partner organizations to help implement strong smokefree policies across Idaho. Our goal is to ensure workers do not have to choose between their job and their health.

We recently conducted a poll in three cities, Meridian, Pocatello and Idaho Falls, to gauge support of our efforts, and found that in each city, over 65% indicated they would support laws prohibiting smoking in all public places, including bars, offices and other workplaces. With over 87% agreeing that exposure to secondhand smoke is a health hazard and over 82% believing workers should be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, it is clear that smoke free policies are urgently needed. Respondents were also more likely to support local candidates for office who support laws prohibiting smoking in public places, and results were generally consistent across ideological party lines, age, gender income, and education.

These polls show us that voter support is strong and now is the time for cities to enact smoke free ordinances. The AHA/ASA will continue working with Smokefree Idaho to implement policies that create healthier environments for all workers across Idaho. We are excited to gain this momentum in the new year, and believe 2015 could be one of the best years yet for helping more Idaho cities go smoke free!

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