American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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You're the Cure Hero: Bob Biggins

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

I had my stroke in 2003 while serving in the Illinois legislature. I'd already been working with the American Heart Association on health care issues so after I was able, I became a visible advocate for heart healthy issues.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

Now retired, I continue to address heart healthy matters as I serve on a study group established by the legislature to continue work begun for stroke survivors. Our work product is shared nationally with the neediest populations affected by stroke.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

I work with a stroke advocacy group called SSEEO. We've initiated a new survivor- to- survivor program that has been received very positively by both providers and recipients.

What is your favorite way to be active?

I exercise at my local health facility three times a week but also keep physically busy with eight of our grandchildren living in the same house.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Banana fresh off the tree!

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Advocacy Volunteers Needed for Upcoming Spring Events!

Advocacy Volunteers Needed
for Upcoming Spring Events in Your Area

The Advocacy Department needs 4-6 volunteers for our upcoming Spring 2015 events listed below. We will need help throughout the day working at the advocacy information table, collecting petition cards and recruiting new advocates for the You’re the Cure network. All volunteers will receive a You’re the Cure t-shirt.

Please let us know if you’re interested or if you know friends and family members that are interested in helping volunteer for these events by contacting Rae O’Neill at

Please include the event name, volunteer’s name, t-shirt size, and cell phone number.

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 
Most Powerful Voices Gospel Concert
House of Hope, Chicago, IL
Volunteers needed from 4:30pm to 10pm

Friday, May 1st, 2015 *ALL SPOTS HAVE BEEN FILLED*
Suburban Chicago Go Red For Women Breakfast
Miramar Bistro, Highwood, IL
Volunteers needed from 7:45am-10:30am

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 *ALL SPOTS HAVE BEEN FILLED*
Suburban Chicago Go Red For Women Breakfast
Hotel Baker, St. Charles, IL
Volunteers needed from 7:45am-10:30am

Friday, May 8th, 2015 
Suburban Chicago Go Red For Women Breakfast
Maggiano’s, Oak Brook, IL
Volunteers needed from 7:45am-10:30am

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 
Springfield Heart Walk
Southwind Park – Hope’s Pavilion
Volunteers needed from 8:30am to 12pm

Saturday, May 16th, 2015 
Quad Cities Heart Walk
The District of Rock Island
Volunteers needed from 8am to 11am  

Friday, May 29th, 2015 
Go Red Community Expo
Chicago Union Station
Volunteers needed from 7am to 4pm

Saturday, May 30th, 2015 
Northern Illinois Heart Walk
Rock Valley College
Volunteers needed from 8am to 12pm

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Chicago Pilot Health Event Series Sparks Health Innovation

The largest challenge faced by new healthcare technology companies is finding a place to test run their new product or idea. Almost every startup aiming to bring innovation to healthcare has obstacles obtaining their first pilot at a hospital. Often times, entrepreneurs are lost on who to approach at the hospital. Even if these entrepreneurs are able to get in front of hospital decision makers, their product or idea might not be a relevant solution to the hospital. What if instead of having to sell the problem as well as their solution, entrepreneurs could work to solve a problem they know a hospital is dealing with?

On March 26th, American Heart Association, Health 2.0 Chicago and MATTER joined forces to hold the event, "So You Want to Pilot your Product or Your Idea at My Hospital". The event brought both healthcare influencers and innovators together to help healthcare startups pilot their technology in hospitals. Paul Magelli, CEO of Apervita, moderated the discussion between entrepreneurs and hospital executives on the "code of conduct" for these initial interactions. The event hoped to facilitate discussion between both sides so that relevant solutions to hospital problems arise efficiently and quickly. Panelists advised healthcare startups on how to pilot their technology in hospitals, and helped hospitals understand how they can be more innovative. Panelists included Jason Keeler, David DiLoreto, Stephen Sprieser, Harry Rowland and Paul Berrini. The event was a great tie-in to the goal of Heart Innovation Forum which aims to bring new lifesaving technology to the patient's bedside and to the mission of American Heart Association.

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Illinois State University and American Heart Association Day at the Capitol

On March 4th, the very first Illinois State University/American Heart Association Day at the Capitol took place in Springfield. 50 students from the exercise physiology program at ISU, led by You’re the Cure volunteers Karen Dennis and Dale Brown, attended a morning training and afternoon of lobbying to protect physical education (P.E.) in Illinois. Some of the highlights are below:

  • The students visited their own lawmakers and dropped-off personalized notes asking their legislators to protect P.E. Some of them even got to meet with their legislators for 30-45 minutes to discuss the issue! In all, student constituents visited 24 Senators and 27 Representatives. Highlights included meetings with Rep. Keith Sommers, Sen. Bill Cunningham, Sen. Chris Nybo, Rep. Peter Breen, Sen. Jim Oberweis and Sen. Jason Barickman. 
  • Prior to the day, the students collected 185 petitions that they were then able to deliver to 38 Senators and 53 Representatives which helped make out reach that day even larger.
  • The students also got a tour of the Capitol and were invited to enter the Governor’s office and even got to sit at his desk.

This event would not have been possible without Karen Dennis and Dale Brown who allowed us to steal their class away for the day and teach them a little about advocacy. This was a great opportunity and we are looking forward to partnering with ISU in the future!

More photos from the day can be found on our Facebook page here:

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Conference of Illinois Legislators Go Red for Women Event at the Statehouse

You’re the Cure advocates in Illinois kicked off American Heart Month and the 2015 legislative session with our annual Conference of Women Legislators Go Red event at the Capitol on February 4th. Advocates, lawmakers and staff wore their best red and posed for pictures to promote awareness for heart disease and stroke. Even the state’s first lady, Mrs. Diana Rauner, stopped by to show her support for raising awareness to fight heart disease and stroke in Illinois.


To see more pictures from the event:

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Share Your Story: Buffy Mckinney

Buffy McKinney O Fallon, IL

There was never any heart disease in my family. That all changed on August 12, 2010 when my first grandson, Brody, was born with a congenital heart defect called ASD/VSD.

The thought was that the holes would eventually close themselves so they released him from the hospital. Two weeks after releasing him my daughter and husband were at lunch and my husband noticed that Brody was turning blue and not breathing. God saw fit that day to have EMT's that were just leaving after their lunch who performed CPR and rushed him to the hospital where he spent the next 2 and a half months of his life. During that time it was determined that the hole in the bottom part of his walnut sized heart was as large as a nickel and if they did not perform open heart surgery to close the hole he would not survive another month. Thanks to research and his knowledgeable doctors he is now a healthy, terrorizing toddler.

I have worked for the AHA for over 5 years now and early in my career I loved my job because of the wonderful volunteers and survivors that I got to work with. This experience has given a new meaning to my job and the importance of medical research to people every day.

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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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Share Your Story: Brooke Maynard

Brooke Maynard Springfield, IL

November 20th, 2009, should have been the best day of my life. Instead it turned out to be the best and worst day of my life. This is the day I gave birth to my beautiful daughter.  I was talking to my mother about my contractions during labor and the next thing I know my life changed in a blink of an eye.

I had several doctors and nurses rush into my room poking at me with needles and x-ray machines because my blood pressure and heart rate became dangerously high.  My OBGYN told me he had to emergency cesarean to get my baby out so I would survive. I was rushed away for surgery and after my daughter was born I found out I went into congestive heart failure during labor and was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy.

A cardiologist came into my ICU room where I was taken after the cesarean and told me that if I go on a low-sodium diet, complete cardiac rehab all within six months I should be able to live a normal healthy life. During those six months of trying to recover I was in and out of the emergency room, the cardiac ward at the hospital, and had several episodes where my blood pressure was too low from my medication that I couldn't even get out of bed.  Since I was getting worse and not getting better my cardiologist told me I will be on medication the rest of my life, and I no longer will be able to carry another child due to the weakness of my heart. Today, I am a passionate survivor and a fighter of the No. 1 killer in women, heart disease.

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Prep Yourself for the IL Legislative Session!

Our elected officials will returned to Springfield this week, we are off and running in the advocacy department on a new legislative session as well!
Before we jump right in and ask you to make those important phone calls and send those urgent emails to the legislature, here is a quick rundown of the issues we're going to be focusing on this legislative session.

· Prevent and Reduce ObesityHealthy Eating Active Living Act: Reducing the Consumption of Sugar Sweetened Beverages

  • Secure a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and ensure that a portion of the state revenue generated by the tax is dedicated to health, obesity prevention and Medicaid funding.

· Prevent and Reduce ObesityProtect P.E. in Illinois Schools and Implementation of P.E. in Chicago Public Schools

  • Protect IL’s strong elementary and secondary school P.E. mandate from expected attacks and ensure the implementation of daily P.E. in Chicago Public Schools.

· Tobacco ControlProtect the Illinois Smoke-Free Air Act

  • Prevent any rollback of existing Smoke Free IL protections, notably in casinos and taverns.

· Systems of CareStatewide STEMI System of Care

  • Establish STEMI Systems of Care in line with the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline Campaign via statewide legislation and work to secure state funding to assist local communities in purchasing automated external defibrillators, 12-lead EKGs, ambulances and other critical EMS equipment and infrastructure.

· System of CareRebuild Illinois’ EMS System

  • Rebuild Illinois’s EMS system by securing a stable, dedicated funding source for EMS and pursue an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for EMS providers.

· Acute Cardiovascular CareLauren’s Law Implementation

  • Ensure the implementation of Lauren’s Law requiring all high school students to learn CPR prior to high school graduation.

Sounds pretty ambitious, doesn't it? The American Heart Association believes that everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. That is our why. As always, we're going to need your help to be successful with these policy priorities, so as you look at the list above, ask yourself which of the issues fits in with your why.
Whatever the reason, if you’d like to get more involved and work hand-in-hand with us on any of these issues, please send me an email ( or drop me a line (414-227-1410) anytime!


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Have a Story? Share It with Us!

Sharing your own personal story is the most effective way to advocate for healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke!  As you have noticed, the You’re the Cure community site now features pictures and stories of real advocates – people like you whose lives have been impacted by cardiovascular disease.  Please take a moment to share your story with us and we will feature you on our site and in an upcoming newsletter.

We would love to feature your story on our website and in this monthly newsletter. It's easy to do! Here are the three steps to sharing your story:

1.  The story.  We will have room for a short paragraph (600 words).  There is no story too small and everyone is welcome to submit their experience.  We want you to make your story grabs the attention of people who come to the site.  Be passionate.  Explain how your experience has impacted your life and why you are committed to helping us advocate.  You also don’t need to be a heart or stroke disease survivor to share your story.  Tell us about what you are doing in your community to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Please share your story here on the website.  

2.  A picture.  Yes, we’ll need your best photo we can post so that everyone will see that there is a real person behind the story.  Electronic photos only please. Photos should be horizontal or landscape for the best fit.

3. Your permission.  This is the boring part.  If you’d like to be featured on the website, we’ll need you to fill-out and return the permission form.

Send your photo and permission form to:
    Anne Simaytis
    Regional Grassroots Advocacy Director
    FAX: 414-271-3299

Questions?  Give me a call at 414-227-1410 or email me your questions.

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