What brought you to be an advocate for the AHA?
At 38 years old my wife was 20 weeks pregnant with our first son when she saved my life by reacting FAST. I had a ischemic stroke that turned my day to day functioning upside down. After three days of no memory or consciousness, I "came to" as my wife says. The culprit was a hole in my heart that was undiagnosed from birth. My career as a physical education teacher and coach seemed to be over due to the residuals of my stroke. I had to relearn how to walk, eat, write, find words and process thoughts as well as many other things that stroke survivors are challenged with on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. To correct the hole in my heart, I underwent a heart surgery on 11/11/11 with the thought that only great things can happen on this unique day.
At our first event with the AHA, I was blessed to meet the female doctoral student who did her thesis on post-stroke gait. She did her research at the same time I was at RIC. I quickly learned the protocol I was under was part of her research funded by the AHA. Not long after this event, I learned from my cardiologist that 1 year prior to my surgery the same surgery would have been open heart. It was research, once again, that was funded by the AHA that allowed this closure to be done through the artery in my groin avoiding further stress to my pregnant wife with an open heart surgery.
With the ability to run on my own two feet again, the confidence of the hole in my heart closure and my wife by my side we completed the Chicago Marathon under a year from when I was able to walk independently. It was a true way to celebrate my new life after my stroke. In March of 2014, I had another stroke that placed my fate in a view that I am reminded of daily. Waking up to seeing my wife knowing she is the reason I can function in my body and mind, then kissing my two boys who give me every reason to be healthier and healthier each day motivates me to have more time to be in their lives. To see them graduate, get married...and holding my grandchildren are goals. I can only be so blessed to achieve each of them.
What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?
The issues and policies I am most passionate about are based on education and funding for research. Being an educator I feel that we are on the front line of informing our future on methods of avoiding risk factors for the top causes of death. Any and all prevention that can be done should be taken with the absolute attempt and effort. All of the research funded by the AHA up to 2012 impacted my life in two immeasurable ways that my advocacy efforts could never be enough. I benefited from funding into research that I had no idea was happening until I had a true medical need.
Research can not be done without education and education can not happen without research. They are the ying and yang and only get stronger by each others existence, support, and ability to rely on one another. Just as a right and left foot need each other, a brain and a heart need each other, and my heart needed to become whole after my stroke.
What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience s far and what made it great?
I have had many great things that jump out in my brain from being involved with the AHA's advocacy efforts. From the first time feeling the overwhelming emotions as I walked towards Senator Kirk's office in D.C., feeling the incredible PRIDE as a survivor at the You're the Cure on the Hill in 2013, and running into Sen Kirk in the hallway and sharing an unbelievable conversation at the elevators about or common therapists, our continued residual effects, and laughing at our commonalities in name and stroke survivors. Of these, none of them hold a light to the feeling of the multiple high school events I have spoken at with my wife and boys with me.
What is your favorite way to be active?
Currently in the winter months of the Midwest, my wife and I have our Monday night "Date Night." We have a sitter for our two boys so we can take a hot yoga class at Forever Om in Lake Forest. After this hour long class, we take our sweaty selves and go out to a dinner at a variety of places. We have another location we go to on Sunday's that provides day care during the class.
Of all the things I have been active in since graduating from therapy at RIC, yoga has given me back more confidence in my body awareness than anything.
Once the weather improves, we load the boys up in our double jogging stroller and go to a new park each day on our quest to be alive for as long as possible.
What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?
Apples, oranges, tangerines, and watermelon.
Without my family, I would not be in the picture.
My family is why!