American Heart Association - You’re the Cure
WELCOME! PLEASE LOGIN OR SIGN UP

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
SIGN UP
How fate brought together three stroke survivors' families

The following article about You're the Cure advocate Ryley Williams and two other youths who survived strokes on the same day was published by AHA CEO Nancy Brown in the Huffington Post on July 6th, 2016. A link is provided at the end of the story.

In the community of Dartmouth in the Canadian province Nova Scotia, Nik Latter’s family is throwing what his mom promises will be “a big ol’ party.” Fist bumps and hugs will celebrate the fact he’s made it an entire year since his devastating July 8th.

One by one, over each of the last three July 8s, Ryley, Amber and Nik suffered a stroke. Yet the oddity of their shared date is only part of what led their moms to create a de facto support group.

What really brought them together is that Ryley, Amber and Nik were — and still are — teenagers.

Ryley was 15 and devoted to becoming the starting nose guard on his varsity football team. Amber was 13 and loved playing softball and hanging out with the two girls who’d been her best friends since kindergarten. Nik was a few days shy of 18 and had left school to work at a restaurant; he’d bought a car and aimed to become a voluntary firefighter following that upcoming birthday.

Now, well, their dreams are different.

As we approach July 8, the families allowed me to share their stories to send an important message: Stroke can attack anyone at any time.

***

Ryley Williams went into the summer following his freshman year at Bentonville (Arkansas) High with one goal. He wanted to draw the attention of the varsity football coaches.

So he ran and lifted weights. He ate six meals a day, devouring only foods that would expand his 6-foot, 242-pound frame the right way.

“Honey, you’re never late, you make good grades, you don’t cause any problems — trust me, the coaches notice you,” his mom, Terri Rose, told him. “They just won’t tell you they notice you.”

The morning of Monday, July 8, 2013, Ryley went to an indoor field for football practice. He was stretching when he grabbed his leg and collapsed. Everyone thought he’d pulled a muscle and overreacted. Then they realized there was more to it.

At the hospital, a brain scan showed a bigger problem than the facility could handle. He was flown by helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. It wasn’t easy fitting someone his size into the chopper.

When they landed, seizures began. Off he went for an MRI. Looking at the results, the doctor pointed to five spots.

“This is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke and this is a stroke,” the doctor said. “We need to find out why he has so many blood clots in his brain.”

Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, they still didn’t know why. And now they had a new problem. Ryley’s brain was swelling.

He underwent an operation to remove part of his skull. With Ryley sedated, doctors also took a closer look at his heart. They found hair-like strands of a bacterial infection on the outside of two valves. A-ha! This was the source.

Next question: How much brain damage had he suffered? His right side didn’t function. Doctors cautioned he may never walk or talk.

As Ryley was coming out of his medically induced coma, some football players visited. Coaches, too. They brought a varsity jersey with his number, 99.

“The head coach drove down to Little Rock and stayed with us when Ryley had the skull surgery,” Terri said. “Other coaches came to visit, too. They told us they were watching him. They knew he was going to have a big year. Hearing that was bittersweet.”

Fast forward to today.

His right arm remains compromised. He also battles aphasia, a condition that sometimes makes it hard for him to get words out. Still, Ryley recently graduated high school, right on time. He even spent the last year working at a Walmart Neighborhood Market. And he’s become an advocate for the American Stroke Association. Last year, he and Terri encouraged a Congressional subcommittee in Washington, D.C., to support more funding for research and awareness about pediatric stroke.

He’s spending this summer at a facility that specializes in neuropsychology recovery for victims of strokes and traumatic brain injuries. He’s learning skills to live on his own, although he plans to spend two years at home while attending Northwest Arkansas Community College.

“He’s incredibly positive,” Terri said. “He’s accepted everything. He tells you, `This is who I am now.’”

***

The night of July 8, 2014, Amber Hebert was on first base when the next batter hit the ball to the outfield.

Amber ran to second base without anyone trying to get her out, then fell as if she’d been punched. She vomited and went into a seizure. Her 5-foot-3, 86-pound body thrashed so violently that four firefighters held her down while a fifth injected her with medicine.

The local hospital in Bellevue, Nebraska, ended up sending her to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. The seizures continued until 3 a.m.

“When she finally stopped seizing, she was able to see and talk and understand you,” said her mom, Tirzah Hebert. “But I could see the fear in her eyes.”

Tests — and seizures — continued throughout the next day. Finally, doctors declared she’d suffered a stroke.

The next day, Amber sat in a chair holding a cup and walked around her hospital floor. The following day, she had a bit more difficulty holding a cup but could still walk. That night, Tirzah asked if she understood what had happened.

“I don’t know,” Amber said.

The next day, a Saturday, Amber couldn’t walk, talk or hold up her head. This continued until Tuesday, when she finally underwent an MRI. It showed that her brain was swelling.

Doctors were able to reduce it with medicine. Then came the waiting game to determine the extent of brain damage. Soon, she began smiling and communicating with her left hand — fist for yes, open palm for no.

These days, Amber walks, but sometimes the toes on her right foot curl, causing her to drag her foot.

She can’t move her right hand or wrist. She also has aphasia. Therapists believe that with practice she’ll improve in every area. (Doctors never determined the cause of her stroke.)

Alas, there have been other obstacles.

Shortly after Amber made it home, her dad’s dad — with whom she was very close — died of cancer. Four months later, a lump in her dad’s neck was found to be cancerous. Early detection plus chemotherapy and radiation helped him beat it.

School proved no refuge. She went from being one of the most popular girls at school to getting bullied. Her two lifelong best friends “just disappeared,” Tirzah said. Amber switched to homeschooling until giving the classroom another try this summer.

“She’s a happy girl, for the most part, very loving and caring,” Tirzah said. “She still has some depression, but who wouldn’t? To have your life completely turned upside down like hers has?”

***

Even as a child, Nik Latter struggled with migraines. So, last June, when he had one that was bad enough to go to a hospital, nobody thought much of it.

Nor did anyone think twice when he left work complaining of a migraine on Sunday, July 5, 2015.

The next day, he endured what he described as the worst migraine he’d ever experienced. He wore sunglasses indoors and had his mom, Rhonda, drive him to a clinic. The next day, he slept at his grandparents’ house because it was quieter than being home with his two younger sisters.

Rhonda visited him Wednesday, he stared blankly. He tried talking, but nothing came out.

“He’s having a stroke,” she declared. “Call 911!”

A scan showed a mass on the right side of his brain. During an operation, doctors determined it was a stroke. Days later, it was determined the cause was a sinus infection gone severely wrong. The infection broke the barrier between the sinus and the brain, releasing a blood clot.

Nik’s recovery started great. He gave hugs, pulled his mom’s hair and played thumb wars with his sisters. Then, in the early hours of July 16, he had another stroke. On the other side of his brain.

Doctors said Nik may not survive. But the family wanted to give him every chance. Their faith was rewarded when he was weaned off the breathing tube.

He continued clearing hurdles, although he remained hospitalized until March. The long struggle seemed to deflate him; being home reinvigorated him. He now puts his right foot down and pushes his wheelchair. He fist bumps with his right hand, laughs, smiles and kicks.

He makes sounds and, sometimes, says words. Not enough to say he’s talking. But he’s trying.

“He’s very aware of his surroundings,” Rhonda said.

***

While each stroke story is different, every stroke shares similarities.

Time lost is brain lost. The sooner the stroke can be recognized, the sooner treatment can begin. The gold standard of treatment is called tPA. If this clot-busting drug is administered within three hours, and up to 4.5 hours in some cases, the extent of recovery can improve drastically.

That’s why the American Stroke Association urges everyone to remember the acronym FAST. When you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911.

Stroke is the No. 2 killer worldwide and No. 5 in the United States. While it’s true that strokes usually happen to older people is true, Ryley, Amber and Nik are proof that’s not always the case.

The world of pediatric stroke is small enough — and the pull of the internet is strong enough — that families of survivors are bound to find each other.

For instance, Terri connected with Lea Chaulk, a Canadian mom whose son was about the same age as Ryley and had a stroke about the same time. Terri and Lea became like sisters as they helped their sons grieve over the lives they lost and learn to embrace their new reality. Lea later introduced Terri to Rhonda.

Meanwhile, Ryley got to know four teenagers from the Kansas City area who were featured by American Heart Association News after they overcame strokes during high school to graduate on time. One of those families had gotten to know the Heberts, and they connected Terri and Tirzah.

The three moms — Terri, Tirzah and Rhonda — lean on each other often. They’ve yet to meet in person, although Ryley and Amber have shared messages via Facebook.

“Knowing that I’m not alone has helped soooo much,” Tirzah said.

“If I didn’t have some of these moms, I think I’d go insane,” said Rhonda, laughing. “Sometimes I sit down and get lost in thought and get upset. Then I’ll send one of them a message saying `I need you to bring me back down to Earth.’”

Three families irrevocably altered, all on a July 8. It’s incredible. Yet from this coincidence comes strength.

“I’ve told my family, `Look, it happened to two other kids on the same day,’” Tirzah said. “It’s like, Wow. And we’ve all made it this far. And you know what? We’re going to keep on going.”

Read the rest of the story on the Huffington Post.

Read More

Share Your Story - Javan Cruz

Javan Cruz Missouri

Just 5 percent is the chance of survival when a child suffers sudden cardiac arrest away from a hospital. Javan Cruz is among that small percentage.

Back in April, Javan suffered a total of seven sudden cardiac arrests while in his 7th grade classroom.

Thanks to quick action taken by his teacher and school nurse, he’s with us today. Javan credits his survival to the Pioneer Ridge Middle School staff, who performed CPR and used an AED.

Read More Here.

Read More

Share Your Story: Bill O'Neal

Bill O'Neal Missouri

Bill O'Neal's heart stopped while he was giving 40 students an ACT test.  "I always think it’s a bit ironic that I taught for two years at the Collegiate School for Medicine and Bioscience and I gave the kids some hands on experience," O'Neal said.

This teacher of more than 30 years has spent his career giving lessons at the head of the class. But he had no warning of the big one he'd be giving right at this spot in this St. Louis magnet school on April 19. "I don't remember coming up to this room to proctor the ACT," said O'Neal, who is 59.  "I have no memory of the event at all."

Without warning, Bill suddenly collapsed in front of another teacher and more than 40 students taking a test. Statistically, that should have been the end of the story. Ninety percent of people whose hearts stop suddenly outside of a medical setting, don't make it to a hospital alive. Read More.

Read More

American Heart Association Celebrates Lifesaving Victory as Missouri Becomes 34th State to Provide CPR Training in Schools

Governor Nixon has signed Senate Bill 711 to equip a new generation of Show-Me State lifesavers; More than 60,000 Missouri students to be newly trained in first year of law’s implementation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, June 14, 2016 – Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 711 (SB 711) today, making Missouri the 34th state to provide lifesaving CPR training in schools. Today’s action by Governor Nixon marks the culmination of five years of work by many dedicated survivors, volunteers and advocates. This legislation has been the centerpiece of the American Heart Association’s policy priorities in the Show-Me State, opening the door for all Missouri students to receive a 30-minute introduction to lifesaving skills at some point during their four years of secondary education. The law will take effect during the 2017-2018 school year, in which more than 60,000 Missouri students will immediately benefit from this lifesaving training.

“The American Heart Association celebrates this important victory and we thank the many survivors, volunteers and collaborating partners for making this moment possible,” said Jace Smith, Senior Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association in Missouri. “Four of every five out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in private or residential settings. CPR training in schools strengthens the cardiac chain of survival by equipping thousands of civilian bystanders to be ready to respond in an emergency. Many lives will be saved because of this legislation.”

SB 711 was sponsored by Senator Dan Brown. An identical bill, House Bill 1643 (HB 1643), was sponsored by Representative Ron Hicks. Both pieces of legislation experienced broad bipartisan support. SB 711 requires schools to provide students instruction in CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) as part of high school graduation requirements. The training must be administered during a physical education or health class, as part of the Missouri curriculum, allowing schools flexibility in offering the training. The curriculum can be introduced in 30 minutes or less using a ‘practice-while-you-watch’ approach with an inflatable manikin and instructional DVD. The law does not require students to achieve CPR certification, nor is this a “pass/fail” training. The bill simply allows students to understand and become familiar with the basics.

For one key legislative proponent, the effort was especially personal. Representative Ron Hicks used his own CPR training to save the life of a Missourian who collapsed during a visit to the Missouri State Capitol in 2014. As a result of that incredible experience, Representative Hicks vowed to see the law passed during his time of public service and worked diligently to help make it happen.

“I have two children and know that children are our future,” said Representative Hicks. “We teach skills in the classroom to help students be successful in life. This legislation provides an opportunity to do something very special: to equip students with a tool that protects life and impacts generations to come. That’s why this legislation is so important to me.”

Why Learn CPR? - Cardiac arrest – an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs – is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

Be the Difference for Someone You Love - If you are called on to give CPR in an emergency, you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend. Seventy percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes. Unfortunately, only about 46% of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest get the immediate help that they need before professional help arrives.

Music Can Help Save Lives - During CPR, you should push on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. The beat of “Stayin’ Alive” is a perfect match for this.

How To Give Hands-Only CPR - If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.” CPR can more than double a person’s chances of survival, and “Stayin’ Alive” has the right beat for Hands-Only CPR.

Hands-Only CPR Can Save Lives - Most people who experience cardiac arrest at home, work or in a public location die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. As a bystander, don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.

When calling 9-1-1, you will be asked for your location. Be specific, especially if you’re calling from a mobile phone, as that is not associated with a fixed address. Answering the dispatcher’s questions will not delay the arrival of help.

For More Information. To learn more, visit www.heart.org/handsonlyCPR.

About the American Heart Association & the American Stroke Association: The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team up with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit www.heart.org. In Missouri, you may also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Read More

Share Your Story:Susan O'Brien

Susan O'Brien Missouri

Susan O’Brien was living happily with her new husband Mark and their two puppies in their dream home, enjoying good times as summer approached.  "Life was wonderful," recalled Susan, a petite woman in her 50s who exercised regularly and was in seemingly good health. "I felt great."

Then something startling happened while she sat at her desk at work in May 2013. Susan felt faint. The dizzy spell lasted only a couple of seconds, and she didn’t pass out. "I was nearly fainting, doing nothing by sitting," she said. Two days later, the feeling came again, this time while she walked in the park. Susan knew she needed to get checked by a doctor right away. "I know my body," she said. "I went to my physician."  Even though her blood pressure and cholesterol were normal and there were no outward signs of a problem, Susan and the doctor decided she would wear a portable heart monitor to find out what might be going on. "He was being really thorough," she said. Susan wore the monitor for 24 hours, feeling fine the whole time. "We went out that night, we went shopping."

It took eight days for the results to come back. Those results altered her life. "I am looking at your heart monitor results, and they’re not good," the doctor told her. "You need to get to the hospital immediately."

Susan had a condition known as ventricular tachycardia. Her heart was enlarged and beating dangerously fast. When she was having dizzy spells, her heart was beating abnormally and could have stopped. The next day, she received an internal defibrillator, a battery-powered device surgically implanted under the skin to keep track of her heart rate; when it detects a problem, it sends an electrical impulse to restore a normal heartbeat. Susan and her relatives were stunned by the diagnosis. No one in her family was known to have heart disease. Doctors said a virus at some point in her life may have led to the condition. But they didn’t know for sure.

Susan took three months of medical leave from her job at the Webster Groves School District in the St. Louis area. She has resumed normal activities and sometimes finds it hard to fathom that she has a heart problem. "I think, ‘I can’t believe I went through that,’" she said. "It’s life changing." What hasn’t changed is her zest for living. She’s just learned to do it with a small square defibrillator inside her that she jokingly nicknamed "Imo" after a famous pizza joint in St. Louis that cuts its pizzas into squares and boasts of "the square beyond compare."

Susan remains active and a healthy 115 pounds at 5-foot-2. Her message for others is this: "You don’t have to be overweight and out of shape to have a heart problem. … Listen to your body, and get more than one opinion." She’s thankful every day for the doctor who decided to put her on a heart monitor to evaluate her condition. Susan is helping other women by warning them that signs of heart trouble can be different in women and men and that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. "I am excited and happy to help bring my story to the public," she said, "to bring some awareness to this silent killer."

Read More

90 Seconds Can Save a Life

We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of teaching high school students CPR before they graduate, but what if YOU are called on to give CPR in an emergency? You will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love: your spouse, parent, child or friend.

In just 90 seconds, you can learn the two simple steps of Hands-Only CPR. Click below to watch the Hands-Only CPR video and then share the link with family and friends!

Thank you for learning how to save a life!

Read More

Help Protect PE for Kids Like Me!

Guest post from Reagan Spomer, 6th grader Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board Member & You’re the Cure Advocate

I have two words for you… scooter hockey.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  Scooter hockey, along with cage ball and 3-way soccer are some of my favorite activities in gym class, which I have a few times a week.

I’m glad I have physical education for a number of reasons.  It keeps me active and teaches me to try new things.  It helps me focus on my school work.  It relieves my stress.  And most of all, it makes me feel great! 

But I know a lot of schools don’t have regular PE like my schools does.  That means a lot of kids are missing out on the benefits of being active during the school day.  I think this needs to change.   

Will you help?  As part of the nationwide campaign to protect PE in schools, Voices for Healthy Kids has created a photo petition map to show how many people across the country love PE like I do.  As people share their pictures, the map will change colors.  I’ve added my “I heart PE” photo for South Dakota.  Will you do the same for your state?  It’s really easy:

  1. Print an “I heart PE” sign (or make your own!)
  2. Take a picture of yourself holding the sign.
  3. Click on your state to share your photo.

Thanks for helping to protect PE for kids like me!
-Reagan

Read More

Share Your Story: Brian Donaldson and his friend Price

Brian Donaldson and his friend Price Missouri

As I close my eyes every night, I am thankful that my family had a great day, filled with health and happiness.

In January of this year my 51 year old business partner, mentor and friend, Price, had a massive stroke. He was in much better health than most of us and even ran the Boston Marathon last year.

Price was rushed to the hospital on a Sunday morning and because there was no way to know when his stroke occurred the "wonder drug" was not an available option. He would have to rely on his own body to deal with the stroke. Price's family and friends were given the news some days later that he was paralyzed on the left side and would likely not walk again.

Fast forward 9 months, Price is walking with a cane and last week passed his driver's test and has some of his freedoms back. The doctors believe that his strong recovery is due to his lifelong focus on his own health. I am proud to be a part of the Executive Leadership Team for the 2016 Metro St. Louis Heart Walk and champion Edward Jones' Heart Walk team this year. See more about the upcoming St. Louis Heart Walk.

Read More

Share Your Story-Benny

Benny Missouri

Benny was born on July 18, 2014 at 37 weeks with a Congenital Heart Defect.  He is our second blessing and little miracle baby. His diagnosis is Double Outlet Right Ventricle with Sub-aortic Ventricular Septical Defect, Supraventricular Tachycardia, Dextrocardia, Heterotaxy with Asplenia, Malrotation of the intestines and Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. In simple terms, Benny had a large hole between the both ventricles, his aorta and pulmonary artery is on the right ventricle, he can go into episodes where his heart can beat up to 260 beats per minute, his heart and stomach are on the right side of his body, his intestines are not rotated properly and can twist and he has no spleen. Since he has no spleen, Benny needs to take antibiotics twice a day for the rest of his life and we need to be extra careful he doesn't get sick so he doesn't end up in the ER.

How did all this happen you ask? Well, no one really knows yet. The genetics Doctors are still doing studies to research if it was genetics or just something random that happened. Throughout my entire pregnancy I was super healthy and did everything I was supposed to. We didn’t find all this out until I was 35 weeks pregnant. I felt like something wasn't right and had gone to the Doctor, who then sent me to the hospital, who then confirmed that he was in and had a hole in his heart. The local hospital couldn’t tell us much since they were limited on testing so they decided to send me to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis MO. They ended up flying me up there the same night and testing began the very next morning.

After several tests, ultrasounds and EKGs and ECHOs later, all was confirmed. We were devastated that our baby was going to have to go though some extreme challenges right as he was born, but all the Doctors were hopeful. We owe so much and are so grateful to have a team of wonderful doctors. Benny had to stay in the hospital in St. Louis for a month and a half before we could bring him home. While at the hospital, Benny had to get a PA band around one of his pulmonary artery to slow down the blood flow into his lungs. That was a temporary fix until he received his open heart surgery to repair the hole in his heart in May 5, 2015. We've had a few other scares where we've had to rush him to the ER in St. Louis because of his SVT (fast heartbeat).  During one of his episodes, it took 10 hours to get him back to normal heart rhythm. The doctors had to shock his heart 3 times and drain fluid from around his heart.

When I became a heart mom I knew I had to do several things for my son Benny, one of which was be an advocate for him and for Congenital Heart Defect Awareness. Many people are not quite familiar about Congenital Heart Defects. They don't ...know that Congenital Heart Defects are the most common defects in the U.S., 1 in 100 babies are born with it. Approximately 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. with a CHD each year. Or that CHD's are the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States. Also, Congenital Heart Defects are common and deadly, yet CHD research is grossly under-funded relative to the prevalence of the disease.

One of my many jobs as a heart mom is to share the information about CHDs. The more awareness there is, the more fundraising and funding there is. And the more funding, the more research there is to make better medicines with less side effects, more research to make surgeries less risky and hopefully find a cure and prevention one day.

Our Benny is a tough fighter and will continue to fight. Benny is why we raise awareness.  Join Benny in his fight against Heart Disease and Stroke at this year’s Heart Walk. Register Here

Read More

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!

Read More

[+] Blogs[-] Collapse