American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Montana Receives Additional Grant Funding to Improve Care

Our Mission: Lifeline Montana initiative that was launched a year ago, recently received an additional $400,000 from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust!

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust gave more than $4.6 million to fund Mission: Lifeline in Montana. Along with this gift came a fundraising challenge of $833,000. This generous grant goes a long way in helping us reach that challenge.  In year 1, Mission: Lifeline Montana has given out more than 1 million dollars to hospitals and emergency service providers across the state.  Chances are your local ambulance company has received this equipment and is better prepared to handle heart attacks in your area.  Millions more in funding will be provided over the next two years, helping Montana to become better equipped to handle cardiac arrest from Ekalaka to Libby!

The money will be used to help purchase 12 lead EKG monitors for ambulances across Montana.  A 12-Lead EKG monitor is a piece of equipment that allows paramedics to better asses a patient’s condition when they are called to an emergency.  More than 80% of our Emergency Medical Services are volunteer lead, which means that they typically do not have the funding to purchase this life-saving, but costly device.  12 lead EKG equipment allows the EMS responder to detect if the patient is having a heart attack and what type. The machine will then communicate that information to the nearest hospital so that the cardiac team is prepared when the patient arrives. This will save several crucial minutes (sometimes hours) of time. This is vital because for every minute that is wasted, heart muscle is dying. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, do NOT delay- call 911.  It is a common mistake to think that driving the ER will save time, but the reality is that calling 911 is the fastest and safest way to ensure that your health is taken care of in an emergency situation.

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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:

  • 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 or Josh Brown at 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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Couldn't We all Snack a Little Healthier?

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Government Relations Director

Earlier this year the United States Department of Agriculture rolled out new guidelines that will help ensure our kids have access to healthy food in school a la carte lines, school stores and vending machines. Smart Snacks emphasize whole grains, low sodium, low fat, low sugar foods. By ensuring students have healthy options, Smart Snacks will help them make healthy choices. 

It’s great news that kids will have healthier options during the school day, but what about at home? What about us adults? Spring is a great time to take advantage of tasty seasonal produce, or update a favorite recipe with a healthy twist. Here are a few Simple Cooking with Heart recipes to get you going!

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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.

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Meet Montana Advocate Reg Hageman

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

On January 19th, Reg Hageman joined me at the Montana State Capitol to lobby for passage of Senate Bill 66 (SB66), "An Act Revising the Youth Access to Tobacco Products…Defining ‘Electronic Smoking Device,’ Revising the Definition of Tobacco.”  This is a long title given to a bill that essentially would outlaw the sale of e-cigarette cartridges and e-cigarette liquid to minors and include electronic smoking devices (e cigarette cartridges) in the definition of tobacco product. 

As the law stands currently in Montana, children are allowed to purchase an e-cigarette cartridge and any e-liquid that does not contain nicotine.  This liquid can be put in the e-cigarette cartridge and inhaled into the lungs as the cartridge heats it and turns it into an aerosol.  The industry that sells these products likes to call this type of inhalation of the aerosol “vaping,” claiming that the liquid is vaporized, while in reality it is made into an aerosol akin to the type you would spray out of a tin can. 

There were two very distinct points that Reg told the committee during his testimony; kids are using e-cigarettes at an alarming rate and tobacco and “vaping” companies are targeting children with the use of flavored e-cigarette liquids like chocolate and gummy bear.  Reg cautioned the committee against allowing Montana children to become the next generation of smokers as they habituate to performing the smoking behavior using these products. 

Reg’s voice is a strong one with a lot of credibility.  He is not only a health teacher at Capital High School in Helena, but he is also the VP of Recreation for SHAPE Montana- the Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.  The American Heart Association is lucky to have advocates like Reg who take the time to voice their opinions on matters affecting the health of Montana.

In regards to SB 66, as of print time of this story the Senate Committee on Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs had not yet voted on its passage.  In the time since it was proposed, several amendments have been proposed in response the vaping industry’s requests not to include electronic smoking devices in with the definition of tobacco products.  Not including these products in the definition will make it difficult to regulate their use in indoor spaces in the future.

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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 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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Montana's 2015 Legislative Session is Under Way

On Monday January 5th Montana’s 2015 legislative session kicked off. As you might already know the Montana Legislature only convenes every two years so we want to make sure to make the most of it!

With your help last year we were able to work with the Board of Health to ensure all babies born in our great state are screened for congenital heart defects. With that victory in hand we hope to work on other issues that will make Montana a healthier state for everyone who lives here.

We will be focusing on two issues over the next few months:

  • Supporting Medicaid Expansion – By expanding Medicaid more people will have access to healthcare. Our hope is that helping people gain access to medical care will catch health issues early before they become catastrophic and allow those who have already experienced health problems to receive the necessary follow up care they need.
  • CPR in Schools – We are asking the Board of Education to add CPR training to school curriculum. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and is most likely to occur outside of a hospital setting. If we can train students in this lifesaving skill we will add thousands of potential lifesavers into our communities each year.

We will call on you from time to time to reach out to lawmakers with messages of support. Please keep an eye out for our emails and take action when you can.

Thank you for everything you do and your support of the American Heart Association!

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