American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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We're Feeling Grateful

As AHA Advocacy staff, we get to work alongside the most remarkable volunteers- like YOU! We get to see lives improved and lives saved as a result of the work we’ve done together, and for that, we're grateful.

As You’re the Cure volunteers, you share personal stories of loved ones lost too soon, of survival, or of triumph over heart disease or stroke- all because you know your stories will make a difference in someone else’s life. It is often those stories that convince lawmakers to pass the policies making our communities healthier.

Because of you, more babies are being screened with Pulse Ox and having their heart defects corrected before it’s too late. Because of you, people in communities around the country have been saved by students who learned CPR in school. Because of you, people are getting better stroke care, families have safe places for active play, fewer people are smoking, and kids are eating healthier food at school.  The impact you’re making is incredible, and our communities are better places- because of you.

You make us cry. You share your joy. You inspire us. You amaze us. And we’re just so grateful for all you do.

We’re including YOU as we count our blessings this month, and we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!   

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Mission:Lifeline Helping all Montanans

The Mission:Lifeline program has been at work for a little over a year in Montana working to improve the outcome of cardiac arrest patients in rural parts of the state.  The program has given out over a million dollars to hospitals and emergency service providers in rural areas to purchase expensive but lifesaving equipment that rural providers can not otherwise afford.

As the program enters its second year they are starting the next phase of outreach to improve cardiac arrest outcomes. Program directors have reached out to the Native American Communities in Montana in order to help improve the outcome of cardiac arrest patients in the Native American communities.

EMS services on all six of Montana’s reservations, plus a tribe with 4,500 Native Americans, have received equipment allocations through a $4.6 million donation by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“Native American risk factors for heart disease are twice as high as anyone else’s because of their body makeup and ethnicities,” said Lacey Gallagher, the spirit of women coordinator for Benefis Health System in Great Falls.

There are about 42,000 people living on reservations and roughly double that number of Native Americans living off reservations in Montana. Life expectancy is more than four years lower than the national average. Obesity is a common risk factor for many of the diseases this group faces, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The equipment being purchased with the grant funds includes 12 lead EKGs in ambulances and the technology to transmit those results to hospitals. In parts of Montana it might take up to two hours for a responder to get to a victim. Time matters when it comes to outcomes and the 12 lead EKG equipment lets responders transmit EKG results from a rural location to the hospital so a plan can be formed in minutes and doctors are ready when the patient arrives.

It all begins with a call to 911, said Joani Hope, Montana’s Mission: Lifeline director.

“Being able to provide information on your heart from the first few minutes that first responders are on the scene can help physicians make lifesaving decisions much earlier,” Hope said.
Wyoming, received a similar grant and has reduced deaths from 7.1 to 4.1 percent, according to data collected by the AHA.

American Indian heart health resources
Mission: Lifeline

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Advocate Highlight- Heidi Stewart

Hi my name is Heidi. I might look like your average college student but what you can’t tell just from looking at me is that I am a survivor.

Growing up I was very active. I began competitive swimming at 8 years old. Everything seemed fine until my junior year of high school. The first sign that something was wrong was when I passed out after a swim meet. My parents took me to the doctor to see what could have caused me to pass out and after seeing a specialist and undergoing many tests I was diagnosed with anxiety.

My dad suffers from anxiety as well so he taught me how to deal with it and how to control the attacks. But on February 12, 2013 my life changed forever. I woke up tired but headed to school anyways. I began feeling weak and thought an anxiety attack might be starting so I spoke with my first period teacher who knew about my attacks and he gave me a pass to go to the library to study. I don’t remember what happened in my second period class. Third period was my leadership class and I really did not feel well at this point. I remember feeling worse and worse as the day went on. Knowing I needed help I headed to the school office. I barely made it before collapsing just inside the door.

Thankfully my school had an AED and within moments CPR was being administered and the AED was being used. The administration, security guard, and school nurse performed CPR for 10 minutes, and shocked me 3 times with the AED.

After I arrived at the hospital and they stabilized me, the emergency room staff proceeded to perform an ECG but found nothing wrong. They sent me to have an MRI to see if there was any brain damage; during the full body MRI is where they found the problem.

They had found a large sum of scar tissue on the bottom right ventricle of my heart which is a sure sign of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/ Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C for short).  ARVD is a form of cardiomyopathy in which the heart muscle of the right ventricle (RV) is replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue. The right ventricle is dilated and contracts poorly. As a result, the ability of the heart to pump blood is weakened.

On February 14th, 2013 they placed an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) into my chest. It works as a pacemaker and a defibrillator in the case of emergency. I am also on two heart medications: a beta blocker and an antiarrhythmic/ beta blocker.

Since that day I have made many adjustments. At one of my first follow-up appointments I was handed a list of physical activities that I could no longer do. I love to be active and thankfully have found new ways to remain active without putting my life at risk.

The American Heart Association funds life-saving research; research that saved my life and the lives of so many others.

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World Stroke Day is October 29th

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fifth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age. Timothy Gamble is a prime example of this as he was only 25 when he had a stroke over Easter weekend.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage. 

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit

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Heart Healthy Trick-or-Treating

Written by Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

It’s finally October and during this time of the year, there are many opportunities to gather with friends and family.  Maybe you’re having a party with the neighborhood, a small gathering of school friends, or plan to just walk the neighborhood and enjoy wonderful costumes that your kids (and maybe yourself) may be counting down to show it to the world! Whatever your plans, remember to take the time to prioritize your heart health.

Try my favorite tips to make your fall festivities fun, safe, and healthy for you, your family, all those trick-or-treaters and party guests.

For the Trick-or-Treaters:

  • Remember to have a healthy meal BEFORE you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to “snack” while walking.
  • Make this a fun family physical activity event. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and then stick to it!
  • Find the right sized collection bag for your child. Steer clear of the pillow case method.

Safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Bring a flash light while walking.
  • Only go to houses with the porch light on.
  • Always inspect candy before allowing children to eat it.
  • Stay in groups when trick-or-treating.
  • Use sidewalks when available, and use crosswalks when crossing busier streets. If your community doesn’t have walkable areas, tell us on social media!  We are actively working to improve our communities to foster heart-healthy activities.  Use #WeAreHeart and visit your local Facebook page and tell us where we should start!

For the Stay-At-Home Host:

  • Be “That House” that sets the standard for healthy living within your community or social group that offers heart-healthy treats to offer at gatherings or give out to trick-or-treaters.
  • For example, mini boxes of raisins, 100% juice juice-boxes, low-sodium snack sized pretzels, water bottles, pre-packaged dried fruits, bubbles, or your favorite heart-healthy treat.
  • Avoid gifting small toys that could be a choking hazard to little ones.

Post Festivities Tips on Staying Heart Healthy:

  • Avoid the urge to buy on-sale candy in the grocery stores after Halloween.
  • For the excess candy after festivities, allocate one treat a day and make sure to pair it with a healthy snack: an apple, a banana, some healthy nuts, or celery.
  • “Buy back” the candy from your child with money or tokens they can trade in for a fun activity: a day at the zoo, an afternoon playing at a local park, going ice skating, or a day at the pool.
  • Some dentist offices have been known to “buy-back” the candy from their patients so ask your dentist if they have a “buy-back” option!

For more tips, visit here.

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Advocate Highlight - Brianne Cassidy

At age 24, Brianne Cassidy’s personality made a 180-degree change. She went from someone who made herself sick over the thought of a job interview or public speaking, to a young lady who gained so much confidence that she uprooted from her childhood home in Suburban Seattle and moved to the city, and back to the suburbs again, ended a long-term relationship, found a new boyfriend and started her own photography business. [GH1] 

It’s a nice coming-of-age story about a young woman taking control, only there’s a cruel twist.

This overhaul came following a stroke that nearly ended her life at age 24.

After a fun day out on Puget Sound with friends in 2013, Brianne was suffering from a headache after taking a spill off of a tube attached the back of a boat. She flew four feet in the air, landing on her head and toppled across the water as if doing a cartwheel.

In the days following, the pain increased in her head and the left side of her neck. She began suffering from blurry vision in her right eye and the tips of her fingers on her right hand were numb. It wasn’t until two weeks later that the worst headache yet hit while she was at work which sent her home for the day.

She went to the doctor the next morning. A snag over insurance paying for a CT scan meant a delay of several hours, so she went home to rest. She cuddled up with Casper, her golden retriever, and fell asleep. About 20 minutes later, Casper jumped up and started running around the room, barking. He never did that.

The noise woke Brianne and she tried to get up.

Brianne could barely move and knew something was wrong. She called her mom in a panic and at first her mom thought it was joke when her words came out garbled. She quickly realized it wasn’t and headed over, also calling a neighbor who got there right away and called 9-1-1.

Doctors at a nearby hospital diagnosed the stroke and gave her the clot-busting medicine tPA before transferring her to a larger facility. At the hospital the doctor’s performed a specialized medical procedure that removes a clot from a patient’s brain. Days later Brianne was walking and talking remarkably well and she finally had relief from the terrible headache.

Up to that point, Brianne was like most people in that she thought strokes were something that happened to old people. Since her recovery, she has learned that stroke is the No. 5 killer of Americans, and a leading cause of adult disability. And, of course, that stroke can happen to anybody at any age. Brianne is now a proud volunteer for the local American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, spreading awareness about the warning signs and the facts that stroke is largely preventable, treatable, and beatable.

To see Brianne share her story and talk about stroke click here.

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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and to help raise awareness with families across the country, the American Heart Association has brought back a fun and easy way to help you with the No. 1 health concern among parents – childhood obesity. Through the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™  families and kids will learn to take control of their health in four weeks by pursuing a different goal each week with activities that are fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family! By the end of the month, you might feel accomplished and be better equipped to live a heart-healthy life. There will also be four Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ Twitter Chats every Wednesday in September.

Mark your calendars and get ready to take the challenge in September by visiting - where you will have access to videos, complimentary challenge materials, and the Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ social media group that will help you, and your family, stay on track.  



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Advocate Spotlight - TJ Haynes

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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Advocate Spotlight - Tim Gable

Meet Tim Gable, a young survivor who had a stroke at age 25 and spent his 26th birthday in the hospital.  Tim’s a new AHA/ASA volunteer who has become a key advocate for our upcoming Saving Strokes Event in Provo. Here’s Tim’s story…

My friends and I had decided to go on a short vacation for Easter weekend. On March 31, 2013 during breakfast I began feeling very dizzy and nauseous.  I informed my friends I was going to go lay down until I felt better. I was walking back to my room when suddenly my left leg would not hold my weight and I fell in the lobby.  I managed to pick myself up thinking what did I trip on? But I saw nothing. I made it to my hotel room door where I once again fell to the floor.  This time however I was unable to get back up and this was the first time I started to feel scared about what was wrong with me.  I lay on the floor just out of reach of the door.  I was there for 20-30 minutes before one of my friends came looking for me. 

He found me on the floor unable to get up.  He dragged me into my room and tried sitting me up but my body wouldn’t hold.  I kept falling over so my friend ran for help realizing something was wrong. He had another friend come and help him pick me up they then ran me out the back door into another friend’s waiting car.  They drove as quickly as possible to the nearest hospital emergency room.  When we arrived the hospital quickly took me in and diagnosed me with having a stroke. I was given TPA then put on an ambulance and rushed to another hospital that was better equipped to handle stroke. 

As soon as I arrived at the other hospital I was taken into surgery where they located the blood clot in my carotid artery in the right frontal lobe of my brain.  There were multiple attempts to remove the clot but every time it was removed it reformed and re blocked the blood flow. The surgeon tried everything he knew but he could not stop the clot from reforming, eventually it had to be left or the surgery was going to kill me.  The clot is still lodged in my head but I’m told there is no risk of it moving. 

The next day I awoke in the neural critical care unit with the worst headache.  Nurses were called in to check on me.  I was rushed to an MRI and it was determined that my brain was now swelling due to the damage done from the stroke and was pressing on the inside of my skull threatening more damage.  The surgeon gave my parents two choices they could remove a portion of my skull in an attempt to relieve the pressure or allow nature to take its course and allow me to pass away. The decision was made to have the bone flap removal surgery.  Which luckily worked and ended up saving my life. 

I spent two weeks in the neural critical care unit and was then transferred to another hospital where I immediately began occupational, physical and speech therapy each day for the next month and a half. My doctors pushed me to do as much therapy as possible due to my young age the more I did early on the more I had the chance of getting back. By the time I was released to go home I was able to walk on my own with little to no assistance.  I immediately started outpatient occupational, physical and speech therapy each day. I continued this for the next year continually improving until I was finally able to pass the driving tests and get my license back!

I returned to school and finished my degree in business management. During this time I felt the need to do more for people like myself who have suffered a stroke and recently participated in an event called Saving Strokes.  As a result I have become a volunteer for American Stroke Association and hope to build a career where I might be able to use my experience and story to help others.

For more information about the Saving Strokes program click here.

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