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Sarah Porter

When I had a stroke four years ago, I was a healthy, happy student at the University of Maine. One minute I'm sitting in class, and the next my face started seizing up.  And then I couldn't understand what people were saying. Concerned family members took me to the ER, where I was accused of faking my symptoms in order to escape my finals. Fortunately, my brother spoke up for me, attracting the attention of another clinician who recognized what was happening.  I was incredibly fortunate to have made a full recovery, but I am also aware every day of how easily things could have gone the other way. 

Having a stroke changed my life. I was able to access the vital services and medical care that I so desperately needed, but I know there are so many families who don't have the financial resources to aid in recovery.  And so many people suffer permanent disability from strokes just because no one around them knew what was happening.  Despite the setbacks of a second stroke and brain surgery, I recently graduated from Columbia University with my Masters Degree in Public Health. My survival has given me a new purpose in life.  I want to use my public health education to make sure every stroke victim is as fortunate as I have been.

Our world is full of the unexpected, and the American Heart Association's mission helps to minimize some of those unanticipated setbacks from heart disease and stroke. I cannot thank you all enough for allowing me the opportunity to support the fight to raise awareness, reduce stroke, and save lives.

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My 'Why' - Kayla Bashe

Here's the latest blog post from our summer intern, Kayla Bashe -

During my gap year, I wanted to learn something useful, so I received training in first aid and CPR. Our instructor, a full-time EMT, told us about people whose lives could have been saved if only someone on the scene knew what to do, or about people who arrived at the hospital already dying because they hadn't known they were having a heart attack until it was too late. There was something incredibly empowering about receiving my little cardboard CPR certification card in the mail. I knew if I saw someone having a cardiac emergency, I would know what to do.

There's this saying that if you save someone's life, you save the entire world. Knowing that you're basically capable of doubling an entire world's chance of survival? There's nothing like it.

My father has been involved with the American Heart Association since I was an embryo. For a while, it was just 'That Thing My Dad Did', like watching cheesy comic-book movies or blasting religious techno music. But the more I learned about the AHA, the more I wanted to help. And when I realized I had a few free months during the summer, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Recently, I helped out at the advocacy table at our gigantic, record-setting CPR event in Times Square. We had a huge variety of participants - every type of person from the Naked Cowboy and the owner of Marnie the Dog to a grandmother visiting from Australia and a seven-year-old girl in a Frozen T-shirt. So many of those people will probably go on to teach CPR to others. Some of them might even save lives.

Volunteering at the AHA is basically the gift that keeps on giving. I get to help write press releases that teach people about the signs of a stroke or heart attack and send letters to legislators explaining why CPR should be taught in New York City schools. Everything I do, sitting here at my laptop, ripples out to have an impact I can't even imagine. I guess you could say I 'heart' being involved with this organization.

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Score: Vaping Industry 1 Public Health 0

State Senate adjourns without taking action to stop vaping in workplaces.  

A loophole in state law allows electronic cigarettes to be used where smoking is prohibited.  The American Heart Association joined with numerous public health groups in calling on state lawmakers to close this loophole.  Why are e-cigarettes still allowed in places where you can't smoke?  The short answer is because e-cigarettes didn’t exist when the earlier law was passed.  That's why numerous localities have passed local laws.  We are happy to report the NYS Assembly sided with public health and passed legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Rosenthal, to close this loophole.

Despite the championship of Senator Hannon, the bill's sponsor, the Senate failed to bring the bill for a vote. Given the large support from the public health community, it is disappointing to see some lawmakers heed the advice of the vaping and tobacco industry.

We need more research about the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes. We do know e-cigarettes are dangerous because they target young people, can keep people hooked on nicotine, and threaten to “re-normalize” tobacco use.  Even more disturbing, according to a new report from the CDC, e-cigarette use tripled among U.S. middle and high school students in just one year.

Thank you to everyone that helped move this bill forward in the Assembly.  We will continue to work to close the e-cigarette loophole in the next state session! 

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NYC Council Hearing on the PE Reporting Bill

Welcome another blog post from our summer intern, Kayla Bashe!

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This past week, the American Heart Association participated in a hearing for the PE Reporting bill in front of the NYC Council Committee on Education.

Just before the hearing began, we had a press conference on the steps of City Hall. The AHA and members of our Phys Ed for All coalition spoke about why city students need physical education. We care about kids' health and academic success.  And most schools in NYC aren't meeting the minimum standards for PE that are required by state law.

The American Heart Association was represented by Yuki Courtland, a member of our Advocacy Committee here in New York City.  Yuki had several opportunities throughout the day to address the impact that physical education can have on children's health and habits.

Inside, the City Council members heard from representatives of the NYC Department of Education, who spoke about their concerns in the bill. However, Council Member Dromm, a former teacher and Chair of the Education Committee, pointed out the discrepancies between their comments and the majority of collected research.

In one example from the testimony, an elementary school provided students with only one half-hour PE lesson per week.  And on that day, their teacher always noticed a huge improvement in their concentration and performance.

I learned that one of the biggest roadblocks to giving our city's students appropriate PE is that too many schools are forced to share the same areas, thereby making scheduling difficult. For example, six schools might have to use the same gym. Programs incorporating physical activity into classrooms can help bridge the gap, but to provide an effective solution, parents and advocacy groups need more and better information.

So before you switch off your computer and get moving, exercise your typing skills and make sure your city representatives support the PE reporting bill today!

Take action here:  http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=36879 

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PHONE BLITZ

IT'S TIME TO STOP VAPING IN WORKPLACES!  Time is running out in Albany to close the ecig loophole – yes, electronic cigarettes are allowed where smoking is prohibited! We are working to close this loophole…with just 2 legislative session days left, we need your help!  PHONE BLITZ TO ASSEMBLY AND SENATE LEADERS TODAY!! 

Leaving a message is easy…we do it all the time.  Simply call the numbers below and leave this message:

As a New York State resident, I urge you to pass legislation to include e-cigarettes in the Clean Indoor Air Act.

Senate Majority Leader Flanagan (518) 455-2071

Assembly Speaker Heastie (518) 455-3791

After you leave your message, just send a quick e-mail saying "done"  to julianne.hart@heart.org.

 When calling, you will likely just be asked for your name and hometown.  If you would like, here are other talking points:

  • Bill number is S2202 (FOR THE SENATE) and A5955 (FOR THE ASSEMBLY)
  • Why are e-cigarettes still allowed in places where you can't smoke?  The short answer is because e-cigarettes didn’t exist when the earlier law was passed.
  • What do we know about e-cigarettes?  That's the problem - we don't know enough. We need more research about the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes. 
  • We do know e-cigarettes are dangerous because they target young people, can keep people hooked on nicotine, and threaten to “re-normalize” tobacco use.
  • Even more disturbing, according to a new report from the CDC, e-cigarette use tripled among U.S. middle and high school students in just one year.

Let's close the e-cigarette loophole!  Thanks everyone!

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PE Reporting Bill Makes Progress!

Great news! New York City Council has scheduled a hearing for the PE Reporting Bill!

This long-awaited legislation will help to address a systemic concern in NYC schools - too few of them are meeting the state requirements for physical education.

According to American Heart Association research, the majority of city schools only offer PE one or two days per week in 45-minute sessions, which comes nowhere close to meeting recommended national guidelines.  Students deserve better, especially with their health on the line. That's why the PE Reporting Bill is needed.  It will require the NYC Education Department to disclose information on each school's PE program, allowing parents and groups like the AHA to know which schools may need additional assistance.

For many students, physical education is the best opportunity to pursue physical fitness. It shouldn't matter which school you attend - every student deserves quality PE. Physical education is the best equalizer - instilling a lifelong appreciation for exercise and healthy behavior. But many children are deprived of this valuable learning experience.  It is simply unfair that this inequity is permitted in our city schools!

The American Heart Association believes that healthy hearts are just as important as healthy minds, and we're optimistic that city lawmakers will agree.  Stay tuned for an action alert on this legislation in the next few days!

(This blog post was composed in part by Kayla Bashe, a new volunteer who will be helping the Advocacy Department in NYC this summer.  You'll see her name on our posts here occasionally.  Welcome, Kayla!)

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A New World Record!

The American Heart Association took over Times Square in New York City to set a new Guinness World Record - for the longest running set of consecutive chest compressions in a CPR Relay.  It was a powerful day highlighting the real reasons why CPR training matters.  The designation as a new Guinness World Record required that at least 250 people had to perform quality chest compressions in the relay. In the end, over 700 participated including survivors, clinicians, paramedics, teachers, students, families impacted by sudden cardiac arrest and more! 

The American Heart Association hosted the event in New York City as part of National CPR & AED Awareness Week. Relay participants each took a turn performing at least 60 chest compressions at 100 beats per minute on a single mannequin, with five seconds or less between turns.

Lawrence Phillips, M.D., director of nuclear cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center and the visionary leader of this event, was No. 250 in the relay, officially setting the world record.  In true New York fashion, we then obliterated the record by achieving 700 total participants!

The AHA also presented its New York Region Heartsaver Hero Awards at the event. The distinguished awards are presented to those who have directly attempted to rescue a victim of cardiac arrest or otherwise helped to strengthen the Chain of Survival.

Congratulations to each of our award winners:

Jim Palmer

Marcy Syms

Patti Kenner

Jerry Kertesz of the Anthem Foundation

KKR & Co., LP

Karen and John Acompora

Joe Mendrick

JJ Pesany

Annette Adamczak

Sue Denis

Consulado General De México en Nueva York

Jody Scopa Goldman

James M. Horowitz, MD

Steve Tannenbaum

Lynne Strong-Shinozaki

Dave Gill

Tommy Watson

Fire Department of New York

Brandon Johnson, MD 

Nicholas Farber, MD

Lawrence M. Phillips, MD

*Photo by Angie Harrison

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Rich Greene, A Stroke Survivor with Heart

On January 14, 2009, Rich got up bright and early as usual -  5:00 a.m.  When he left for work, he felt something was off and thought perhaps it was dehydration. Soon after he had a headache. Then tired. He went to a walk-in clinic and was told it was a migraine.  That night, he began thrashing around. Just 48, Rich was having a stroke.

The  right side of his body was paralyzed.  His mouth was drooping.  At the hospital, doctors were not sure Rich would survive. Now, this stroke hero is sharing his story with others and advocating for the best care for stroke patients.  Recently, Rich traveled to Albany for the first ever Stroke Awareness Advocacy Day at the Capitol.

Rich knows why immediate care is critical for stroke patients - he had to fight to learn how to walk, how to dress himself and how to speak again.  His voice is back - and he's using it to help others.  Rich shared his story with media and lawmakers.  And he urged lawmakers to support legislation that will establish three tiers of stroke centers in New York because all stroke victims deserve the best care.

Now that's a hero! 

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Stroke Heroes Storm the Capitol!

Rich thought it was just a headache.  Erik felt dizzy and queasy. Denise had a headache and neck pain.  Paula collapsed. Turns out, each of them had a stroke.  On Wednesday, May 27th, they joined with volunteers from across the state at the Capitol for the first ever American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Stroke Awareness Day.

Stroke survivors, neurologists and advocates met with their elected officials to stress the importance of stroke care. They asked lawmakers to make stroke a priority by supporting legislation creating a three tiered system of stroke centers. Time is brain for stroke victims.  A three tiered system will help ensure stroke victims get the care they need quickly. Thanks to their efforts, our first ever Stroke Awareness Advocacy Day was a tremendous success with visits to over 40 lawmakers' offices!  Even more exciting, many lawmakers have since signed as co-sponsors of the STROKE legislation!

Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, D-Queens, introduced A7610 to create the three-tiered system which recognizes:

  • Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals
  • Primary Stroke Centers
  • Comprehensive Stroke Centers

“I was surprised to learn that stroke is the No. 5 killer of all Americans,” Simanowitz said. “The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is doing a good job educating people about the symptoms of stroke and the importance of acting quickly. I’m proud to introduce legislation that will make sure the next step gets proper care for victims of stroke.” 

“We have made great improvements in stroke care, and I am honored to join American Heart Association/American Stroke Association advocates in asking for legislation that will further improve that care,” said Dr. Dana Leifer of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. “When a person suffers a stroke, time is brain. By implementing a tiered stroke care system in the state, we will ensure patients go to the most appropriate facility to receive treatment rapidly, improving outcomes.”

“My stroke surprised me, and I waited three days before going to the emergency room,” said Eric Jackson of Schenectady, who will be at the Stroke Awareness Day. “I want everyone to recognize the symptoms and get good – and prompt - care. I have made a good recovery. I want it to be easy for the right treatment to be given, so I hope the New York Legislature creates this three-tiered level of stroke care.”

In addition, a stroke survivors gallery was unveiled and blood pressure screenings were available to all. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke.

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Will you advocate for stroke victims?

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association will be holding our first ever Stroke Awareness Advocacy Day in Albany on May 27th to raise awareness of stroke.  ASA will set-up meetings and provide a training for all.  Participants will then meet with lawmakers and staff to discuss:

  • Stroke Incidence and Mortality
  • Stroke Disparities
  • Stroke Warning Signs and Treatment                   

If you would like to attend, register here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T6GGPZX

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