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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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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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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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CPR SMART Schools Take Off in NYC!

It all started with Staten Island's Port Richmond High School back in February...they were honored as New York City's first CPR Smart school during American Heart Month.  Then came the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Brooklyn.  Not to be outdone, Manhattan achieved their first CPR Smart designation in April when Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics made their promise to train every student in basic CPR.  (See a great article here from our friends at El Diario - I've never sounded better! - http://www.eldiariony.com/estudiantes-secundaria-aprenden-salvar-vidas)  Then last week, two more schools from Brooklyn and Manhattan joined our growing list of city schools who are prioritizing this lifesaving training for all of their students.  Congratulations to the School for Human Rights (Brooklyn) and Cascades High School (Manhattan)! 

Here are some great photos of the presentation to these schools when they participated in our recent meeting of the NYC Board of Directors:

(Left - Board Chair, David Lefkowitz presents the CPR Smart recognition to The School for Human Rights representative Ariana Covington)

(Left - Board President, Dr. Larry Chinitz presents the CPR Smart designation to teacher James Walther of Cascades High School.)

And in case you missed them, here are links to the press coverage from our first two CPR Smart Schools:

Port Richmond - http://www.silive.com/northshore/index.ssf/2015/02/port_richmond_high_school_beco.html

Juan Morel Campos - http://brooklyn.news12.com/news/williamsburg-school-teaches-students-cpr-1.10175530

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Hayder Hashim, M.D., New York City

My Dad is Why.

It was a Wednesday evening in June of 2006. I was in my room, studying for my final Gynecology and Obstetrics test, when I heard my mother calling me saying "your father is not looking right".

He was 57 at the time, in his usual state of health when he started complaining of a left-sided chest pressure he initially felt that morning while teaching his students basic Tennis skills.

I ran frantically to his room on the other side of our home to find him so restless.  “It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest” he screamed in pain. As a fourth year medical student, I was running down a list of different diagnoses in my head, trying so hard to keep a "heart attack" at the bottom of my list.

We rushed him to the nearest cardiac center, and sure enough, he was diagnosed with a heart attack. He received the required treatment and was thankfully discharged home after two day hospitalization.

Through an interesting journey many years later, I found myself practicing medicine and specializing in cardiovascular diseases.  I know my dad is why I became so passionate about healthy living and health promotion.

When I joined the American Heart Association as a volunteer, I wanted to do my part to raise awareness about heart disease.  My goal was to keep families together for longer, to give them an opportunity to live and experience special moments such as a child’s college graduation, a daughter's wedding and the birth of a grandchild.

Through my work with the American Heart Association, I was able to play a role in increasing awareness about Hands-Only CPR. We are still working on the proposal in New York State that will ensure high school students are trained in basic CPR prior to graduation.  I was privileged to be one of the nearly 100 advocates who traveled to Albany last year to ask our Legislature to support this policy.

More recently, I joined the American Heart Association’s efforts to help fight obesity, a disease that has been troubling our population for generations. Obesity leads to many chronic illnesses, most of which are “silent killers” such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.  Testifying in front of the Assembly committees address sugary drink legislation was a tremendous experience.

I will continue to fight against all the bad habits that I have seen throughout the years that have led to many catastrophes in my patients’ health. For a better, healthier and longer life, please join our efforts to make a difference.

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New York City Leaders Support Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund

On a cold, drizzly spring afternoon, city leaders joined advocates on the steps of City Hall to rally for the state to replenish the fund that helps to address food deserts in New York.  The weather wasn't going to stop us!  Thanks to Council Members Crowley and Levin, and advocates from The Food Trust, Make the Road New York, City Harvest and of course the American Heart Association, the elected leaders in Albany heard us loud and clear!  The state must invest wisely and support healthy food access.

The Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund was established 3 years ago with a $10 million investment by the state.  Those dollars were immediately leveraged to create an approximately $30 million pot of funding for prospective business owners to build new markets in the neighborhoods that need it most.  Thanks to this fund, more than 15 projects have been approved, bringing healthier food to all New Yorkers.  To learn more about our rally in NYC in support of the Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund, click here:  https://animoto.com/play/SnvmF1wNVQYCDHIw9Gt3OQ

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Roosevelt Island Supports Community CPR Training!

Thanks to advocates Lynne Strong-Shinozaki, Sharon Williams and a great group of volunteers, Roosevelt Island is quickly becoming the safest place to be if you suffer a cardiac arrest!  Lynne and Sharon have helped implement a community training program that prepares New Yorkers to use hands-only CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) in the case that someone's heart stops beating.  More than 300 people have been trained in these life-saving skills as a result of their efforts! 

To learn more information, or to find out about future training dates, visit this link:

http://rooseveltislander.blogspot.com/2015/03/help-save-life-take-roosevelt-island.html

We hope that the high school on Roosevelt Island soon starts to train students as well so they can be designated CPR Smart like Port Richmond High School was last week.  If Lynne and Sharon have their way, everyone in this vibrant slice of Manhattan will soon be prepared to help save a life! 

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Thank you, Council Member Crowley!

Following up on the recent introduction of our PE Reporting bill in New York City, Council Member Crowley took to the TV to help advocate for her proposal.  Check out the link here:  http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2015/02/19/ny1-online--queens-councilwoman-discusses-efforts-to-get-more-info-on-phys-ed-in-nyc-schools.html

Thank you, Council Member Crowley, for sharing our message and promoting the need for improved physical education in NYC!

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