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Marilyn Boyd, Tennessee

Marilyn Boyd was 46-years-old, one day and 90-years-old the next.

She couldn’t move her right side and speaking had become difficult — at least that’s what she was told. “I thought that something must’ve been wrong with their ears because in my head, I sounded fine,” Marilyn said. “That’s one of the things of a stroke that’s really strange.” Although she was still 46, Marilyn’s abilities had become so hindered due to her stroke, she felt she was much older.

Marilyn’s survivor story began when she was outside her Jackson, Tennessee home wrangling the family’s cats one July night in 2002. While reaching for a cat under a metal chair, something went wrong. “I had a cat-tatrophe,” said Marilyn. That wrong move caused Marilyn to collapse and she hit her head on a terra cotta flower pot. Her husband Howard heard the clash and called for an ambulance when he saw her unconscious. Doctors now describe her incident as a “traumatic cerebral accident leading to a stroke.” 

“I didn’t have any risk factors for stroke,” said Marilyn. “This is something that can truly hit anyone at any time.”

After her treatment in the hospital, Marilyn began learning elementary skills again, like speaking, brushing her teeth and tying her shoes. The main focus of her rehabilitation was speech therapy, and after months of work and continued concentration, Marilyn could communicate again.

Now, Marilyn is speaking out in a big way. Using her experiences for reference, she has spent many hours in the offices of her local, state and federal lawmakers to help increase funding on stroke research, care and education.

“If you talk enough to enough people, somebody’s gonna do something,” she said.

Marilyn’s hoping that not only lawmakers, but also stroke survivors will get involved. She believes - by sharing her story other stroke survivors would benefit.

“I don’t view myself as significant,” Marilyn said. “But the issue is significant, so anything that’s done to help it is so important.” 

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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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Campbell Martinez, Louisiana

Campbell Martinez, Louisiana

Campbell was diagnosed with Tetrology of Fallot the day she was born.  On March 2, 2011, at the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, she had open heart surgery at only 6 months old.

Campbell is almost 2 years old now and she’s doing great!  She loves coloring, drawing with chalk and playing with her twin sister and two older sisters.  She has been an absolute trooper and a blessing to our entire family. We feel very blessed and privileged that God gave her to us!

My family and I are thankful to and support the American Heart Association because without them, the technology and studies for heart disease and stroke would not be as advanced as they are today.  I believe that because of the American Heart Association, our sweet Campbell will have a healthy life just as the rest of us do!

I will continue raising money each year for babies born with TOF and other heart conditions because every child deserves a great life.  Through the American Heart Association, we are several steps closer each day to making this happen.

UPDATE: This post was originally written in December 2013, and we'd like to update you on how Campbell is doing today.  "She is doing amazing!  She is currently playing Wee-Ball with her twin, Carrington, and has more energy than all three of her sisters put together!  She is very outgoing and keeps me on my toes.  We still have visits to her cardiologist every 6 months. For now, she is doing awesome and I can only pray that she stays healthy and keeps going in the right direction!  Campbell will be 4 years old in August."

-Written by Trisha Martinez

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Carol Sterling

Carol Sterling began her time as a volunteer for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Ponca City, working with Heart Walk. Over the past few years, Carol became involved in the Go Red for Women campaign through the Passion Committee. Her first opportunity to learn about Advocacy happened when she attended her first Go Red Day at the Capitol event in February 2014, where she spoke to her state lawmakers about the importance of CPR training for High School students.
 
Since then, Carol has been an active member of the You’re the Cure network, and participated in many proclamation ceremonies for Stroke and Heart disease awareness. Carol is a Heart Disease survivor, and enjoys sharing her story with lawmakers because she believes it’s important to put a face to heart disease in Oklahoma.
 
Carol will soon head to Washington D.C. for the 2015 You’re the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day and will meet with members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation on important issues such as funding for the National Institute of Health and School Nutrition. 

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William 'Bill' Daly, Mississippi

Our 2014-15 Mississippi Advocacy Committee is composed of 10 individuals from across the state with different occupations, who have a great interest in advocating for policy change for heart health issues. Throughout the year, we will introduce you to some of our members. 

Today, we'd like you to meet Mr. Bill Daly, a longtime volunteer and seasoned advocate for nearly 40 years.

Where do you reside?  Grenada, MS

What are two ways you keep yourself healthy?  Exercise and diet.

One unique thing about you?  Love playing the drums.

Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer with the AHA?  The researchers that developed the procedures that allowed me to be 'fixed' as a teen that gave me the opportunity to look forward to old age.

My survivor story:

I live a blessed life because of the research done back in the earlier days of American Heart Association.  I was born with a heart murmur that continued to worsen as I grew.  My life expectancy was 35 because my heart was working so hard.  I had surgery when I was 15.  I am now 63, have 6 grandkids that I enjoy. Plus, I am perfectly healthy - jog, play drums in a jazz band and enjoy life.

Today, this condition is not a big deal.  As a matter of fact a heart surgeon once told me, "I can fix that on my lunch hour now."  But, in 1964 it was a big deal.  I am forever thankful to those who went before us and provided the research that led to the surgical techniques that have allowed me to live a normal life.
I have tried to pay it forward.

 

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Share Your Story: Sneaky Salt

Sneaky Salt

Become an advocate in our fight against sneaky Salt! Say NO to the higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other health problems linked to too much sodium.

Did you know that most Americans eat more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of sodium? Chances are, that includes you—even if you rarely pick up the salt shaker. Salt is sneaking up on us—mostly when we go out to restaurants or eat packaged foods. Check out this fun new 1-minute video to see for yourself: http://bit.ly/1trMjLv

This excess salt puts us at risk for elevated blood pressure which means an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Stand up for your health and pledge to reduce your sodium intake today! Take the pledge here: http://bit.ly/1zrYF6R. Don’t stop there…Encourage your family and friends to take the pledge, too.

Want more info? Check out our new website, heart.org/sodium, for a quiz, infographics, recipes and more. Thank you for standing strong against "sneaky Salt!"

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Ali and Rock Riggs

Alison “Ali” Riggs, and her husband Rock, are two of the AHA advocates helping to guide a bill through the Hawaii State Legislation this year that would require all newborns to be screened for critical congenital heart defects using pulse oximetry prior to discharge from their birthing center.

Below is their story:

 My 3-year-old daughter Grace was born with a severe heart defect. Her defect was not detected until she was six days old and was struggling to live. She spent the first eight months of her life in a children’s hospital, suffering unimaginable pain and fear.

We were extremely fortunate that she survived although her life will be a challenging one. If we would have known about her condition right away, her body, specifically her lungs, would most likely be stronger and her hospital stay and subsequent care would have been less.

A pulse-ox test is simple, painless, and inexpensive. Eight months in the neonatal intensive care unit is none of these. That’s why we’re strongly supporting the American Heart Association’s efforts to pass legislation requiring all babies to be screened prior to discharge. It will save and improve lives.

Ali and her husband have helped us educate lawmakers about this screening and its importance. Pulse oximetry is a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive screening tool used already by most hospitals that measures blood oxygen levels and pulse. When placed on a baby’s hand or foot it can indicate, if measures read low, the possibility of a congenital heart defect and the need for more extensive testing. Babies born with congenital heart defects sometimes don’t exhibit symptoms until days or weeks after being discharged and returning home. In critical cases, by the time the symptoms appear, and parents recognize them and return to the hospital, it might be too late to save the baby or long-term complications can occur. If identified early, many congenital heart defects can be corrected through advance treatments allowing the babies to go on to live relatively normal lives.

The Hawaii pulse oximetry screening bill passed out of the State Senate in March and was headed into a conference committee where final language was hoped to be agreed upon by House and Senate representatives. If approved it will move to Governor Ige’s desk for signature into law. Stay tuned for an update on the bill’s status in next month’s You’re The Cure newsletter.

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Advocate Spotlight: Joan Enderle

Early in my career as a dietitian, I learned firsthand how one person can make an impact and that a small group of individuals can shape policy at a local, state and national level. Those early experiences built my confidence to expand advocacy work to include the American Heart Association (AHA) as a volunteer. I am an active member of the You’re the Cure network.   

In June 2006, I began my career with the AHA, as the director of the Go Red For Women initiative in North Dakota.  Since that time, my role has been varied to include ND Communication Director, media advocacy, Mission: Lifeline public education campaign, and a number of special projects. 

This month I am transitioning to a new position with AHA as the regional campaign manager for the ANCHOR grant partnership program. North Dakota was selected as one of 15 markets to leverage our strategic priorities through new and expanded partnerships to accelerate population-based strategies that will reduce chronic disease and health disparities. Specific focus on procurement with our work toward increased access to environments with healthy food or beverage options in the Bismarck/Mandan communities. 

This is a natural transition that fits my strengths and passion as it builds on my professional education and past experiences. The impact of policy and environmental changes on behavior and diet are of special interest to me. I’ve seen the widespread impact of policy and environment changes to improve nutrition in home, work, school, faith communities and community settings. Nutrition changes to include increased fruit and vegetable consumption, sodium reduction, decreased sugar sweetened beverages, lower fat and increased low fat dairy consumption. 

The first couple months, I will be focused on gathering community needs assessment data, identifying and meeting with key stake holders and potential partners prior to the writing and implementation of a 12 month community action plan. 

I look forward to visiting with YTC advocates and community members as the ANCHOR grant moves forward.   Contact me at joan.enderle@heart.org or call 701-658-3046 to get involved.

Note:  Joan is pictured with her granddaughter, Madilynn. 

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Grace Firestone

Grace Firestone was given an incredible gift--a second chance at life. Just days after her high school graduation, her brother saved her life by performing CPR until EMTs arrived and what she’s done since is extraordinary. Grace understood that her story had the ability to inspire and worked with American Heart Association staff to convince decision-makers that teaching every student hands-only CPR was not only feasible, but necessary. Thanks to her dedication and a two-year effort, all Delaware students will now graduate with the skills to save a life.

In addition to her health advocacy work, Grace is studying to take the MCAT for Fall 2016 entry into medical school, serves on the patient advisory board of Christiana Care Health System and is captain of her club soccer team, a sport she wasn’t sure she could return to. For a woman barely in her 20s, Grace has already left a lifesaving legacy and her work is just beginning.

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Advocate Spotlight: Laura Sypal

As a mother of three small children, I consider it my job and privilege to help them grow up healthy and strong. I feel that one of the best and easiest ways I do this is by feeding them nutritious food and living an active lifestyle as a family. I am a firm believer that food can be either our best medicine or our most frequent and accessible form of poison, and therefore I am passionate about preparing and consuming nourishing food and keeping up on the latest nutrition research (much of which is funded by the AHA)! I can often be found in my kitchen, washing and cutting fruits and veggies for snacks or experimenting with recipes to make them healthier, whether it's sneaking quinoa and carrots into my family's meatloaf or subbing applesauce, honey and whole grains for some of the fat, refined sugar and white flour in baked goods. We try to implement exercise into our normal daily routine, often walking to school or spending a good portion of our free time each day doing active play such as riding bikes or scooters, swinging, climbing, dancing, jumping, etc! While I do not have a personal history of heart disease, I have a few close friends who do and I know how important it is to take preventative action now against such a prevalent disease.

My oldest daughter, Claire, started kindergarten this year and now spends a large percentage of her time at school, often eating hot lunch with her friends. It is so important to me that she receives healthy food from school while she is there, and that the school build on what I am teaching her at home about healthy eating and exercise habits. Looking beyond the needs of my own family, I know there are kids all over the US whose families struggle to put food on the table, and for many of those kids school lunch is the only real meal they may eat all day, as well as their only opportunity to receive fresh fruits and vegetables. I know the AHA has worked hard to help improve the quality of school lunches through government programs and I desire to help support them as they seek to continue and add upon these programs, for the health and well-being of our future generations.

This is one reason why I am so excited to be an advocate for the AHA this May in our nation's capital for You're the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day, with emphasis on protecting school meal nutrition. I look forward to learning how to be a better advocate for this cause and meeting with our representatives to personally ask for continued support of school lunch nutrition and NIH funding.

 

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