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Share Your Story: Brian Donaldson and his friend Price

Brian Donaldson and his friend Price Missouri

As I close my eyes every night, I am thankful that my family had a great day, filled with health and happiness.

In January of this year my 51 year old business partner, mentor and friend, Price, had a massive stroke. He was in much better health than most of us and even ran the Boston Marathon last year.

Price was rushed to the hospital on a Sunday morning and because there was no way to know when his stroke occurred the "wonder drug" was not an available option. He would have to rely on his own body to deal with the stroke. Price's family and friends were given the news some days later that he was paralyzed on the left side and would likely not walk again.

Fast forward 9 months, Price is walking with a cane and last week passed his driver's test and has some of his freedoms back. The doctors believe that his strong recovery is due to his lifelong focus on his own health. I am proud to be a part of the Executive Leadership Team for the 2016 Metro St. Louis Heart Walk and champion Edward Jones' Heart Walk team this year. See more about the upcoming St. Louis Heart Walk.

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Advocate Highlight - Craig Miller

My adventure with cardiac disease is not one that everyone reading this will experience. It's 2016 and looking back I truly feel like a survivor. I have had seven stents, one robotic bypass and suffered a Transient ischemic attack (TIA). 

I have had eleven angioplasties’ to either place stents or look at the status of my cardiovascular disease. In 2011, after suffering yet another event I was approached by UC Davis Medical Center to have a new robotic surgery procedure that is a less invasive bypass surgery. After the ten hour surgery was completed I was told that it took so long because there was a lot of scar tissue that made it difficult. Within six weeks I was ready to return to work as Operations Manager for an armored transport company in the Bay Area. My hours were long and the responsibilities and dangers were stressful. In July of 2011 I collapsed at work and they discovered the bypass had failed.  I was told that doctors placed a stent in the artery however it was just a matter of time before it would also be rejected by my body. I was told not to return to work and that I needed to avoid stress and over exertion all together.

Depression set in after being unable to work. I was given social security disability that barely covered the basic necessities. My family filed for bankruptcy and I knew our life needed to change.  My daughter and her family lived in Meridian, Idaho and my wife Sally and I decided that Meridian is where we wanted to go. We sold everything we could to new start and in December of 2011 we moved.          

Our move meant I needed to find a new cardiologist. After experiencing several cardiologists I was getting pretty good at knowing who fit me well. I found Dr. Bass at St. Luke’s and the first thing he suggested was to do an angioplasty to see what was going on so he could properly help me.  The angioplasty confirmed what the previous cardiologist had diagnosed, I had congestive heart failure. 

Dr. Bass felt that cardiac rehabilitation may help me and he was right.  The program of personalized exercise along with diet and heart education was making a difference, however my depression was not improving. Counseling was suggested and with the support from all of the wonderful health professionals I started feeling more positive. I realized that I had a choice; I could continue down my path of feeling sorry for myself or pick myself up and start over. I joined Mended Hearts Chapter 380 and found that by helping others I also helped me. 

In 2013, I was going to cardiac rehabilitation three days a week.  One morning as I got ready to go I felt out of sorts and by the time I got to “rehab” I was a little disoriented and very weak. As I walked into “rehab” I was approached by Amber an educator and RN. Amber saw that something was wrong and after evaluating me called for an ambulance because she recognized I was having a stroke. Amber saved my life because of her quick and knowledgeable reaction!

So here I am in 2016, the President of Mended Hearts. I have without a doubt the best people to work with, and can never thank my doctors, nurses, health professionals, family and friends enough.

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Advocate Highlight - Myra Wilson

On November 3, 2014, I was in nursing school, working as a student nurse at the VA hospital.  My first sign something was not quite right was when I was walking through the nursing station and both of my eyes went blurry.  I could still see color but I couldn’t see letters.  It was blurry for ~30 seconds before clearing up again. 

I was going to lunch and went to give a report to another nurse.  The nurse noticed while I was speaking that I slurred my speech.  I didn’t notice my speech was slurred at all.  It was at that time that I experienced a sudden sharp pain on the right side of my head.  The nurse then expressed concern that I was having a stroke and called a code.  I was told to sit in the nearby chair.

Within minutes a team of people arrived and evaluated me.  Paralysis started to consume my left side, my dominant side.  I had left-sided facial droop and I couldn’t move my left arm or leg.  They had to carry me to the stretcher.

I was taken to the ER where I underwent a CT scan to determine if it was hemorrhagic.  Since it was not, they gave me TPA to help dissolve the clot.

I was transferred to Harborview Medical Center where I underwent an angiogram and a thrombectomy in the cath lab.  The angiogram showed a blood clot in a large artery in the right side of my brain.  The thrombectomy entailed going through my femoral artery, and into my brain to remove the clot.

I spent a week in ICU followed by two weeks in rehab.  At 41 years old, I had to relearn how to walk, talk, and swallow.

Contrary to the more common causes of stroke, i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, etc., my situation was quite different. After more than 12 weeks of testing, the doctors were finally able to pinpoint the cause as a rare autoimmune disorder called antiphospholipid syndrome.

As a nursing student, I’ve taken care of many patients who were stroke survivors.  I never thought it would happen to me. 

I continue to gain strength in my leg and arm.  I have returned to work though I am unable to do my work as an ortho tech, I am able to contribute to the ortho team on projects that are not physically demanding.

The key message I want people to take away from my story is stroke doesn’t discriminate.  Stroke effects people of all ages, ethnicities, professions, economical status, etc.  Know the signs and get help immediately. Act F.A.S.T.

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Meet Jarrid Garcia: Our Heart All-Star

Jarrid Garcia joined the Little Rock, Arkansas office as an Advocacy Intern in early 2016.  During his time on staff, Jarrid has supported the team at many successful events including the Go Red For Women Survivor Gallery unveiling at the Arkansas State Capitol, Strike Out Stroke Night with the Arkansas Travelers baseball team and a variety of community events.

As Jarrid leaves the AHA to graduate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock we will all miss his commitment to our advocacy efforts at the American Heart Association, and hearing updates on the success of the UALR baseball team, where Jarrid is a rock star pitcher!


Hometown: Whitehouse, Texas

Current City: Little Rock, Arkansas

Favorite movie: Good Will Hunting

Hobbies: Golf

Pets (ages and names): Brian, Yellow Lab, 9

Role model: My father

Greatest achievement: Playing baseball at Division 1 level

Two celebrities or historical figures you would want to have dinner with (living or not) and why them?
Comedians John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell. These two, in my opinion, make some of the funniest movies together and it would be hilarious to have dinner with them and see how they act.

Why is advocating with the AHA important to you?
I enjoy using my time in order to help the current and future health of the people that live within my community.

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Share Your Story: Chase Maltbie

Chase Maltbie Kansas

Lansing Elementary School students are jumping for joy over their big donation to the Kansas City American Heart Association. Students raised $13,000 this year thanks to their hard work and the inspiring stories of their gym teacher, Lee Matzeder, and a 6-year-old student, Chase Maltbie.

Matzeder had a heart attack on November 3 at the Royals victory parade. "It felt like someone was sitting on my chest; I could hardly breathe," said Matzeder. His wife, Tina, rushed him to the emergency room at the University of Kansas Hospital, where doctors said he needed triple bypass surgery.

Two months after surgery, Matzeder returned to teach at Lansing Elementary. He was there when students participated in this year's Jump Rope for Heart event benefiting the American Heart Association. First Grader Chase Maltbie had the most donations - a whopping $1,800 in pledges. Chase's dad, Lt. Col. Richard Maltbie, died of a heart attack last October. He was only 39 years old. Chase said he wanted to jump to honor his dad and make a difference.  "To help people with sick hearts so I can donate money to other doctors to help other doctors learn how to take care of sick hearts," said Chase.

The 6-year-old also had advice for other children dealing with a parent's death.  "It's hard to have it; but I hope you can get through it," Chase explained.  Matzeder knows how Chase feels because the gym teacher was also six years old when his father died of a heart attack. Now Matzeder tells everyone he knows to get their heart checked at least once a year.  "I just never thought it would happen to me," said Matzeder. 

Many of the students who participated in the Jump Rope Event said they were jumping to honor their teacher. See the full story here.

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Share Your Story: Katelyn Larson

Katelyn Larson Iowa

Katelyn Larson was born a beautiful and healthy baby but suddenly at 3 months old, she became very sick. That night she would not eat, started choking, her lips turned blue and she became lethargic.

Her parents raced her to the closest ER in Ida Grove, IA where an X-Ray showed an enlargement in her heart. Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha was contacted and they sent their own ambulance to transport her to Omaha. More tests were run and her breathing and condition rapidly grew worse. She was rushed into the PICU and was hooked up to life support, and unfortunately she stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated.

That morning her parents were told that her left heart chamber was enlarged to twice its normal size and that she would most likely need a heart transplant! She was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, caused by a genetic marker and a virus that went to her heart. She was placed on the heart transplant list and waited 28 days for her new gift of a healthy heart. She was released to go home and reunite with her two older brothers after being away for almost 3 months.

Today, Katelyn has passed all of her growth markers and is an active and vibrant 2 year old. She is now only on 3 medications, down from 15. She is an overcomer and reminds us all of how precious life is. 

Katelyn is now helping spread the word about congenital heart defects, which occur at the rate of 1 in every 100 babies. She will be the 2016 Ambassador at the Sioux City Heart Walk which is being held on May 14th!

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Share your Story: Brad and Kristi Wellendorf Family

Brad and Kristi Wellendorf Family Midwest Affiliate

It was a Wednesday night. We met at our 8th grade son’s baseball game.  Brad had to help with field prep, but he had a difficult time raking.  He was not able to catch his breath and was really thirsty.  Unfortunately, he didn’t share this information with anyone and it wasn’t the first time he felt this way. 

In the middle of the night he got up to go to the bathroom, and woke me up thankfully.  The next sound I heard was a choking and gasping sound coming from my husband.  When I turned the lights on his arms were crossed in front of his chest, his thumbs between his fingers, eyes fixated and he was making that awful sound.  Our 12 year old daughter first came into the room, then went out to the living room to get the phone.  We called 911. After telling the dispatcher our name, address and what was going on, Brad went limp.  I handed the phone to Lindsey for the remainder of the time.  I got him on the floor and started CPR.  The dispatcher on the phone was instructing me on what to do, but my training from 30 years prior kicked in and I knew exactly where to place my hands and how to deliver the compressions.  She and Lindsey had to do the counting out loud because I felt like I was hyperventilating.  I sang “Staying Alive” in my head to keep going fast enough.  This was different from my initial training, but I had seen the PSA video snippets on “Good Morning America” and other news shows in the months prior. 

I’m not sure how long into the CPR compressions it was before our son woke up and came into the room wondering what we were doing at 4 o’clock in the morning!  He immediately saw the dire circumstances we were in and switched spots with me.  We continued to ‘tag team’ with the compressions. During the times when he was working on his father, I was able to quickly get dressed, put the dog into another room, open the front door and turn on all the lights for the paramedicss to find us and come in.  I would later tell people we were like a well-oiled machine the way the three of us worked together, doing what needed to be done, and keeping our wits about us all while the man that we loved lay on the bedroom floor dying. 

From the time the ambulance was dispatched to arriving at Brad’s side, 14 minutes had passed.  It felt like it was a minimum of 30-minutes plus to us.    The report showed that they had to shock him two times and there were three attempts to intubate him. By this time 26 minutes had passed. Finally 33 minutes after the ambulance was dispatched he had a pulse, blood pressure and oxygen readings.  They transported him to the hospital.   I was taken by a police officer to the hospital and the kids stayed with a family friend who came over as soon as I called. 

Brad was taken to the cath lab and a stent was placed to open his completely blocked LAD.  This was all completed within 90 minutes from dispatch time.  He was also placed on the hypothermia protocol in the ER and was kept cool for almost 24 hours.  Brad was attached to a ventilator, the cooling unit, a heart balloon pump, blood circulating cuffs on his legs, and four trees full of medication when I saw him next in ICU.   A few hours later he was back in surgery to repair a femoral artery tear.   Every doctor and nurse who heard about my son and I doing CPR on Brad told us how we saved his life or thanked us for doing what we did so that they were able to do what they did for him, because without us, they would not have had him as a patient.  

Brad remained in a coma in the ICU unit. His brain was in near complete seizure activity. It did not look like he was going to come out of the coma, and end of life and organ/tissue donation was being discussed. 

Then 252 hours - 11 days - after the cardiac arrest he moved his leg.  It was 384 hours after the arrest he started talking.  He did not know who we were, he just knew we were important to him.   It took another couple days to call me by name and another to say our son’s full name, and several more days to realize who our daughter was.  During this time prior to going into the rehab hospital here, he had no pain sensation at all.  He couldn’t feel when they took his blood, tested or touched his feet or even when his hand was caught between the bed rail and the table.  This part of his brain hadn’t found it’s new pathway yet.   

His recovery really accelerated after what he called his ‘superman nap’ on his second day in rehab, the 23rd day after his cardiac arrest.  He described it that he could ‘see’ the synopsis and neurons reconnecting.  This is the same man who couldn’t say the months of the year or days of the week yet without help or extreme delay, or remember what number he was on long enough to continue to count.   He was able to relearn to walk and his balance improved to be independent. His brain-processing  improved through therapy enough to be able to come home after 13 days in rehab and 35 days from the cardiac arrest.  He continued with out-patient therapy for many months and went back to work on a very limited basis two years later.  

We are so fortunate that we were at home with Brad when his attack happened and were able to experience a true miracle.  

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Advocate Spotlight: Rosemary Jaffe

What is your why?

Being a survivor also means learning how to survive by being your own advocate and advocating for healthcare to help others.

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

After my bypass surgery, I couldn't get past the feeling that I survived for a reason. Advocacy gave me something to fight for.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

Good health insurance for everyone and more funding for research. I'm very passionate about finding better ways to treat and cure diseases that effect the health of our youth and to teach kids good habits so that they have a future free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

Being an active member of the Illinois Advocacy Committee has been a wonderful experience. I enjoy our in-person meetings and discussions with people of all different backgrounds from all over the state. It is hard not to leave an Illinois Advocacy Committee meeting not feeling inspired to do more.

What is your favorite way to be active?


What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Berries, green beans, cauliflower and carrots.

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Meet Caitlyn Borosak
"The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers." ~Terri Guillemets
Volunteers play a vital role at the American Heart Association, working alongside staff members, and fellow You're the Cure advocates to jointly advance our mission of building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. Through the Pulse Newsletter, we highlight the contributions of our volunteer network. Each month, we select a Volunteer of the Month who is performing above and beyond the baseline of excellence. We're thrilled to spotlight the dedication and mighty work of Caitlyn Borosak, who is quickly becoming one of our volunteer all-stars. Read below to learn more Caitlyn!
Name: Caitlyn Borosak
Occupation: Wellness Associate/ Student
How long have you been volunteering with the American Heart Association?  
3 months
Why do you advocate to build healthier lives and communities, free of heart disease and stroke?
The upmost important aspect of our lives is our health. Without it, our quality of life can worsen, and the attempt to get back on track becomes that much more of a challenge. Throughout my years in college, I have studied extensively on the consequences that come from ignoring eating well and being physically active, and by advocating to build healthier lives and communities, the message of health can be heard much more loud and clear. Personally, reaching as many people as possible on the importance of being healthy is my passion, as well as a necessity; our lives matter.
What are your passions and your interests in life?
I love learning about food! A couple years ago, I developed an autoimmune disease that affected me greatly in a very negative way. For a year of my life, I could not figure out how I developed this problem and no doctor knew how to help me keep it under control. It wasn’t until I started doing my own research that I found food had EVERYTHING to do with it. From then on, I have become passionate about nutrition and being mindful of what I put it my body, as well as encourage others to do the same. Along with my passion for good, healthy foods, I enjoy everything and anything outside, going on adventures, testing new waters, and enjoying the company of those I love.
What is your all-time favorite thing to do on your time off? 
I couldn’t live a day without the people I love! Whether we are going on a short or long trip, making dinner, or doing absolutely nothing together, anytime I am in the company of my friends and family I am at my happiest. 

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Meet our Stroke Heroes!

Superheroes fly. Stroke Heroes prevent stroke.

May is American Stroke Month. While stroke threatens millions of lives, it is largely preventable, treatable, and beatable. We are honored to recognize these stroke survivors who have joined us on our mission to end stroke. They are working hard across our lone star state to raise awareness of risk factors associated with stroke, and they are fiercely advocating for healthier lives. 

Meet our Stroke Heroes! 

Michelle Kryzwonski, Georgetown, TX

After waking up one morning with a headache and unable to easily walk across her bedroom, Michelle knew something was horribly wrong. She had her daughter call 911, and struggled to even sit up by herself while waiting for EMS to arrive. Because Michelle knew the signs and symptoms of stroke, she insisted they take her to the hospital. Doctors were surprised to learn that she had suffered a stroke, even though she had none of the risk factors and appeared healthy. In fact, Michelle was able to recover quickly and continues to lead a full life because of her healthy lifestyle and knowledge of the signs and symptoms of stroke.

Kelly Fucheck, The Woodlands, TX

Growing up as a firefighters daughter, Kelly Fucheck thought she knew the signs and symptoms of a stroke, until the day she had one. One Sunday morning, Kelly woke up to a strange sense of vertigo. Thinking she was getting sick, Kelly decided to not go to the doctor until two days later. Once she arrived at the doctor, she was rushed to the Emergency Room where she was told she had suffered a stroke. "I remember thinking 'Oh my God, I'm 32 years old, and I had a stroke.'" Now, Kelly is a mom of two and is using her story to help others understand the importance of stroke education. "It's not always the face drooping, or the slurred speech, sometimes there's other symptoms like vertigo or dizziness."

Toni Alika Hickman Houston, TX

At the age of 32, Toni Hickman, a budding musician and rapper, suffered two brain aneurysms and a stroke derailing her dreams of achieving stardom as a hip hop artist. She became paralyzed and lost her ability to speak. Her family surrounded her with support as she struggled to learn to speak, walk and regain mobility and some physical control of her body. After months in a wheelchair and rehabilitation, she walked out of the hospital on her own with a new accessory, her cane, and strong will to get her life back, and to live independently while knowing the road she would have to travel would be long and difficult. “Every time someone sees me walk with my limp and is bold enough to ask what happened, it is my gateway to share and inspire better health,” Hickman said. “No matter your age, you can be at risk for heart disease or stroke, now is the time to take action to reduce your risk.”

Nicki Petrelli, Houston, TX

At age 28, Nicki Petrelli was in the best shape of her life. She lived a healthy lifestyle and didn't have any health problems. One day at church, Nicki's leg began to feel numb. As she tried to lift herself up on the pew, her entire left side went numb. Her husband called 911 and let them know that he believed his wife was having a stroke. With no history of stroke in her family, the diagnosis was unbelievable. But Nicki was having a stroke. The doctors discovered her stroke was caused by a congenital heart defect that had not been treated. Today, Nicki is a busy lawyer and active mom of two. Despite her stroke, Nicki encourages others to understand that a stroke can happen to anyone, no matter how healthy.

Charnette Taylor, M.D., Spring, TX

As a pediatrician, Dr. Charnette Taylor was well aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke. While observing a patient, Dr. Taylor begin to feel dizzy and had to sit down. When her patient and nurses asked her if she was ok, Dr. Taylor said she found it difficult to respond with words she uses daily. "I remember being overwhelmed with the peace that - something told me that this would not kill me." Dr. Taylor received tPA, a clot-busting drug, quickly and was in an MRI an hour and a half later. Tests revealed Dr. Taylor was born with a congenital heart defect, which ultimately attributed to her stroke. Dr. Taylor now spends her time advocating for the American Heart Association and spreading awareness about congenital heart defects and stroke prevention.

Shondra Rogers McGray, Houston, TX

At 38 years old, Shondra Rogers McGray was months away from the birth of her child. During pregnancy, she developed preeclampsia (toxemia) hypertension. A few months after the birth of her son, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. The stroke had a significant impact on her family. She was unable to work for 3 months and was restricted from doing a number of things, which included driving, participating in strenuous activity, or lifting heavy objects. "As a result of my stroke, my son had to be cared for by my mother and siblings, as I was unable to prepare and take him to school. It was hard. However, these restrictions allowed me ample time to regain my strength and have regular check-ups with my doctor and my neurologist." Shondra recognizes that she is fortunate to be a stroke survivor and takes every opportunity possible to share her story with others.

Jennifer Caribardi, RN, Kingwood, TX

As a registered nurse and Director of Critical Care Services at Kingwood Medical Center, Jennifer Caribardi was highly skilled in treating stroke patients.Yet, when she herself showed clear signs of a stroke, she didn't believe it. "I am too busy for this to happen," she said. Her first symptom was blurred vision, followed by the loss of feeling on her left side. She felt her face began to droop and realized she was having difficulty with speech. But she was in the right place at the right time. Kingwood Medical Center is a designated Primary Stroke Center, meaning they have taken the necessary steps to ensure that they can provide quality care to stroke patients. Since then, Jennifer has dedicated her time to help the organization advocate on the local and national levels for Stroke education, prevention and treatment.

John Murphy, Austin, Texas

In 2005, John traveled to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon for the fifth time. During the 23rd mile, he began to feel dizzy and lost part of his vision. As a seasoned runner, he passed it off as dehydration and continued to finish the race. Later that evening, while stretching, John experienced numbness in one of his arms and was unable to get up. A bystander noticed and called 911. John, at the age of 45, had suffered a stroke. After four days in the ICU, he spent another 6 weeks in intensive in-patient therapy and 18 weeks in outpatient therapy. Years later, John is living a healthy, vibrant life despite his permanent physical and cognitive disabilities.

John Murphy has lent his voice and passion to stroke awareness and prevention for over 8 years in Austin. John has increasingly become a stellar grassroots advocate lending his support to AHA’s legislative priorities including: Quality Systems of Care, smoke-free workplaces, CPR in School, and newborn heart defect screenings. By attending Advocating for Heart events at the Capitol and meeting elected officials, John is able to add a face and a personal story to many of our issues.

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