American Heart Association - You’re the Cure
WELCOME! PLEASE LOGIN OR SIGN UP

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
SIGN UP
Advocate Spotlight: Julie Smith

Julie Smith Nebraska

Heart disease has always been of importance to me even before I became a nurse.  My parents both had cardiovascular disease identified when they were in their 50s.  It affected their lives then and as they aged.  Being from a rural area, when my father had his first heart attack at age 52, a service from a boarding state was the closest EMS we had and they were a volunteer service.  Their answering the 911 call and driving on the dirt roads in the middle of the night made the difference for my Dad.

That is one reason I am so passionate about my work with Mission: Lifeline in Nebraska and the work toward the Statewide STEMI (ST Elevated MI) System of Care.  It allows me to help those type of services continue to be there for their rural neighbors.

Mission: Lifeline through the American Heart Association offers the opportunity to identify the continued gaps in rural areas where funding and education are needed to bring the latest equipment and quality care to our rural residents.  As a registered nurse, I continue to see the necessity for public education, improved systems of care and collaboration between EMS and healthcare, both urban and rural.  There remains a need for coordination of the many projects and initiatives that are going on throughout the state so we can maximize the use of our sometimes limited resources.

Our work with the STEMI Task Force which includes stakeholders from across the entire state is allowing Mission: Lifeline to pull together those resources and work towards a cohesive Statewide STEMI System of Care. This group is learning from other systems in a model sharing approach, and also continues to identify needs throughout the state.  Funding and possible legislation will be needed in the future to help sustain the great work of the Task Force and these stakeholders.  We are not able to fund all the EMS services in the state that respond to 911 calls in rural areas and the work of grassroots and advocacy groups will be needed to continue to move forward with this initiative.

Read More

Advocate Spotlight: Mary Michaels

Mary Michaels South Dakota

My Dad is Why.

It was the month of May; I finished my second year of college and moved back home for the summer.

I was a kid that actually loved hanging out with my parents. As the youngest of 6, I was raised going everywhere with them – concerts, plays, community events, or trips to visit family. I was looking forward to getting back to my summer job and having time to relax with my parents.  Less than a week after I got home from college, however, our world turned upside down.

It was a Tuesday morning, and my mom and I were awakened by a loud bang.  My dad had collapsed against the door of the bathroom. My parents had recently downsized from a house to a condo, and I knew there was a doctor in the building. I first called 9-1-1, and then went to find help while my mom started CPR.

It was sudden cardiac arrest. He was only 57. He was gone.

I think my dad is why … through an interesting twist of fate many years later … I was led to a job with the American Heart Association.  I know my dad is why I became so passionate about healthy living and health promotion.

My family and I enjoy getting out and being active – whether at home or when we travel. Our son’s initials are JIM, in honor of the grandfather he never got to meet.

When I joined the American Heart Association, I wanted to do my part to raise awareness about heart disease and keep families together longer … to keep other daughters from losing their dads and not being able to share special events like college graduation, a wedding and the birth of a grandchild.

Through my work with the American Heart Association, I was able play a role in ensuring high school students have physical education to teach them the benefits of life-long physical activity, in protecting residents and visitors from secondhand smoke through our statewide smoke-free law, and in helping our very youngest South Dakotans get screened for congenital heart defects right after birth.

Today, I work with Live Well Sioux Falls – a community-wide initiative to help our residents Breathe Well, Eat Well, Feel Well and Move Well. It is rewarding to see individuals make healthy lifestyle choices, to help employers invest in their employees through worksite well-being and to work with great community partners (like the American Heart Association!) to create a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

Read More

Don Bremner - 3 Time Heart Survivor and Advocate

I had my first heart attack at the age of 51 about an hour after a hard game of squash.  Up to that point I was in excellent health and maintained my fitness by running 10Ks and half-marathons.  I knew about my family heart history but like many thought, ’I’m fitter and healthier with a much better diet than Dad had’ believing it wouldn’t impact me.

But that changed an hour after a squash game in 2004 when I felt nausea, dizziness, sweating, and threw up several times. Twenty minutes later there was no pain but tightening in my chest. Being a guy I made a practical decision to drive 17 miles home to my wife. Do not do this.

Once home the paramedics were called quickly and I started receiving medical attention. The great work they do includes communicating with the hospital so they are prepared to receive you and this can be life- saving.

They put paddles to my chest in the wagon leading to a stent in RCA. Home lunchtime Wed. I went back to the gym Saturday to ramp up my fitness slowly.

In 2005 I experienced a similar event and had another episode in 2012.  I am very fortunate to survive these events and feel compelled to share my story and help others.

I have made it my mission to talk with groups of people to help them learn the risk factors and warning signs associated with heart disease – especially men!  I have found that guys have a terrific ability to ignore warning signs and not admit when their body is telling them something is wrong. 

I explain the importance of good nutrition and exercise.  But I also explain the critical role that genes and family history play in one’s risk for heart disease.  My dad died at age 59 from cardiovascular disease after three events.  His dad also died at 67 from CVD.  My brother had a double by pass at age 49 and is thankfully still living at 76.

My message is simple: know your risk, know your numbers, and don’t ignore warning signs.  Listen to your Doctor and act on their advice. Your loved ones and friends will thanks you.

While I have made many presentations over the years I recently made a trip to the New Mexico Capitol to share my story with lawmakers.  With the help of heart and stroke healthy legislation we can continue to not only raise awareness but improve effective systems of care for patients. 

I look forward to sharing my story with anyone willing to hear it and encourage you to share your voice in any way you can. 

Read More

The Csigi Family

For a parent, there may be no greater fear than losing a child.

Wojo and Cari Ann Csigi, of Waihee, experienced that loss in 2011 when their infant son Shayden died from complications related to congenital heart defects. Now they are finding solace through their support of the American Heart Association whose work includes efforts to improve outcomes for babies born with heart defects.

Shayden was born on July 19, 2011 six weeks pre-mature. After experiencing early signs of labor, Cari Ann called Kaiser Permanente, her medical provider and explained her symptoms. She was told to go immediately to her doctor who then had her transferred to Maui Memorial Medical Center. After an hour there, she was told that she would be transferred by air ambulance to Kaiser’s Medical Center on Oahu.

“My doctor explained to me that if I gave birth on Maui, my baby would be flown out to Oahu immediately after birth to receive the advanced care needed because he was pre-mature,” said Cari Ann. “I cried the whole plane ride over. Wojo met me and we were taken to Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center.”

“As I was wheeled into the operating room for a C-section I was super nervous, anxious and scared, but those feelings disappeared when I heard my baby boy cry for the first time,” Cari Ann continued. “Because he was six week premature, they had to take him immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit. When I finally got to hold him two days later he instantly stole my heart.”

“We were told that he may need to stay in the hospital until his original birth date. As the days went by, the hospital staff told us that Shayden was doing well and that he might be able to come home sooner. Then within three days of what we thought would be his release date, were told that they had discovered that Shayden had a heart defect and that he would have to be flown to San Diego for surgery as soon as possible. Everything happened so quickly.

Shayden had been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening defect called aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the main artery carrying blood flow out of the heart to other organs in the body. In San Diego, he would undergo five different procedures, including two open heart surgeries. Following those procedures, doctors there were concerned that Shayden’s heart function wasn’t improving and suggested a transfer to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Wojo and Cari Ann, nervous and afraid, made the drive to the Bay area.

Shayden spent the next three and a half months at the Stanford Medical Center. In the first week he underwent a third open heart surgery. Two weeks later he went into cardiac arrest.

“That was the scariest day,” Cari Ann explained. “His blood pressure dropped, his heart rate dropped, his color changed; I thought that I was going to lose my baby that day. After 12 minutes of CPR they were able to revive him, but he was never the same after that.”

Cari Ann and Wojo said that many up and down days followed.  Shayden went through additional procedures to try and improve his condition. He contracted an infection in October and Cari Ann and Wojo were told that he might not recover, but the infection cleared. Kyra and Cari Ann’s mom were then able to visit for two weeks, the first time that Kyra and her parents had been together since their being in California.

“That was the best two weeks,” said Cari Ann. “I was so happy to finally spend time with my baby girl and my mom. Kyra got to spend time with her little brother. It was super hard to see them leave.”

One week later, Shayden contracted another infection. This time doctors sat Cari Ann and Wojo down and told them that they needed to prepare themselves and their family for the worst.

“Thanksgiving week was a really rough week for Shayden,” remembered Cari Ann. “As the days went by he began retaining fluid and got weaker. On Thanksgiving night, Wojo and I decided that it was time. While we still wanted to give Shayden every chance we could, we knew that he was telling us that he was ready to go.”

“The next day, our nurse called early and said that he was more swollen than he had ever been and that they had to increase his sedatives and turn up the rate of his ventilator to help him breathe. We got ready and went straight to the hospital.”

“When we walked into his room, I could see how swollen he was. Tears rolled down my face. We talked with our nurse and had the doctor, social worker and chaplain come in. Slowly they turned off the pumps for his medications and feeding. I got to hold him for a little while.”

“Throughout the day and night we watched as Shayden’s blood pressure and heart rate elevated then dropped, but he hung on. The hospital staff came in and talked and listened to music with us. It helped us to not feel so sad. At 1:23 a.m. on Saturday, Shayden passed. I think he was comfortable in leaving us. He could hear us with the others and knew that we would be OK. The staff let us give him a bath and put clothes on him. We got to hold him for a couple of hours, then it was time to say goodbye.”

“Losing Shayden was hard on our entire family and his memory is something we’ll carry with us the rest of our lives,” explained Wojo. “After his death, getting involved in supporting the American Heart Association has helped us to heal a little bit.”

Cari Ann’s and Wojo’s support for the American Heart Association has included organizing a team to participate in the Heart Walk event. They have also become members of the organization’s grassroots advocacy network called You’re The Cure, helping to support state legislation to improve methods used by Hawaii hospitals to screen all newborns for congenital birth defects using a technique called pulse oximetry screening.

Read More

Advocate Spotlight: Ron Drouin

STROKE – some things you may not know and were afraid to ask!

My name is Ron Drouin and I am a stroke survivor. There are two types of strokes, namely: Ischemic (which account for 87% of all strokes) and Hemorrhagic. There are many contributing factors: genetics, STRESS and Health habits. My factors were 40-plus years of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, along with lots of job-related STRESS.  

My stroke was Ischemic and it occurred during the night of my 62nd birthday in 2002. “Happy Birthday Ron”. After an unknown time at home, I spent another 4 to 6 hours in the ER before undergoing an MRI that determined I did in fact have a serious stroke.

After two weeks in intensive care, working with my bedside therapist, I was able to move two fingers in my left hand. I cried a good deal with that experience. I have always been a typical ―”macho man” and you are not supposed to do that, (cry that is), but since the stroke, I now find myself crying at sad parts of movies and sad stories, etc. My experience is that there are many stroke-related side effects.

I spent three months in a rehab hospital and one of the therapists jokingly said: “You won’t be able to go home until you can tie your shoelaces. I said: “You’ve got to be kidding, here let me show you.” Guess what! I couldn’t tie my shoelaces and had to learn how to do that as well.

I spent about a year in a wheel chair and many sessions working with physical therapists.  There is kind of a rule of thumb that therapy can help you recover some of your abilities for the first six months after the stroke.

There is another stroke- related category called TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack). These should be taken seriously as well. I experienced one of these recently and it was discovered that my heart would actually stop beating for 3, 4 or even 5 seconds on occasion. A neurologist at the hospital told me that the heart pauses would cause the blood to thicken for a short period and produce stroke symptoms. So doctors installed a pacemaker and my heart is beating fine now.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge someone who has been “my rock” and demonstrated the quintessence of “in sickness and in health”; it is namely my wife Sharon. We just celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary - 50 years - this past July. We are looking forward to better times and “happily ever after” In 2015 and the years to come.  

Read More

Herb Lommen

Herb Lommen is not only saving lives by teaching CPR in Oregon and keeping kids healthy with physical education, but he’s a passionate advocate helping support the mission of the American Heart Association time and time again. Herb is the Department Chair of Health and Physical Education at Valley Catholic Middle School. He is also a First Aid, CPR/AED Training Coordinator.

Herb and the Valley Catholic Middle School students have been wonderful partners as we work to teach CPR to all Oregonians.  You can watch a video about Herb and his students advocating at AHA’s Oregon Lobby Day last year here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAFWdZUYL20

In his 39th year of teaching HS and MS students Health and Physical Education, he has also taught Outdoor Education classes and coached during those years. We wanted to share Herb’s story and words of wisdom with you:

  • What motivates you to do what you do? (Coaching and CPR)

“My motivation for teaching comes from my life experiences and having good role models to follow. I have the opportunity to work with young people and help shape their lives as they grow into young adults. Teaching them they can make a difference in the world by helping others and being the best they can be.”

  • Are there any stories from your experience teaching (particular students or circumstances) that are particularly meaningful or interesting?

“The best part of teaching is when students come back after many years and tell you of their successes. For example, how they have been able to use the skills that I had taught them to help others or that the career path they chose was started by interest from what they had learned. One recent student shared with me that he was able to save a life in an accident recently. He said his CPR just came back and he did it without thinking. We talked about how his learning had made a difference in someone’s life and we were all proud of his actions.”

  • If you could share one piece of advice with other teachers who are considering teaching PE and/or CPR, what would it be?

“Be a teacher (in a classroom or a First Aid/CPR class) and you can make a difference in people’s lives. You can give them the skills to help others and be the best they can be. It is a great feeling to know that you did make a difference in the world.”

  •  Has heart disease or stroke touched your life in any way?

“Seven years ago I almost died from congestive heart failure caused by a virus that entered my heart. The doctors said the only reason I survived was because I was in such good physical shape. It has changed my life as I cannot do all the things I used to quite as fast. I have had to learn to slow down a little. It has been a great teaching moment as all the students know what happened to me and how important it is to keep fit, eat right, and take care of yourself. The students see my compassion for taking care of your body and learning life-saving skills as one day it might save you or someone else.”

 

 

Read More

Eastlake AP Government Students

On February 3, the Advanced Placement Government class from Eastlake High School in Sammamish, WA traveled to Olympia to join the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association for its 2015 Lobby Day. Eastlake’s AP students joined other advocates including heart and stroke survivors, board members, physicians, and parents to advocate for heart-health policies. It was particularly impactful to have students advocating for funding for youth tobacco prevention and Safe Routes to School at this year’s Lobby Day.

The students began their day with a rally along Capitol Blvd. waving signs to build awareness for the need for increased funding for Safe Routes to School. With just one in four projects currently funded, the students went to work to ensure students across the state can safely walk and bike to school.

The students worked hard to prepare for this day of advocacy. Their preparation showed in special meetings with their district’s Senator, Andy Hill and with Representative Marcus Riccelli, who sponsors the AHA-supported bill to screen all newborns for critical congenital heart disease.              

Legislators, staff and volunteers all noted the students’ professionalism and enthusiasm. These youth advocates made a great impression on the decision makers who have the power to improve health for youth across Washington.

Read More

An update on One of Our Youngest Advocates - Coulter Cross

You might remember our littlest advocate Colter and his mom Bobbie from last year. With Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week upon us (February 7-14) we wanted to give you an update on how he is doing.  This message was written by his mom, Bobbie:

Colter celebrated his 3rd birthday in November as well as his 3rd Heart-a-versary! Colter's busy as ever playing with all of his favorite superheroes, Batman in particular! Colter's been perfecting his football moves as he wants to be just like his favorite football player, Russell Wilson. It's been such an honor to be a part of his journey to living a healthy life.

Medically, Colter is doing very well, he had a stent placed in his conduit this last August. Due to some complications during the stent placement, the routine angioplasty wasn't done on his pulmonary arteries. So we've had monthly checkups with his Cardiologist to monitor him very closely until June, when he'll have another catherization to open those arteries back up. I still can't believe some days that there's anything wrong with his heart, the amount of energy that boy has is incredible! He plays football from sun up to sun down. We look forward to 2015 and all the year has to bring!”

Read More

Kerry Caldarelli, Mississippi

Kerry Caldarelli of Long Beach is Chair of our 2014-15 State Advocacy Committee. She has been a faithful volunteer and advocate with the American Heart Association for the last seven years due to her son, Garrett, who is her why. Garrett was born with multiple heart defects diagnosed as Shone's Complex, which resulted in two open heart surgeries. Today, he is pacemaker dependent, but healthy and well.

What is your occupation? Senior Accountant for Signing River Healthy Systems

How long and in what capacity have you been a volunteer? I've been a volunteer for seven years and have had the opportunity to speak at various events on behalf of You're the Cure. I currently chair the State Advocacy Committee and raise funds for the Gulf Cost Heart Walk. 

Which AHA advocacy campaign is most important to you and why? I can't choose just one! I am particularly invested in screening for heart defects in newborns, healthy food options for all Mississippians, and a Smokefree Mississippi.

What are two ways you keep yourself healthy?  Eat right and exercise regularly

Tell us one unique thing about yourself. I love to talk! Big surprise! I really love to talk about the American Heart Association. I recently went to the bank and struck up a conversation with the teller who was helping me. I started talking about my son, I turned around, and the lady next to me thanked me. She was grateful to know the help that I attributed to the American Heart Association for my son. She did not have a "why" when she walked into the bank but with my story that she learned of, it gave her a why! My why is pretty cute, and he tends to win hearts over even when he is not in the room. I'm thankful to have his inspiration by my side on a daily basis for me and for others. 

Read More

Share Your Story: Gene Johnson

Gene Johnson New Brighton, MN

On Sept.11,2002 I had a heart attack, followed immediately by a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). I had a series of miracles and fortuitous events that followed. My daughter called and told my wife to check on dad. I was laying on the driveway with the garden hose spewing water when my wife found me and called 911. The police picked up on the call and were only a few blocks away with a defibrillator. They were at my side in 3 minutes and shocked me two times before the ambulance arrived. I was taken to a nearby hospital where I had a quadruple bypass. I spent nice 9 days in the hospital...fully recovered after ten years. I changed my diet and exercise and am living a wonderful life!

Before my heart event, I worked hard to place AED’s in the community of New Brighton, Minn. and train people to use them. Little did I know that this work would save my life one day. As a result of that incident I have helped to place many more AEDs in police cars and emergency vehicles in the community.   My neighbors and the rest of the community have even organized the "Have a Heart Walk" to raise funds for the city to buy more defibrillators!

I also became one of the founders of the Minnesota Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivors group, which provides support and information to other sudden cardiac arrest survivors. I love being a strong advocate for CPR and AED training, providing instruction to hundreds of people each year and speaking to thousands more to raise awareness. I was very fortunate and excited to work closely on the CPR in Schools bill in Minnesota that passed in 2011.

Read More

[+] Blogs[-] Collapse