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Advocate Spotlight - TJ Haynes

For TJ Haynes it was a matter of time. TJ recently threw out the first pitch at a Mustangs game in Dehler Park to promote the AHA’s Raise the Roof in Red campaign after suffering a heart attack just a few months before.

On May 25, 2015 TJ had gone to the local shooting range in preparation for the annual Quigley Buffalo Match. The days leading up to the 25th he had experienced heartburn and back pain but didn’t think much of it. But after a short period of time at the range he found himself short of breath and in pain.

He called his wife to tell her he wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come pick him up. While he waited another shooter at the range noticed his condition and quickly dialed 911 when he told them he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain.

Thanks to the quick actions of those around him TJ was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance containing a 12 lead EKG machine that sent a snapshot of his heart ahead to the Billings clinic. By sending this snapshot ahead the hospital was able to know what they were dealing with and how to treat it as soon as he arrived. This allowed his clogged artery to be opened just 46 minutes from the onset of the attack.

This amazing equipment had been installed just one day earlier as part of the Mission Lifeline initiative that is largely funded by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Today TJ is doing much better. He is in cardiac rehab, is working on his diet and is overall doing well.

TJ is thankful for the actions of those around him and the technology that was available to help him when he needed it most.


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Legislative Session 2016

This February the 2016 Oregon Legislature convened for a 35-day session. The American Heart Association had two priority issues that our advocates successfully educated legislators about and built momentum for Oregon’s longer legislative session in 2017.

Protecting Kids from Tobacco:

One of our top priorities was to protect Oregon kids from tobacco. We successfully kicked off our Tobacco 21 for Oregon campaign, our effort to raise the legal sale age of tobacco to 21. Research has shown that raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 will reduce addiction and prevent disease. Alongside Sen. Steiner Hayward and youth advocates, we held a kick-off press conference announcing our new coalition of 22 organizations. Our advocacy generated media coverage across the state: here are the Statesman Journal and the Portland Tribune’s articles. Here are photos from Tobacco 21 for Oregon Kick Off.

We invited over 90 youth advocates in middle and high school to join us at the Capitol, where they signed pledges to be tobacco-free and to meet with their legislators. You can see our AHA Advocacy Day photos here: AHA Advocacy Day

As legislators introduced a bill to establish statewide tobacco retail licensure, we also worked to prevent Big Tobacco’s bad amendments from moving forward.

Supporting Physically Active Kids:

Another priority was to give Oregon kids opportunities to be more physically active. Too many Oregon kids aren’t getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day that they need to be healthy, putting them at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

This session we advocated for increased funding of Oregon’s Safe Routes to School program to support increased walking and biking. We also worked to increase support for Oregon’s critically important Physical Education requirement. Starting next year, all schools must provide the recommended number of PE minutes for elementary and middle school students.

While no additional funds were allocated this session, we successfully educated decision makers and built momentum for the longer 2017 legislative session.

Oregon Capitol Goes Red

Dozens of legislators joined the American Heart Association on Wear Red Day to raise awareness of the impact of heart disease, especially on women. You can see photos here: Oregon Capitol Goes Red

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Henry Philofsky, Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation - Partners with Heart

Henry Philofsky is the Western Regional Director at the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation. Henry and the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation are important and dedicated partners of the AHA’s on our Tobacco 21 for Oregon campaign. We wanted to share his story with you and a little bit more about the important work we are doing together.

What campaign do you partner with the AHA on?

I work with AHA on raising the age at which people can buy tobacco products to 21. The Tobacco 21 campaign is currently developing in many cities, counties and towns, and more are exploring it every day. We are gaining momentum, and with continued effort by the many organizations working on this issue, hopefully someday America will have Tobacco 21 nationwide.

Why is this particular issue important to you?

I work on tobacco issues for a few reasons. It’s the number one cause of preventable death in America, which leads to tragedy for many families, but also costs billions of dollars to the healthcare system that could be going to treat other unavoidable diseases.  Additionally, there is an entire industry committed to selling tobacco to anyone and everyone they possibly can with a history of targeting children. This seems so perverse and unjust that I feel the need to try and help in some way.

Why do you advocate alongside the American Heart Association?

Working with AHA is a blessing. It is a fantastic association staffed with great advocates and staff. I also very much appreciate the mission of the organization and the steps that AHA takes to carry out that mission. Working with AHA on their Advocacy Day in Salem, Oregon was really cool to see. Everyone was very informed, committed and persuasive when speaking to legislators, and it was great to see such an organized and concerted effort in support of AHA’s mission.

Describe a challenge you’ve faced—and why you haven’t given up: 

The biggest challenge for me in doing tobacco work is that much of the public and way too many elected officials no longer think that tobacco is a problem in America. I am regularly told “we solved that problem” which couldn’t be further from the truth. The tobacco control effort in America has made great strides due to the efforts of many advocates and organizations, but tobacco is still the leading cause in preventable death in America and more work is needed.

Would you recommend to someone else that they get involved? Who? Why? How?

I think anyone who cares about their own health or that of their family should get involved in advocacy and AHA is a great place to do it. Even for people who don’t smoke, tobacco still affects them either through second or third hand smoke, sick family members or other economic interests that are negatively affected by tobacco. AHA provides a fantastic service to the public in that they coordinate public involvement in the political process, allowing those with similar views to have a more sizeable impact on public policy than they might have individually.

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AHA President Says: The Science is Clear on Sodium Reduction

Check this out! In a new video, the President of the AHA, Dr. Mark Creager, explains that the science behind sodium reduction is clear. He says that robust evidence has linked excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. And, he points out that you can do something about it: join AHA’s efforts to demand change in the amounts of sodium in our food supply.

“Nearly 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods” says AHA president Dr. Mark Creager. The video shows the 6 foods that contribute the most salt to the American diet: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches."

To see the video, head over to our Sodium Breakup blog!

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LeeAnne Ferguson - Partners with Heart

LeeAnne Ferguson is the Safe Routes to School Director at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the For Every Kid Campaign Manager. She is an important and dedicated partner of the AHA’s on the issue of Safe Routes to School. We wanted to share her story with you and a little bit more about the important work we are doing together.

Q: What campaign or effort have you been an advocate of?

LeeAnne: “I am most passionate about kids’ health and safety. I want every kid to be able to safely walk, bike and access transit to school (also called Safe Routes to School). This issue is important to be because our kids are in real danger from traffic fatalities and obesity related diseases. Too many kids. I am tired of the fact that where you live, what color your skin is, and how much money your family has determines how safe your streets are and how healthy you are.  We are leaving many, many kids and families behind and it is past time to change that.

Q: Why do you advocate alongside the American Heart Association?  

LeeAnne: “AHA has helped support the campaign through the Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, and staff engaged with our For Every Kid campaign very early on. AHA has been great mentor and inspiration for grassroots organizing.”

Q: What is the For Every Kid campaign?

LeeAnne: “We have 84 organizations in the For Every Kid coalition, including 5 cities and 8 school districts. Over 3,500 people have taken action and asked elected officials to dedicate $15 million to Safe Routes to School for every kid in the Portland metro area. Dozens of For Every Kid members have attended meetings and testified in support of Safe Routes to School.”

Q: Can you describe a challenge you’ve faced—and why you haven’t given up?

LeeAnne: “I was very discouraged at first. Like when every time we talked to an elected official, they would say that they agreed, but that it is not possible to make safe routes to school. Over time we have been able to change this statement to how can we make safe routes to school. Now elected officials are working through tough questions in a tight budget to figure out how to address the problem. We will continue to ask that they dedicate $15 million to safe routes to school for every kid.”

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Advocates Urge Legislators to Raise Age for Tobacco Sales to 21

On February 2nd the American Heart Association along with 22 other organizations united at the Capitol to urge legislators to protect kids from tobacco by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21.

It is estimated that if smoking rates don’t decline 68,000 Oregon children alive today will die prematurely from tobacco use and exposure.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon and raising the tobacco purchasing age will help change this. National data indicates that 95% of adult smokers start before age 21.

Physician and State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward and State Representative Barbara Smith Warner joined advocates to voice their support of the legislation. Steiner Hayward spoke about addiction and how she knows from her medical training that the younger someone starts smoking, the more difficult it is for them to quit. She believes that raising the purchase age is one critical way to combat nicotine addiction and ultimately prevent the 7,000 deaths each year in Oregon from tobacco use.

Overall, it was a great day at the capitol and we are so grateful to everyone who joined us. We hope we can count on your support as we continue to work on this important legislation. If legislation passes, Oregon will join Hawaii and over 110 cities in changing the legal purchase age for tobacco to 21.

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Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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Time to Go Red!

Going Red is about much more than wearing red on National Wear Red Day. It’s about making a change. Encourage your family and friends to take small steps toward healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke.


Start by explaining “What it means to Go Red” by sharing the following acronym:

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, be physically active and eat healthy.
  • Raise Your Voice: Advocate for more women-related research and education.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Donate: Show your support with a donation of time or money.


Heart disease and stroke cause one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases, yet 80% of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented. Early screening, early detection and early treatment are key to lowering risk for cardiovascular disease. 


Testing should occur as follows:

  • Blood pressure – every regular health care visit starting at age 20
  • Cholesterol – every five years starting at age 20. More often if: total cholesterol is above 200; if you are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 50; if you’re a woman whose HDL is less than 50 or a man whose HDL is less than 40; if you have other cardiovascular risk factors
  • Weight/body mass index – every health care visit starting at age 20
  • Waist circumference – as needed starting at age 20
  • Blood glucose – every three years starting at age 45


You can learn more about your numbers and key health indicators with the Go Red Heart CheckUp.


For more information about Go Red for Women visit here.

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Update on Christian Lybbert

Aimee Lybbert, Mother of CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Survivor, Christian, updates us on his life now and what she sees every day as a “Heart Mom”

You can catch up on Christian’s story from nearly two years ago here.

Christian will be three at the end of next month. He's been through two more open heart surgeries and four open abdomen surgeries and one surgery through his ribs on his diaphragm. He's now living at Seattle Children's and is currently on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

He has quite the collection of scars. We as his parents do too.

We have been at Seattle Children's for almost 5 months now with most of our time spent in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).

We have seen our share of families and children go through the CICU.

I've seen parents waiting anxiously for their surgery pagers as they wait for any update, I've seen parents hugging surgeons. I've seen rooms that have one little body in the room surrounded by scores of machines and staff working together to get the child through it all. I've seen parents cry with joy as their child had the breathing tube removed and they start to talk again. I've walked past rooms where moms are holding their children for the first time in forever as the nurse takes pictures. I've watched as they get transferred to the recovery floor, and I've watched parents take video of their toddler as he walked out the front door of the hospital after he conquered heart surgery. I've seen such joy at the many triumphs and miracles that happen here. 

I've also seen complete and utter despair. Sometimes things don't go as anticipated or as hoped.

Christian was like that. He had several emergency surgeries and he once bled out from a Gastrointestinal bleed and he had to be intubated and scoped while they transfused almost the entire volume of his blood. There were days that I didn't know how I could go on.

When my son headed off to one of his emergency surgeries I was a complete mess and was sobbing in the elevator on my way to the cafeteria. Another heart mom saw me. She asked me my son's name and told me that she saw me crying and couldn't leave me alone like that. She gave me a hug and said she'd pray for me.

She got off on her floor and I kept traveling down. The next day a card arrived with a note and a Starbucks gift card from her.

She had her own troubles and she took the time to look out for another person in need.

There are a surprising amount of kids and parents whose journey includes a hospitalization and or surgery in order to keep their CHD in check. Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect. Approximately 25% of kids with a CHD will require a surgery or other intervention to survive. If you're on the outside looking in the most important thing to do is just to listen and quietly let them know you love them. If you're on the inside of the CHD storm it is important to realize that you're not alone.

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Advocate Highlight - Sara Hoffman

Hi my name is Sara and I am 37 years old. This year should have been one of the happiest times of my life. On April 18, 2015, I was married on a beach in Mexico. Like any bride, I spent months planning the wedding and could not wait to celebrate with our friends and family. The shocking part of this story is that I suffered a major heart attack during the flight on my way to Mexico.

I felt fine in the morning and for the first four hours of the flight. All of the sudden I started experiencing burning in my chest, jaw and arm pain. I instantly knew something was wrong. After about 20 minutes of experiencing symptoms, I asked the flight crew to land the plane. I knew that my age and the fact that we were on the way to our wedding could make people think I was just having a panic attack so speaking up for myself felt more important than ever.  I was later told by my cardiologist that I would have died on the plane that day if we had not landed the plane.

We did an emergency landing in Louisiana where I was wheeled into the ER with my wedding dress in tow. I had an Angioplasty and a stent placed in my left anterior descending artery. My heart stopped twice during my procedure and I had to be defibrillated both times. My poor husband thought he was going to be a widower and we weren’t even married yet.  Amazingly, I was cleared to fly to Mexico just two days after my procedure. The day of our wedding was amazing but and I felt so lucky just to be alive and standing there.

We cancelled our honeymoon so I could come home and recover. I had not felt well while in Mexico and ended up getting re-hospitalized the day after we came home. I was in congestive heart failure and was experiencing terrible side effects from my medication.

My recovery has been hard but I am learning so much about heart disease along the way. I knew my father had a heart attack at age of 36, but I can honestly say I never considered myself to be at risk. I was healthy, I used to run full and half marathons, I don’t smoke, and I am a vegetarian. I thought everything I was doing would counteract my family history.  I didn’t understand the power of genetics.

I hope my story can encourage other women to schedule a Well-Woman Visit and talk to their doctor about their family history and personal risk.

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