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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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This was big - a look back at Oregon Lobby Day 2015

Guest blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

On Tuesday March 3, AHA advocates filled the halls of Oregon’s State Capitol to share their stories and ensure that decision-makers heard about our priorities during AHA’s Oregon Lobby Day.

As Dr. Cleveland, AHA Advocacy Chair, shared with everyone that day: “Advocacy is good for us.” And advocating for policies to keep Oregon healthy and safe, means our actions are good for everyone else too.

Here’s a quick video, starring our advocates, with the highlights: AHA Oregon Lobby Day Video. (More photos here: Lobby Day photos.)

Just how big was Tuesday?

I couldn’t be more excited to say “thank you” 76 times today—to each and every nurse, firefighter, doctor, survivor, student, mom, sister, brother, father, and friend—who showed up and spoke up.

Thanks to our 76 advocates we held lobby meetings with over one-third of the legislature, educating and advocating on our top policy priorities.

And today, we’re 76 steps closer to passing policies for a healthier Oregon—an Oregon where every Oregonian is trained in school to save a life with CPR, where kids can learn and grow in healthy school environments, and where tobacco is no longer the number one preventable cause of death.

It was a busy at the Oregon Capitol and AHA advocates accomplished a lot—take a look:

  • Face time with decision makers: Advocates lobbied over one-third of Oregon’s legislative offices, meeting face-to-face with 23 legislators and 12 staffers. Decision-makers heard about our three priorities: requiring all Oregon students to be CPR trained before graduating; eliminating junk food marketing from schools; and increased funding for Oregon’s tobacco prevention and cessation program. 
  • 60 new lifesavers: High school students hit the hallways, training over 60 legislative staffers in Hands-Only CPR. 
  • 1,000 Beats to Save a Life: 45 students took to the Capitol rotunda, working together to perform 10 straight minutes of CPR, demonstrating just how simple the steps are to save a life. 
  • Special advocates recognized: AHA recognized two special advocates for their dedicated and ongoing efforts to support CPR training in all of Oregon’s schools: Josh Moore, firefighter with Eugene Springfield Fire & Rescue, and Raoul Meekcoms, a sudden cardiac arrest survivor with a powerful story he’s not afraid to tell. (Click on their names to read more about their inspiring work.) 
  • Student shout outs: North Salem High School, South Salem High School, and Valley Catholic Middle School were recognized by Rep. Brian Clem, Rep. Ken Helm and Senate President Peter Courtney on the House and Senate Floors.
  • Proud of our partners: Three organizations who partner with the AHA in Oregon on advocacy efforts spoke on a panel, sharing with advocates their expertise and experience: Upstream Public Health, Voices for Healthy Kids, and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.
  • Guest speakers: State Representative Ken Helm spoke to advocates and shared his personal perspective on what learning CPR has meant for his son; Dr. Minot Cleveland, AHA’s Oregon Advocacy Chair, reminded us why advocacy is good for us and why he never gives up; and Eric Batch, Vice President of Advocacy for the Western States Affiliate, on how Oregon can lead the way.
  • Photos, Hashtags, Videos, Oh My: Here’s a video starring advocates with some quick highlights: AHA Oregon Lobby Day Video. (And view the photo album here: Lobby Day photos.)

Our heartfelt thanks from the advocacy team goes out to all of our volunteers who work year round to support the work of the American Heart Association.


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CPR for All Oregon - An Update on SB 79

Guest Blogger – Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

On March 12th, Senate Bill 79, a bill that would require all Oregon students to be trained in CPR before graduation had its first public hearing in the Senate Education Committee. SB 79 would help create 45,000 new lifesavers a year by ensuring every student learned the simple, life-saving skill of CPR.

Sen. Mark Hass (Beaverton) and Sen. Jeff Kruse (Roseburg) voiced their longstanding support of a CPR in Schools policy, and Chair Arnie Roblan (Coos Bay)  emphasized just how easy CPR is to learn. No one testified against the bill.  Thanks to the hard work of advocates the bill was voted out of the Senate Education Committee unanimously on March 31st. The next step is a vote by the entire Senate.  

Thank you to all the advocates who made the trip to Salem to testify and share their expertise and stories!

Here are some highlights from the day:

  • The AHA gave a presentation to committee members describing the problem of sudden cardiac arrest, the importance of bystander CPR, and the existing community partnerships with schools as well as resources around the state for implementation.
  • Mike Duyck, Fire Chief at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVFR), and President of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, testified in support of the bill. Chief Duyck highlighted the training of 15,000 students in TVFR’s service area over the last few years. “The fire service stands ready to support you and our schools with this simple, yet life-saving program.”
  • Jim Balsiger shared his story of survival. When Jim collapsed at home, his daughter saved his life by starting CPR immediately until first responders arrived. It took 45 minutes of CPR as well as 22 shocks to his heart to save Jim’s life. “I never thought I'd be thankful for a group of people breaking five of my ribs but I sure was on that day,” Jim said. “There are a lot of things unanswered that day, but what I can tell you is this: I am here speaking to you today with all my faculties because of CPR.” Our deep appreciation to Jim for sharing his story. You can watch a video by TVF&R about Jim’s story here:
  • PE teacher, Ali Massey, testified for the first time ever on a bill, sharing her positive experience teaching CPR to her middle school students. Ali trained 197 students with the help of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. Students were so enthusiastic, they in turn trained 927 family and friends, for a total of 1,124 community members. “In my opinion, middle school isn’t just about academics. It’s also about learning about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and values, what is important to you,” Ali said. “One of the most important things that students can learn is how to be a helpful, concerned and active members of their community.”
  • Kaylee Nelson, a recent UO graduate and the current Miss University of Oregon, is also an active volunteer with Eugene Springfield Fire & Rescue’s CPR in schools program. Kaylee shared that ESF&R has helped train 3,000 middle and high school students in CPR, and over 1,500 community members. Kaylee also spoke eloquently about her own experience in an emergency situation with a loved one—and why she’s committed to ensuring the next generation knows CPR.
  • The Oregon Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians also testified in support. Other organizations supporting the bill include: Legacy Health Systems, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Oregon Nurses Association and the Western Fire Chiefs Association.

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Couldn't We all Snack a Little Healthier?

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Government Relations Director

Earlier this year the United States Department of Agriculture rolled out new guidelines that will help ensure our kids have access to healthy food in school a la carte lines, school stores and vending machines. Smart Snacks emphasize whole grains, low sodium, low fat, low sugar foods. By ensuring students have healthy options, Smart Snacks will help them make healthy choices. 

It’s great news that kids will have healthier options during the school day, but what about at home? What about us adults? Spring is a great time to take advantage of tasty seasonal produce, or update a favorite recipe with a healthy twist. Here are a few Simple Cooking with Heart recipes to get you going!

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Tobacco Prevention in Oregon

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

Tobacco: It’s the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon, killing 7,000 Oregonians a year. In the 1990’s Oregon said enough was enough, and joined 45 other states in fighting the nation’s biggest tobacco companies. The result was the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA), and an enormous win for public health: billions of dollars to help us fight the ugly effects of tobacco in our state.

However, the story of how those dollars have been used and will be used in Oregon remains unfinished:

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA) was designed to help states recover some of the tobacco-related healthcare costs and to prevent people from ever starting to smoke. Unfortunately, in 2002 when initial payments were made to Oregon, the state legislature locked up the funds in ten years of debt service and not one dollar of TMSA funds were spent on tobacco prevention.

That changed in 2013 thanks to American Heart Association advocates working to ensure that the TMSA funds were for the first time invested improving in health care, restoring the public’s trust, and for the first time ever, in reducing tobacco use.

The $4 million investment made specifically into tobacco prevention represents just 3% of the total TMSA funds available in 2013. While that may seem small—but it was both symbolic and helped deliver meaningful results over the last two years in fighting Oregon’s leading cause of preventable death.

We continue that work as we head into the 2015 Oregon Legislative Session, when decision makers will have the opportunity to again make history.

This year, we’re asking the state legislature to continue this new trend of making good on the promise of the TMSA by reinvesting in public health and tobacco prevention. These investments save lives. They also save money: For every $1 invested in Oregon’s tobacco prevention program, $5 are saved down the line in medical costs and lost productivity.

We’ll need your help in asking legislators to stand with us over the next few months, so keep an eye on your inbox. In the meantime, if you have a story about how tobacco use has affected your life or loved ones, please send me a note at

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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:

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.”



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Big Things Will Be Happening on March 3rd at the Capitol

Will you help us make Oregon a healthier state on March 3rd? We invite you to join us at the Capitol for our annual American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Lobby Day on March 3rd.

2015 is going to be a big year for heart and stroke health policy and we want YOU to be a part of it! We will discuss CPR in School legislation with lawmakers. With your help last year we built awareness about this issue and we hope this will be the year we pass this important legislation.

We will also ask lawmakers to support legislation and budget requests for:

  • Tobacco Prevention – Legislators will have the opportunity to invest money in evidence-based programs that reduce tobacco use—Oregon’s number one preventable cause of death. For every dollar invested by the state roughly five dollars is saved.
  • Junk Food Marketing in Schools – We want to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to our children in schools.

RSVP today, registration is free but space is limited.

No advocacy experience is necessary as training will be provided. We hope you will join us for this exciting and important day!

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Meet the New Surgeon General

Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December to serve as the next surgeon general of the United States. The surgeon general is America’s top public health official, and his responsibilities range from managing disease to promoting prevention and a healthy start for our kids.

At 37, Vivek Murthy is the youngest person and the first Indian-American to hold the post of Surgeon General.

Since this position was created in 1871, just 18 people have held the job. Dr. Murthy, the 19th, replaces an Acting Surgeon General who has filled the role since 2013. Dr. Murthy’s confirmation was delayed for nearly a year due to political issues, but in that time he received the endorsement of more than 100 public health groups, including the American Heart Association.

Dr. Murthy has both business and medical degrees from his studies at Harvard and Yale. He completed his residency at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he most recently served as an attending physician. He has created and led organizations to support comprehensive healthcare reform, to improve clinical trials so new drugs can be made available more quickly and safely, and to combat HIV/AIDS.

His resume is remarkable, and we look forward to working closely with Dr. Murthy to improve the health of all Americans.

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Advocate Spotlight: Kami Sutton

As a survivor, volunteer, advocate and staff member – I wanted to share my story. 

I was recently featured on a Children’s Health Link special on our local NBC affiliate, KING5, with a story that highlights me as an 11 year old volunteer and fast forwards to where I am today. Please take a look and how far I have come and what the future holds!

Twenty-six years ago, I was born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD). My parents were told that I might not survive the 30 minute ambulance ride from Everett to Seattle Children’s Hospital. As would become my goal in life, I did my best to prove the doctors wrong and to this day I still try to prove them wrong in the way I accomplish things they never believed possible. And always by my side, helping me achieve this was medical research and technology.

It seems that over the years, technology has always been one step behind me, as soon as I would need a new repair, it was found to be possible for pediatric use right in the nick of time. I have always been in the right place and the right time of technology and my next procedure is no different.

As I transition from pediatric to adult care at the University of Washington Medical Center, we are looking at my condition with fresh sets of eyes and new technology possibilities in hopes of avoiding a heart transplant which I have been awaiting for the past five years. A new pacemaker to improve my heart function could be the answer, but with my complex anatomy, my doctor thought it might be more difficult to place a new wire to the opposite side of my heart.

I had recently heard about research using patient-specific 3D heart models to practice cardiac ablations, so I asked the doctor if it might be helpful in my case. He was quite excited that I had suggested this and about a month ago, I underwent a cardiac CAT scan to start the process. I should be receiving my new pacemaker sometime early next year once he masters the procedure.

This technology and the possibility of me having better heart function and quality of life has been eye-opening and I again realize just how important the work we do at the AHA is. I have always had a passion for our cause but knowing that advances in medicine every day could lead to a better outcome for patients like me is what drives me.

Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting our mission, it means the world to me and every other CHD, heart and stroke patient out there!

For the full story, please click here.


Kami Sutton

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You're the Cure Year End Successes, Let's Celebrate!
It was another banner year for You’re the Cure advocates championing heart and stroke policy change across the country. Year end is a time to look back at what we achieved in states, think ahead to the work still to do, and celebrate the power of volunteers.
What did we accomplish last year?
Below are just three of many victories that made 2014 so successful.  


  • 35 states now have laws protecting our littlest hearts. Pulse oximetry, a simple detection screening for heart defects gives newborns a chance to survive thanks to early detection.
  • We reached a major milestone in ensuring all students learn CPR before graduating from high school. Now more than 1 million students, in 20 states, will graduate each year with this lifesaving skill.
  • 6 states increased funding for heart disease and stroke prevention programs.


Want to see more accomplishments? Check out the video below.

These are just a few highlights and for the full story be sure to check out the state by state wrap-up online. We couldn’t achieve these great accomplishments without the power of YOU our advocates. Your work to educate lawmakers, recruit family and friends, and share your story and expertise are what makes change happen. So from your AHA staff partners a big, Thank You!
P.S. – You can help inspire others to join the movement by sharing our accomplishments highlight video.

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