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A Reflection on Gratitude and AHA in Montana

Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director

It’s been more than 10 years since I got the news that my dad, Tom, had had a heart attack.  I was 20 years old, an undergraduate student at University of Montana and in complete shock.  I knew he hadn’t been feeling great, but a heart attack at 53 years old, it couldn’t be possible.  One quadruple bypass and a devastating diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure later, my dad was eventually sent home.  The road since the surgery has not been easy, quite the opposite actually, but my dad is still here and for that I am grateful.

You see, my dad is one of those typical tough Montana guys.  He waited almost 3 hours before even telling his wife that he was having chest pain.  He didn’t want to burden anyone.  He’s a strong guy, a quality he instilled in me from an early age- the picture is from 1993, dad insisted that I drive that Jeep Hot Wheel, the pink Barbie Corvette was not an option.

Unfortunately, dad’s stubbornness was not in his best interest on the day of his heart attack.  What he didn’t know was that every minute he spent delaying his care, his heart muscle was dying.  To make matters worse, dad lives in a somewhat remote area of Montana, by the time the volunteer ambulance crew came, took him to a clinic with little expertise in heart attacks, and eventually to a larger hospital, a lot of his heart was damaged.  Today only 25% of his heart functions.  Luckily, that 25% is enough for him to live life with grace, happiness, and enough energy to walk me down the aisle last August. 

I tell you the story of my dad Tom because it is a perfect example of why I do what I do for the AHA and why that work is so critical in Montana.  Over the last 10 months, the AHA has dedicated several new staff members and millions of dollars to improve our cardiac care system in Montana.  We are doing this work through a project called Mission: Lifeline Montana. The aim of Mission: Lifeline is to equip ambulances and hospitals across the state with up-to-date equipment and increased communication skills in order to create better outcomes for people like my dad. 

Our family was lucky, we lived close enough to a large hospital that dad was saved in time.  This is not the case for hundreds of Montana families every year.  In Montana, your chances of receiving quality, guideline driven care during a heart attack are about 30%.  This means that people are dying unnecessarily and having poorer outcomes because of lack of a unified system of cardiac care across the state.  Mission: Lifeline Montana is going to improve this system. 

Our task force of Montana physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other medical professionals have been working diligently for the past 8 months to provide Montana with new guidelines to streamline care.  Additionally, we have awarded more than $875,000 to ambulance services and more than $864,000 to Montana hospitals to update their cardiac monitoring systems.  We will also be launching a public media campaign reminding people not to wait to call 9-1-1 when experiencing any signs and symptoms of a heart attack.  This is just the beginning of our work and I am grateful to be a part of an organization that is doing so much for Montanans.  To learn more about this life saving project go to

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Eric Rothenberg: Top Advocate and Top Fundraiser

This fall Heart and Stroke Walks took place across Washington to raise funds to support the American Heart and Stroke Association’s lifesaving mission. With events in Spokane, Tacoma and Seattle, more than 13,000 walkers (including the Seattle Seahawks’ mascot, Blitz!) turned out to honor loved ones and celebrate healthy lifestyles. Thank you to all of our walkers who helped to raise nearly $2 million across Washington!

This was a particularly special year for our Advocacy family; You’re the Cure advocate Eric Rothenberg’s team “Team MI” was the top fundraiser among Seattle’s community teams. This September marked the 5 year anniversary of Eric’s sudden cardiac arrest. To mark the occasion he set himself the goal of raising $10,000, which he achieved!

In addition to his amazing fundraising efforts Eric was very involved in our effort to add CPR training to high school health class curriculum. Because of his efforts thousands of high school students in Washington will be trained each year on what to do in case of an emergency like the one he suffered 5 years ago.

Thank you Eric for all that you do!

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Back to School - Join Us As We Advocate for Healthy Policies for Our Children

written by Marc Watterson, Government Relations Director, Utah

Like many of you, I look forward to the fall season! Truth be told I’m not a huge fan of the heat and I have always loved Utah’s cooler fall climate. Fall brings with it many wonderful things – the excitement of professional, college, and high school football, little-league soccer, shopping sales, and the beginning of a new school year.

This year was a completely new one for me as a parent as our oldest daughter began kindergarten! It was a bittersweet moment as we helped her get ready that first morning and watched her board the bus for her first day of school. Her excitement was contagious as she anxiously got to her seat and began waving to us through the school bus window. We continued to wave as the bus pulled down the street and out of sight.

I can only imagine how many times this same scene played out across the state as many of you watched children or grandchildren leave for school.

As parents – or even relatives – to these young children, we want the very best for them. We want them to grow up in a world full of opportunities, where they can fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Whatever the situation, wherever they might be, we want to make sure that children are provided with the best, and safest, environment possible.

This became very apparent to me this past year as – like many of you – we heard tragic stories of young children who were hurt or killed on their way to and from school. The stories pull at our heartstrings as we realize how important safe routes to school are and just how fragile life can be. It is the recognition of the importance of life that fuels us as advocates for the American Heart Association. Together, we have done amazing things!

Just last year we rallied together to encourage the Department of Health to create a new recognition system that identifies those hospitals in the state who strive for the very best in patient care when it comes to treating those who suffer a stroke. Many of you joined with us at the state capitol for our annual Heart on the Hill day where we successfully lobbied our state legislators to restore funding to the CPR and AED in Schools Training Program. Because of you, every sophomore in Utah will have the chance to be trained in CPR and how to use an AED as part of their Health class! Together, we have laid the framework that will help create a generation of lifesavers for years to come!

And while it would be easy to sit back and count our victories, there is still so much more that can be done here in Utah. This year, we set our sights on improving the health of all Utahns – especially our children.

The American Heart Association|American Stroke Association is teaming up with the Utah Department of Transportation to encourage our state and local elected officials to ensure our children have a healthier, more walkable pathway to school. We are asking all of you to join us as we encourage policymakers to increase funding for the state’s Safe Routes to School program. This program provides funding for schools and local cities to come together and identify areas of need in their communities. The Safe Routes to School program helps improve sidewalks, create crosswalks, and provide signage that help to keep kids and drivers safe. The AHA|ASA supports the funding of this program because of the potential safety and health impact this could have on our children and communities – all in the goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans!

As part of our efforts we will be hosting a booth at our upcoming Heart|Stroke Walk & Run 5K. We would love to have you stop by and sign a postcard in support of the Safe Routes to School program. We will be delivering these postcards to policymakers across the state! You can also click here to volunteer to help us at the event as we work to raise awareness of this issue amongst the thousands of Heart|Stroke Walk attendees!

As parents and those concerned about the children in our community we have many things that we worry about with our children; the last thing we should have to worry about is if our children have a safe route to travel to school. Please support us as we strive to create healthier, more walkable communities throughout the state!

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A Day in the Life – Rally for Medical Research, 2013

Written By Marcy Shugert, California

The Rally for Medical Research met on September 17-18, 2013 to ask Congress to stop the sequestration of National Institutes of Health (NIH); and I was one of the people chosen to go - it was an unforgettable experience! From beginning to end, I was under the feverish rush of the politics of Washington, D.C., and I loved every aspect of it. I am a stroke survivor, and have been involved with many aspects of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA). I am very grateful to be an advocate, and that the AHA/ASA gave me the opportunity to meet my Representatives and Senators. It was, without a doubt, a chance of a lifetime.

The reason that we met on the Hill to help stop the sequestration of the NIH, and to add our personal story as to why the decision affects us. My reasons were two-fold; when I was having my stroke, I didn't know that people my age, at 33 could have the symptoms I was experiencing; had I known, I would have called the paramedics and would have gotten treatment much sooner. Secondly, if I had known about tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, then I would have asked for it in the hospital. tPA is a clot-busting drug that has the potential to save many people’s lives who are experiencing a stroke.

Therefore, I am an advocate through the AHA/ASA, and speak whenever I can about how I was healthy, ran, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol, did not have strokes in my family, and ate well. Yet, I was stressed and didn't do a good job of compartmentalizing my time. I then asked the Senators/Representatives to consider the sequestration to end because, as the AHA/ASA believes, we need more research on stroke.  The young researchers we have invested NIH dollars into thus far will either leave the profession, or go overseas where they have more funding if NIH is not supported.

I met with staff from Senator Boxer, Senator Feinstein, Representative Issa, and Representative Calvert’s offices.  I also had the chance to meet my Representative, Scott Peters in person.  The meetings were 30-45 minutes long, and every person listened to what I had to say.

Overall, it was an excellent experience just being in the heart (pun intended of course) of our capital and speaking to the Members of Congress about making decisions for our future! Thank you AHA/ASA for making it possible for me to speak and be a part of our nation’s government for one day – I am inspired to do even more now that I have got a voice – both literally and figuratively. Here’s to more advocacy to everyone, in small and big places alike!

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California: World Stroke Day is October 29th

Guest Blogger: Josh Brown, Grassroots Advocacy Director

October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness about stroke, America’s fourth leading cause of death.  World Stroke Day is a global campaign aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke around the world by educating communities on the facts and myths about stroke.  In the United States, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people each year and is the leading cause of long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted causing brain cells to die.  Stroke can happen at any time and to anyone at any age.  Take Marisol Ferrante for example. She was happily at work when she suddenly experienced a massive headache that later evolved into a stroke. Marisol is one example of the thousands of individuals affected by stroke each year.

The American Heart & Stroke Association recommends that you think F.A.S.T. to spot the signs of stroke. Knowing the noticeable symptoms of stroke is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the higher the chance of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term damage.

F.A.S.T. stands for:

Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs and other sudden symptoms of a stroke, visit

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Nevada Legislative Update

By Christopher Roller

The 77th session of the Nevada Legislature adjourned on June 3rd.  It was a very successful session for the priorities of the American Heart Association.  We had established four priority bills heading into the session, and all four passed.  Three of those four were signed into law by Governor Sandoval.  SB167, the STEMI hospital recognition bill, passed and was signed by the Governor on May 24th.  Two of our priority bills were uncertain to pass and took right up until the end of session.  SB92, the newborn heart defect screening bill, signed by Governor Sandoval on June 3rd, and AB414, the CPR in schools bill, signed on June 5th.    Both took tremendous effort on the part of our staff and advocates, and would not have passed without the incredible contributions from you, our You’re the Cure networkers!  Please take a moment to respond to the “action alerts” thanking our legislative champions and Governor Sandoval for their support.  A fourth priority, the “menu labeling” bill passed the legislature, but unfortunately was vetoed by the Governor.  As you know, passing a bill and creating or changing a law is not an easy undertaking, so to see three out of four priorities make it through this difficult process is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our advocates.  We will work in the coming months to implement these laws and ensure that they are effective in saving lives and contributing to our mission of building healthier lives and communities free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Thank you!

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