American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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
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.  

Read More

Hunger Has Impact on Growth and Development

According to a recent journal article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, both preschool and school-aged children showed that chronic hunger and food insecurity are significant predictors of health conditions, even when taking other factors into consideration. The results of this study were featured in a recent article in the Native Health News Alliance. The article states that nationwide, one in seven families experience food insecurity at any given point during a year, and the rates are higher in Indian Country, thus increasing the risks for the physical effects that come with poor nutrition. 

Hunger has a dramatic effect on the human body, and the influence of not having regular access to healthy food can be felt at a young age through its effects on childhood brain growth and cognitive function. 

For more on this article, CLICK HERE

Access to healthy, nutritious food can be a challenge, especially in rural areas.  Those Americans residing in certain parts of the U.S. with limited access to affordable and healthy foods area said to be living in “food deserts” – with lengthy trips to food markets.  These factors serve to make hunger among children a factor in poor health. 

The American Heart Association advocates for policies that will raise public awareness about the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle; and increasing the availability and use of fruits and vegetables, and other nutritious foods, particularly in our nation’s schools.  This includes monitoring the USDA study on “food deserts” and developing policy recommendations to address the study’s outcomes. 

Read More

Heart Screening Important Element in Preventing Heart Attack

AHA volunteer advocate Lynn Paulson shares her story in the Rapid City Journal to encourage others to do a heart screening.  A heart attack can happen to anyone, but prevention and detection of heart problems can save lives. According to Dr. Alexander Schabauer, cardiovascular specialist at Rapid City Regional Hospital, there are "the big five" health factors that significantly increase the risk of heart disease.  They include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, genetics and high cholesterol.  Heart health means to manage and control those risk factors you can, and get screened when something doesn't feel right.  For more on this article, CLICK HERE

Read More

New Study Suggests Ways to Counterbalance Sitting Time

We've all heard that sedentary lifestyle can have detrimental affects to our cardiovascular health. The influence of activity trackers and wellness programs at workplaces has certainly helped to encourage more daily physical activity.  Now a new study suggests that office workers can actually stave off health problems associated with sitting down all day by getting regular exercise.  The study further emphasizes the importance of physical activity in the promotion and maintenance of health.

The aim of this paper, published in BMC Public Health, was to examine the associations of four categories of physical activity and sedentary time compared with markers of diabetes and heart disease.

We applaud cities and workplaces across South Dakota who have initiated measures to encourage their citizens and their employees to get more active in their daily lives.  During April, we recommend including a daily walk or bicycle ride to offset the time spent sitting throughout the work day.  The physical and social rewards are worth the effort! 

For on this article, CLICK HERE

Read More

Get Up and Move During National Physical Activity Month

Its National Physical Activity month and because Americans are spending more time at work and sitting in front of a screen than ever before, we are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and other diseases. Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. Research has shown that every hour of regular exercise can add about two hours to life expectancy, even if you don’t start until midlife.  Plus, physical activity can relieve depression, improve your memory, lower your blood pressure and help prevent obesity.

During April, and all year long, we want people to lace up for their heart and get moving.  Whether it’s walking, running, biking, playing sports or a group class, the goal is for adults to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity), while kids should get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. 

No Time to Exercise?  Try our Top Ten Tips to Get More!

You can even get heart-healthy benefits if you divide your time into two or three 10- to 15-minute segments a day. Here are some tips for getting active:

1. Get out the leash and walk your dog. It’s a great activity for both man and man’s best friend. Your heart — and your pooch — will thank you!

2. Mall walk. Are you sweating (or shivering) at the idea of walking outside? Take a brisk stroll around your local mall instead. Window shop, people watch and give your heart a workout in a climate-controlled environment.

3. Join a team.  Pick an activity you love and round up some friends. Team sports can be fun — and keep you motivated and accountable.

4. Take your child for a brisk walk. It’s an excellent way to get some one-on-one time (or one-on-three, depending on the size of your brood.) Spice up your routine by exploring new neighborhoods or turning your walk into a scavenger hunt.

5. Walk and talk. Even if you’re glued to your phone for work calls, you don’t have to be glued to your seat. Make it a habit to talk and walk. Some workplaces have walking paths to make it even easier to burn while you earn.

6. Tune into fitness during TV time.  Reject your inner couch potato. Walk, jog in place or use the treadmill at the gym while you watch your favorite 30-minute show.

7. Park and walk. How many times have you circled the parking lot to find “the” spot? Spare yourself the stress and gain more energy by parking far away (or even in a remote lot) and walking farther to your destination.

8. Take the stairs. The elevator may go up — but it doesn’t make your heart rate climb. Take the stairs instead. You may huff and puff at first, but over time, your body will thank you.

9. Dance! Do it in a ballroom, at a club or even in your living room. You’ll burn calories and gain a new hobby.

10. Skip the cake, say goodbye to pie and take a walk after dinner. You’ll get a reward that’s sweeter than dessert: more family time.

If these ideas don’t work for you, find something that you enjoy! Ditching the excuses can be the first step to a healthier you.  Of course, if you have an injury, talk to your doctor first to see if there’s a low-impact exercise you can do or find out if you should wait until you’re healed.

Read More

Share Your Story: Ruby Bonn

Ruby Bonn South Dakota

Our little miss Ruby has been through quite a lot in her life so far; two ambulance rides, a helicopter and airplane ride all at the young age of 2 weeks.  Melissa, her mother, was placed on bed rest at 24 weeks for premature labor. Ruby was born at St. Mary’s hospital at 36 weeks and weighing in at 6 pounds 11ounces.

Overall she was healthy, but Dr. Bretta Olson heard a heart murmur and thought it was just her PDA trying to close since she was born premature.  Clark and Melissa were typical nervous new parents, but very happy to take their little Ruby home and watch her grow. 

At Ruby’s first check up, Dr. Olson noticed that she was breathing rapidly, and could still hear a heart murmur.  A chest x-ray was ordered and showed that Ruby had an enlarged heart.  Ruby and her parents were immediately sent by helicopter to Avera McKennan hospital for an echocardiogram and consultation with a pediatric cardiologist; Dr. Sami Awadallah.  The echocardiogram showed Ruby had a coarctation of her aorta and a bicuspid aortic valve.  We were devastated, but Dr. Sami Awadallah reassured us that Ruby’s condition was repairable. Unfortunately, the procedure she needed was not done at Avera McKennan. 

The family was immediately flown by airplane to Children’s Hospital in Omaha Nebraska where a team of doctors, surgeons and nurses were waiting for Ruby.  Ruby had a repeat chest x-ray and echocardiogram and surgery scheduled for aortic resection the next morning.  At exactly two weeks of age, Ruby had an aortic resection with no complications done by Dr. Ibrahim Abdullah.  She had several post operative chest x-rays, echocardiograms to monitor her recovery and a chest tube placed to keep fluid off her lungs.  

After 5 days in the hospital, the Bonn’s were able to take their little girl home.  Ruby is 3 years old and is a very active, inquisitive and happy little girl.  She continues to have checkups with Dr. Sami Awadallah to monitor her bicuspid aortic valve and has no restrictions on what types of activities she can participate in.  We are so grateful for all the talented people that helped save our little girl.

Read More

Update on Efforts to Expand Medicaid Coverage in South Dakota

As you know, Medicaid expansion has been a huge focus of our legislative efforts throughout this session, and the response from You're the Cure advocates has been tremendous!

We know expanding Medicaid will mean we can improve the health of all South Dakotans through preventive care and screenings. But as the regular session of the legislature comes down to its final days, we have an issue of timing.

As there are still details of the plan to be worked out, Gov. Daugaard has chosen to put Medicaid expansion plans on hold for the time being and is committed to calling a special session when the time is right.

What this means for us is that our fight to ensure up to 50,000 more South Dakotans through Medicaid is nowhere near over this year. Legislators still need to hear from you!

So please visit and use the handy form to tell legislators to support the Governor and thousands of our fellow South Dakotans. Thank you for your dedication.

Read More

Are you on Social Media? Join Us!

Social media is everywhere, and for many of us, it’s where we get our news.  Online communities are a regular part of our daily lives, and we want you to join our social media community to stay up to date on everything related to the American Heart Association in South Dakota. 

As we continue to strive to meet our goals of improving the heart health of all Americans by 20 percent and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, and we know that social media provides the opportunity to communicate with our advocates and volunteers in a new way.  Social media opens up new opportunities for outreach and relationship-building among the communities that we serve.  Social media presence among our volunteer advocates is more important than ever! 

Please join us on our social media pages so that you can be a part of our social media community! Then, Like, Comment, Share, Favorite and Re-Tweet information for your social network!  Together, we can reach our goals because #SoDakisWhy

Facebook: American Heart Association South Dakota

Twitter:  American Heart Association South Dakota

Read More

Advocate Spotlight: Roland Kemink

Roland Kemink South Dakota

August 16, 2013 was a day much like many other summer days working at our Church Camp near Rochford SD.  But things changed dramatically about 5 p.m.  I put my chain saw aside and started supper for our group of workers. Ten minutes later I thought I had a bit of heartburn.  A few minutes later, it felt like someone hit me with a sledge hammer in the center of my chest.

I went down hard, first to my knees, then my back. I have a memory snap shot of looking at myself laying there. In my mind, I heard my name called assertively, and struggled to my knees. My first thought was “I wonder if this is serious”?  Instantly again that voice, “Yes!”   I called my friend John who was just out of sight and told him we better head to the emergency room in Deadwood 15 miles away.

On the way, I was in and out of consciousness giving directions occasionally, since John didn’t know the way.  Upon arrival I was conscious (barely), but once in the exam room my heart went into v-fib and stopped a few times.  My next awareness was three days later in Rapid City heart ICU.

What I now know is that the Deadwood physician assistant and ER nurse performed CPR on me until a portable defibrillator was placed on my chest. They shocked me 12 times, along with some pretty good chest compressions.  Then they placed ice bags under and over parts of my body, wrapped me up and air lifted me to Rapid City Regional.

In Rapid City, I was taken directly to the Cath lab where Dr Drew Purdy drew a shot glass-sized blood clot from my LAD and placed a stint. Over the next 24 hours my heart was shocked 3 different times and CRP was necessary by my ICU nurse. I understand she took extraordinary measures to save my life. 

Due to oxygen deprivation, I was kept in a hypothermic state till Sunday evening and then gradually warmed up. The Doctors told my family I had a good chance of major organ damage or brain damage due to the duration and extent of my oxygen deprivation. With a breathing tube, 23 IVs and all the medical issues, I swelled up like the little Pillsbury dough boy. I was unable to even hold a Kleenex between my fingers until Wednesday. 

On Wednesday I was able to stand with the help of two nurses, and on Friday I weakly walked out of the hospital - unassisted.  My recovery has been slow, and I’ve needed a stint inside the original stint. My doctor says they call it a stint sandwich!  I deal with Cardio Vascular Spasms which cause pretty regular angina, but they are now being successfully treated with medication.  The healing of my shattered sternum and ribs has been the most painful part of recovery – but a small price to pay for being alive.

I am convinced my recovery has been an answer to the many prayers raised up to God by my family and friends. I am grateful to all the wonderful, competent medical people who have taken care of me.  Today I’m an active 64 year old enjoying life and working full time as a Presbyterian Pastor. I hope sharing my journey of survival will bring strength and hope to others.  Life is Why!

Read More

Advocate Spotlight: Sabrina Swee

Sabrina Swee South Dakota

Engaging our youth in healthy eating is important to help combat the childhood obesity crisis facing our nation.  With childhood obesity rates on the rise, it's encouraging to read about kids like Sabrina Swee who started cooking in the kitchen at age 3.  Recently, Sabrina took her skills to the Food Network show "Chopped Junior" which features four contestants who cook different courses showcasing specific ingredients given to them.  Sabrina's experience is a great example of our youth taking charge of their nutrition and setting an example for other kids to follow.  For more on Sabrina's story, CLICK HERE

Read More

[+] Blogs[-] Collapse