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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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From the Bottom of our Hearts - Thank You!

National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) is right around the corner and we couldn’t let it pass without saying how much we appreciate all your contributions as a You’re the Cure advocate. It’s advocates like you who give their time, energy, and passion to help create healthier communities across the country.  We are deeply grateful for your commitment and talent as an advocate.

Since staff can’t always shake your hand and say thank you in person we’ve got a brief video to share. When you watch I am sure you too will be moved by all the great work happening in your states and communities and we look forward to more success in the future. Take a moment to check out the video and then encourage other to get involved and join in the fun.

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We Haven't Given Up on Healthy Utah

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director 

The 2015 Legislative Session has finally come to end and while there are important issues that have yet to be resolved, we can be proud of the efforts we have engaged in and the results we were able to see.

Top of mind for many people the past few months has been the status of Healthy Utah. In the years I have spent following and being a part of the political scene here in Utah I have never witnessed a more important – yet politically galvanizing – issue as this. And while the result at the end of session was not what any of us were hoping for (nothing was passed) the important thing is that this issue is far from over. As long as the “coverage gap” continues to exist there will be a need to help those who most need affordable access to healthcare.

Over the next 4 months a group comprised of Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, Senate President Niederhauser, Speaker Hughes, Senator Shiozawa, and Representative Dunnigan will hammer out the details of a compromise that will address the “coverage gap” here in Utah. I am hopeful that by the end of this summer we will have a bill passed by the legislature that finds the delicate balance between providing for those Utahns who are in need while ensuring that our financial obligations are taken care of now and into the future.

A bright spot this legislative session was a bill that we hadn’t reported on before. Early in the session Senator Vickers proposed and ultimately passed legislation that dealt with the construction of new schools here in the state. I was drawn to this legislation in light of the work we have been doing with UDOT’s Safe Routes to School program. They indicated that they receive many applications each year from schools asking for financial help with infrastructure projects around their schools (sidewalks, crosswalks, safety zones, etc.).

A surprisingly large amount of these applications actually come from newer schools because they had failed to adequately prepare for the pedestrian traffic coming in and out of the schools and surrounding neighborhoods. The legislation passed by Senator Vickers ensures that all proposed school construction projects must plan for pedestrian traffic around these schools before they open their doors on the first day of school. Our hope is that the pre-construction planning will ensure new schools are built with the school child in mind – both in the classroom and as they travel to and from school each day!

Lastly, but certainly not least is an update on E-cigarette legislation we have been working with Representative Paul Ray on for the past few years. I am happy to announce that after years of working on this issue the state legislature unanimously passed legislation that ensures that e-cigarettes are now treated like other tobacco products here in the state. That means that those that create and/or sell e-cigarettes will now have to obtain a tobacco license. This will ensure that existing laws regarding youth access will be better enforced and will also ensure that manufactures and retailers meet high quality control standards for how these products are made and where they are sold. The ultimate aim of this legislation was to ensure that Utah’s existing laws restricting these products from minors was strengthened. I am happy to announce that this legislation met that goal!

I express my sincerest thanks to those of you who have helped us in our advocacy efforts this session and throughout the years. With your help we are well on our way toward our 2020 goal of improving the health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%. As always, for heart disease and stroke in the state of Utah, You’re the Cure!

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Amber Johnson

Written By: Sara Stout, Business Development Director

Heart disease hits close to home for Missoula’s Johnson family. Amber, a mother of three beautiful and creative children survived 32 years and two normal pregnancies only to find out while eight months
pregnant, she had been born with not one but two potentially life-threatening congenital heart conditions: Long QT Syndrome (a Sudden Cardiac Arrest electrical disorder) and Junctional Bradycardia (an arrhythmia disorder).

As the cardiologist who diagnosed her explained, Amber defied the odds for three decades, simply by staying alive. In 2013, Amber underwent surgery to have a pacemaker implanted which takes just seconds to shock her heart back to life when her heart malfunctions. Amber shares her story of survival to inspire others to take charge of their heart health and is thankful that she thrives today because of the research developed by the American Heart Association.

Unfortunately Amber’s eldest daughter, Laurelei, has the same potentially life-threatening congenital heart disease. Ten-year-old Laurelei shares her mother’s passion and energy for life knowing that one day she will be able to receive the same surgery as Amber. Until then, Laurelei will continue to carry her portable AED with her wherever she goes because it will save her life.

Amber and Laurelei shared their powerful story at the Go Red For Women Luncheon in Missoula on February 13th, reminding the 170 people in attendance that life is precious and to live every moment to the fullest. The Johnson family devotes their time to learning, creating, dancing, supporting each other and advocating for the American Heart Association.

Nearly 1 out of every 100 births a child is born with some form of heart disease.  Join the Go Red movement for families like the Johnson’s and in support of friends, family and other loved ones in the community who battle heart disease. www.goredforwomen.org

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Update on the Legislative Session

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

We are in the final stretch of the Utah State Legislative Session and things really look to be heating up! What will be the final fate SB 164 “Healthy Utah”? Are e-cigarettes finally going to be treated like all other tobacco products?

While we won’t know the answers to these questions until next week, I’d like to take a step back and congratulate our many volunteers for their efforts at our recent “Heart on the Hill” Lobby Day!

My sincerest thanks to all those that were able to attend and to IASIS Healthcare for their sponsorship! This year IASIS provided health screenings to legislators and the public as well as lunch for our volunteers and the legislature. During our training session our volunteers had an opportunity to hear from a diverse range of speakers who are local experts in their related fields including:

  • Dave Gessel from the Utah Hospitals Association who shared his emotional story of witnessing his own mother suffer a stroke. Dave was fortunate to be in a position to recognize her symptoms and get her to the hospital in time. Our thanks to the UHA for their ongoing efforts to ensure that stroke treatment in Utah continues to be the very best. We look forward to working with them and the Department of Health in the coming months to see that Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals receive state recognition.
  • Tim Best from Davis School District who taught us about their innovative approach with “Healthy Bodies – Healthy Minds.” This program enhances children’s learning as teachers utilize physical activity through their lessons. Results from pilot schools have shown an amazing increase in student health and test scores as well as improved student behavior and less absences!
  • Representative Raul Ray joined us to discuss his tie to the American Heart Association. He was born with severe congenital heart defects. He also explained his fight against tobacco use in our youth and his efforts this year to ensure that e-cigarettes stay out of schools and are treated as other tobacco products.
  • Professor Chaney and some of his BYU Students presented on their work on Safe Routes to School. They have been working with a number of elementary schools throughout Utah County to identify problematic areas around schools that might put children at risk as they travel to and from school. You can follow their social media efforts by following #SafeRoutesUT. Special thanks to Benji Lambson, Kaylee Banner, Danny Doria, Maranda Christiansen, Kelsey Hamstead, Rachel Harris, Josinah Gachia for their efforts.
  • Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox joined us to present on the Governor’s “Healthy Utah” plan. He spoke with our volunteers about the importance of engaging our legislators and letting them know how we feel about this issue as their constituents. In light of recent actions by the State House of Representatives in voting down the "Healthy Utah 2.0" plan passed by the State Senate, this truly underscores the need for all of us to get involved! For more on how you can help with this effort, please visit our You’re the Cure Action Page.
  • Dr. Ben Schmidt is an Emergency Physician from IASIS Health Care’s Salt Lake Regional Hospital. He shared first-hand accounts of individuals performing CPR and the success that comes from bystanders administering it right away. This work truly saves lives and underscores the importance of our efforts to help all people learn CPR.
  • We recognized Linda Mayne and Cybil Prideaux as our Volunteers of the Year for 2015. Linda and Cybil both work for the Utah State Office of Education and have been very instrumental in the success of rolling out our CPR in Schools efforts! Please reach out to your local High School to make sure they are participating in this core curriculum training.
  • Lastly, Speaker Greg Hughes joined us to share some of his best tips on how to be effective citizen lobbyists. His number one takeaway was the importance of developing relationships with our legislators - and not just during the legislative session.

My thanks again for all who were able to attend! Thank you all for your efforts to drive our life-saving mission forward.

*Note: This was submitted before the end of the legislative session. Check back next month for a full review of the final status on these and other issues.

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E-cigarettes Hit the Market and Everything Changed

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

Last month I had a chance to share with all of you some of the efforts we are engaged in here at the AHA|ASA in regards to making healthcare affordable for all Utahns. The governor’s Healthy Utah Plan is a wonderful example of the state finding an affordable and economically feasible approach to enhancing medical insurance coverage here in the state.

This month I would like to address another serious issue that we will be advocating for up on Capitol Hill. Many of you are aware of the ill effects that tobacco and nicotine products have on our health. When one considers the amount of change this country has seen in the past 20-30 years, it is remarkable to see the differences. Smoking in restaurants, businesses, airplanes and other public places has been extinguished. Tobacco sales have continued to decrease as people become more aware of the devastating effect that cigarettes have on their health. Utah proudly boasts the lowest tobacco use in the country. In many respects, we are doing better than ever.

Then e-cigarettes hit the market – and everything changed. Consider this:

  • Recent studies show that as of 2013 e-cigarette use rates now exceed traditional cigarette use among youth.  Currently nearly 6% of Utah students admit illegally using e-cigarettes—a rate that has more than tripled in the last 3 years!
  • E-cigarettes contain harmful and addictive products like nicotine—a substance shown to have negative health and psychological effects, especially in adolescents.
  • Data shows that taxing tobacco products is an effective means of helping people to quit and deterring youth from starting. Taxpayers in the state currently pay $542 million each year to treat tobacco-related illnesses. Taxing all tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – ensures we are helping people to quit, discouraging youth use, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars in the future!

The American Heart Association advocates for bringing all tobacco products under similar licensing rules in order to keep new products out of the hands of children. Stores and retailers who sell e-cigarettes should be held to the same standards as those who sell other tobacco and nicotine products. Licensing allows for local health departments to conduct compliance checks to ensure these are not being sold to minors.

This year we ask you to join with us to urge legislators to bring all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, under the same licensing and taxation rules, to help keep them out of the hands of children.

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The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 Livestream

Join us for this exclusive virtual event where top designers and celebrities demonstrate their support for women's heart health during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Heart disease is not just a man's disease. Each year, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke. We can change that--80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Help break barriers against heart disease and stroke by joining us for the Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 live online at GoRedForWomen.org/RedDressCollection on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern. See you there!

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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!”

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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.

Sincerely,

Kami Sutton

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Heart on the Hill Lobby Day is Less than a Month Away

Can you believe the American Heart Association’s annual Utah Heart on the Hill Lobby Day is just a few weeks away? Advocates from the across the state will gather at the Capitol on Friday February 6th to speak with our elected officials on issues that will help build a healthier Utah.

If you haven’t already reserve your spot today!

We will ask lawmakers to prioritize these three issue during the 2015 legislative session:
 

  • Safe Routes to School – This program is designed to make it easier and safer to kids to walk and bike to school but it needs proper funding.
     
  • Tobacco regulation – With the advent of new technology like e-cigarettes we want to make sure all products conform with existing laws.
     
  • Availability of high quality healthcare for all Utahns - Finding a solution that will help improve access to healthcare is imperative for the state.

It should be an exciting day so we hope you can join us. No prior lobbying experience is required as training will be provided that day.  If you’ve already registered, please don’t forget to invite your family and friends to join us by registering here

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