American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Jocelyn Gomez

August 7th, 2015 was the start of the most life-changing event of our lives. My father, mother, and I were sitting in the emergency room that night waiting to be called on. As the minutes went by a tragedy was about to occur without even knowing. My father was at the emergency room for the pain he had on his left foot. His pinky was swelled up, bruised, and a very bright red mark was on the top part of his foot. 

That night my father found out he was diabetic when his blood sugar level was at 750. My father was already a survivor of three heart attacks and the news of him being diabetic was just another thing to add to the plate. Unfortunately, my father has a rare condition where he creates blood clots very easily. This became a massive problem to his foot. The pain was due to the lack of blood circulation and the different techniques that the doctor’s applied were just not enough. After the unsuccessful peripheral bypass surgery, there was no other option than to have an amputation below the knee.

Recovery is and will always be difficult because it is not only a physical recovery, but a mental recovery as well. His loving family and friends always surround him, which is a huge support. Today, my father is slowly adapting to his new lifestyle with a very optimistic attitude. Being diabetic has given him a different view to life and is thankful that he is still alive to tell his story.

My experience at the American Heart Association as an advocacy volunteer has been one of a kind. I’ve learned remarkable things and became part of a community that works very hard to prevent serious health conditions such as diabetes. Working on the SSB campaign has helped me gain more understanding on how much sugar we are consuming without even knowing. Avoiding sugar sweetened beverages and learning how to prevent health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes is extremely important. My father did not care much about his health until his unfortunate amputation. After this life experience, my interest in working in the public health arena has skyrocketed. Educating my own family on healthier choices to prevent any further health conditions is just the beginning. It is never too late to live a healthy lifestyle!

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2016 Legislative Session Wrap Up

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

The 2016 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.

This year the Utah State Legislature made initial steps toward working on Healthcare issues affecting the State by passing House Bill 437 “Health Care Revisions”. This bill had the effect of partially expanding Medicaid coverage for an estimated 17,000 Utahns who currently have no insurance coverage. I’m happy to report that as part of the AHA’s efforts to fully expand Medicaid we were able to work with the bill sponsor and successfully include language in House Bill 3 “Appropriations Adjustments” that ensures that Tobacco Cessation services that meets AHA criteria will be extended to all Medicaid recipients in the state! Your efforts will ensure that all Medicaid recipients will have access to both counseling and all FDA-approved pharmaceutical methods for tobacco cessation at no or minimal cost sharing. These efforts will ensure coverage for those most in need and will further contribute to Utah’s nation-leading low smoking rates!

At our annual lobby day in February, You’re the Cure volunteers from across the state had an opportunity to participate in a full day of activities, including a special bill signing ceremony with the Governor where we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act and honored the individuals who made it all possible those many years ago. After the ceremony our volunteers spoke to their legislators on a number of legislative issues. Conversations between Board Members and legislative leadership surrounding Medicaid Expansion allowed us to begin discussions on enhancements to tobacco cessation services. Although the legislation in question was not a full expansion of Medicaid services as envisioned in the ACA, legislative leadership saw the wisdom in enhancing tobacco cessation services as a means of decreasing tobacco use and more effectively utilizing state resources.

But none of this would have been possible without your help and support! As was highlighted during last month’s blog about the CPR save by the Hurricane Wrestling Team, your advocacy efforts have a direct impact on the lives of our fellow Utahn’s. Whether it’s CPR, Tobacco Cessation, Safe Routes to Schools, or Hospital Stroke Treatment, you are making a difference and helping the AHA to achieve our Mission of saving lives and improving health. Thank you for all you do and do not hesitate to get involved! The next great thing we do could all come down to you!

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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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What You Do Saves Lives

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

I wanted to draw your attention to an amazing story out of southern Utah that stands as an amazing reminder that the work we do truly does save lives!

Many of you might have seen the recent news about wrestlers from Hurricane High School who were out of town at a tournament and saved the life of a man who suffered a heart attack. What you might not have realized is that those students received life-saving CPR training while in school – a direct result of advocacy efforts that you helped pass at the state legislature two years ago!

Working with Representative Mel Brown and other legislators, advocates like you were able to successfully convince legislators to set aside funding so that all high school students in Utah would receive CPR training before they graduated. Allan Madsen, a senior at Hurricane High School, described to KSL his feelings after he and his team took action:

"It gives me chills every time I think about it," said Madsen. "I took a CPR class just a few weeks ago at school and it was great to have that knowledge when I was there."

The man, Kent Moser from Preston, Idaho, was taken to a hospital. He's doing well now. Doctors told the family the team saved his life.

Stories like this bolster our efforts and strengthen our resolve to see that heart-healthy policies are made a priority here in the state.

This session our You’re the Cure advocates have had an opportunity to advocate for important polices that will keep tobacco out of the hands of youth, provide life-saving insurance coverage to Utahns most in need, and ensure that students have a safe route to take to and from school. We continue to work on these important polices and know that – just like our work with CPR two years ago – adopting these policies will have a profound impact in our families, communities, and across the state.

Thank you for all you do to support the important work of the American Heart Association! I look forward to sharing a recap of this year’s legislative session with you next month. We appreciate your engagement and know that with each legislator you speak to and each action alert you respond to we are one step closer to fulfilling our life-saving mission.

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Heart on the Hill 2016

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

This past Friday volunteers from across the state gathered at the Utah State Capitol as we celebrated National Wear Red Day with our annual “Heart on the Hill” Lobby Day. Advocates just like you had a chance to listen directly from State Legislators as they discussed important legislation that impacts cardiovascular health: Tobacco Use, Affordable Healthcare, and Safe Routes to School. You’re the Cure advocates then had a chance to take their message to their legislators as they discussed these important policies with them.

A special feature this year was an opportunity for us to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act. Working with Representative Paul Ray and Senator Ralph Okerlund we were able to streamline the passage of HCR 2, which recognizes this important anniversary as well as honoring the men and women who made it available, in particular the late Representative Gerald Woodmansee and David Hughes Horne. We were honored to have David Horne with us as well as many members of both families – some who had traveled as far as California to be here with us!

The day culminated with a very special signing ceremony for HCR 2 with Governor Herbert and his staff. We were pleased to also be joined by Dr. Joseph Miner, Director of the Department of Health and Alan Matheson, Director of the Division of Environmental Quality. A very special thanks to Governor Herbert who was very gracious with his time and stayed so all of our volunteers could have their picture taken with him.

A very special thanks to AHA Staff who helped put the event together, members of the local Board of Directors who supported the event, Western States Affiliate Board President Dr. Kirk Knowlton who was in attendance and addressed our advocates, IASIS Healthcare who provided breakfast and health screenings, and the many volunteers and family members who took the time to make this event an overwhelming success! In all we had nearly 100 attendees for this amazing event – and it all is thanks to the support we receive from our active volunteers from across the state. It was truly a moment to remember that when we are all committed to a singular goal that we can all be the cure for cardiovascular disease and stroke!

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Little Hats Big Hearts Utah

The Little Hat, big Hearts campaign has volunteers from all over Utah picking up their knitting needles. More than 800 hats will be donated to babies and children at Utah hospitals to promote awareness about heart disease and congenital heart defects during American Heart Month in February. One in every three deaths is due to heart disease in America, making it the #1 cause of death. Many babies are born with heart defects. In fact, congenital heart defects are the leading birth defect in infants.

Thanks to our volunteers, including members of Intermountain Healing Hearts, hundreds of tiny babies will feel the warmth this February. Every baby born in February at a participating Utah hospital should receive a red hat. Little Hats, Big Hearts started in February 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Since then the program has expanded to 29 states, including Utah. The American Heart Association uses the increased awareness to provide funding for research in support of congenital heart defects, which affect 1 out of every 100 babies born and can result in dozens of surgeries and procedures for each baby.

The number of donations this year has been outstanding. With the original goal of 200 hats, more than 800 hats were donated. More babies then ever will be able to go home with special red caps and warm heads. Caps will be distributed to Primary Children’s Hospital, LDS Hospital, Intermountain Medical Center, Alta View Hospital, St. Mark’s Hospital, Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, University Hospital and Lakeview Hospital. Little Hats, Big Hearts is making a big statement in our community about the importance of research and awareness of heart defects.

Pictured is four-year-old Jaxon Jensen is a congenital heart defect survivor. His grandmother, Rachel Gordon and her co-workers knitted 100 hats to support other children in Utah with heart problems.

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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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This years legislative session looks like it will be a busy one

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season these past few weeks! I had a chance to spend some wonderful time with my family and recharge my battery as we now prepare for the busiest season of all: Legislative Session!

As you are aware, the State of Utah will begin our annual legislative session in a few weeks. While every session has its moments, this year looks to be quite busy as our elected officials debate several issues that could have a profound impact on many Utahns. Often the American Heart Association is asked to “weigh-in” on several of these issues. As our top volunteers I wanted to give you a chance to see a bit of what goes on behind the screen and see where we sit on what continues to be one of the top issues in the state: Affordable Healthcare Coverage.

By now, it would be hard to find many people in the state who have not heard of Governor Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” plan (in its various iterations) that would improve the access to affordable healthcare coverage for many in our State. We commend the state of Utah for trying to find an option that best suits the needs of all Utahns in regards to medical insurance coverage.

Utah is known for its culture of hard-working and compassionate people. We feel that the Healthy Utah Plan finds the right balance. In 2011, hospital charges for cardiovascular disease alone exceeded $600 million in Utah. And in 2013, more than 4,000 Utahns died from cardiovascular disease and stroke, the number one cause of death in Utah. There is no question that if there was an increased access to care and an opportunity for individuals to affordably visit their healthcare provider, many of these lives would not have been lost.

While there will be many issues that the legislature will discuss in the coming months, few have the potential to effect so many lives as this does.

I hope that you will join us during this session for our annual Heart on the Hill Lobby Day on February 5th! It looks to be an exciting time for our staff and volunteers to assemble and have a chance to speak with our legislators about issues that our close to our hearts. Please bring your family and friends who are able to attend and don’t forget to RSVP for the event here.

See you then!

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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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