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Back to School Season

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

As a parent, this time of year brings a swell of anxiety and relief. With the end of summer comes the crispness of fall and the beginning of a new school year.

I remember growing up walking to and from school each day. Some days were definitely more fun than others but never did I have to worry about if I was going to get to school safely. The neighborhood I grew up in was older, not very busy, and had sidewalks. Whether I realized it or not, this round trip walk of 1.8 miles ensured that I got at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each school day. Rain or shine, wind or snow, it was a constant during those early years.

As a parent, I now see myself on the other side of this equation as I find myself constantly worrying about the safety of my kids. I also am struck with the realization of just how fortunate I was growing up in an area where sidewalks were along every road and crossing guards were at every major intersection. Now, one need only pay attention to the news to realize that these essentials for child safety are not found in every neighborhood.

The past few years the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association has worked with students from BYU to help students, parents, schools, and city officials to recognize the threats that exist in their communities. Their findings have been staggering – if not frightening.

Throughout this blog you will see pictures and stories from students and parents. These situations are real and they are found throughout our state. Cities and the Department of Transportation stretch limited resources as much as they can to try and fix these issues but the reality is that they need to hear from you.

As you prepare for the upcoming school year take the opportunity to walk the path that your children or grandchildren will soon be embarking upon. If there are problem areas, take the time to help your little ones know how to navigate around them. Document where these trouble areas are with photos. Next month we will be providing an opportunity to share these pictures, locations, and stories with your locally elected officials to help them to understand the issues. With your help, and working with the State’s Safe Routes to School Program, we will make a difference for the children around us and help create safer, more accessible neighborhoods for everyone to enjoy.

Some examples we have seen in our community include:

From missing crosswalks:

Missing Crossing Guards:

Missing or damaged sidewalks:

 

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Advocate Spotlight: Cindy Peterman

After 35 years of smoking, bouts with bronchitis and increasing prices, Cindy Peterman decided it was time to quit and she credits the recent price increase for tobacco products in Nevada with helping her.

 

“Last year on July 4th weekend when I went to buy cigarettes I realized with the increase I can’t do this anymore; I have rent to pay. I am so grateful for the increase. It led to me quitting for good,” said Cindy.

In addition to the tax increase, Cindy’s can-do attitude and positive outlook on life made it easier for her to quit. Prior to moving to Las Vegas to be near her son and grandkids, she owned both a restaurant and home in Texas. When the recent recession hit, Cindy lost the restaurant and then her home.

 

“After going through all that change, I thought I can make another change in my life,” she said. 

Upon deciding to quit, Cindy visited her doctor and received the patch (covered by Medicaid). While the patch has four cycles, Cindy only used it for the first cycle.

 

“I have not smoked or used the patch since,” she said.

 

Her son is overjoyed that she quit and she notes how important it is to be a good example for her grandkids. In her job at checkout at Walgreens, Cindy has discovered many of her customers are quitting since the tobacco tax increase. She shares her story to encourage them and now they have formed a small support group. Cindy also hopes by sharing her story with the AHA/ASA, she can inspire even more people to quit.

 

Most of all, Cindy is enjoying her new smoke-free life.

 

“At age 65, I enjoy having the time to start my life over,” she said.

 

Thank you, Cindy, for sharing this wonderful example of how smart, strong public health policy can positively affect the lives of individuals and communities. Keep up the good fight, Cindy!

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How fate brought together three stroke survivors' families

The following article about You're the Cure advocate Ryley Williams and two other youths who survived strokes on the same day was published by AHA CEO Nancy Brown in the Huffington Post on July 6th, 2016. A link is provided at the end of the story.

In the community of Dartmouth in the Canadian province Nova Scotia, Nik Latter’s family is throwing what his mom promises will be “a big ol’ party.” Fist bumps and hugs will celebrate the fact he’s made it an entire year since his devastating July 8th.

One by one, over each of the last three July 8s, Ryley, Amber and Nik suffered a stroke. Yet the oddity of their shared date is only part of what led their moms to create a de facto support group.

What really brought them together is that Ryley, Amber and Nik were — and still are — teenagers.

Ryley was 15 and devoted to becoming the starting nose guard on his varsity football team. Amber was 13 and loved playing softball and hanging out with the two girls who’d been her best friends since kindergarten. Nik was a few days shy of 18 and had left school to work at a restaurant; he’d bought a car and aimed to become a voluntary firefighter following that upcoming birthday.

Now, well, their dreams are different.

As we approach July 8, the families allowed me to share their stories to send an important message: Stroke can attack anyone at any time.

***

Ryley Williams went into the summer following his freshman year at Bentonville (Arkansas) High with one goal. He wanted to draw the attention of the varsity football coaches.

So he ran and lifted weights. He ate six meals a day, devouring only foods that would expand his 6-foot, 242-pound frame the right way.

“Honey, you’re never late, you make good grades, you don’t cause any problems — trust me, the coaches notice you,” his mom, Terri Rose, told him. “They just won’t tell you they notice you.”

The morning of Monday, July 8, 2013, Ryley went to an indoor field for football practice. He was stretching when he grabbed his leg and collapsed. Everyone thought he’d pulled a muscle and overreacted. Then they realized there was more to it.

At the hospital, a brain scan showed a bigger problem than the facility could handle. He was flown by helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. It wasn’t easy fitting someone his size into the chopper.

When they landed, seizures began. Off he went for an MRI. Looking at the results, the doctor pointed to five spots.

“This is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke and this is a stroke,” the doctor said. “We need to find out why he has so many blood clots in his brain.”

Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, they still didn’t know why. And now they had a new problem. Ryley’s brain was swelling.

He underwent an operation to remove part of his skull. With Ryley sedated, doctors also took a closer look at his heart. They found hair-like strands of a bacterial infection on the outside of two valves. A-ha! This was the source.

Next question: How much brain damage had he suffered? His right side didn’t function. Doctors cautioned he may never walk or talk.

As Ryley was coming out of his medically induced coma, some football players visited. Coaches, too. They brought a varsity jersey with his number, 99.

“The head coach drove down to Little Rock and stayed with us when Ryley had the skull surgery,” Terri said. “Other coaches came to visit, too. They told us they were watching him. They knew he was going to have a big year. Hearing that was bittersweet.”

Fast forward to today.

His right arm remains compromised. He also battles aphasia, a condition that sometimes makes it hard for him to get words out. Still, Ryley recently graduated high school, right on time. He even spent the last year working at a Walmart Neighborhood Market. And he’s become an advocate for the American Stroke Association. Last year, he and Terri encouraged a Congressional subcommittee in Washington, D.C., to support more funding for research and awareness about pediatric stroke.

He’s spending this summer at a facility that specializes in neuropsychology recovery for victims of strokes and traumatic brain injuries. He’s learning skills to live on his own, although he plans to spend two years at home while attending Northwest Arkansas Community College.

“He’s incredibly positive,” Terri said. “He’s accepted everything. He tells you, `This is who I am now.’”

***

The night of July 8, 2014, Amber Hebert was on first base when the next batter hit the ball to the outfield.

Amber ran to second base without anyone trying to get her out, then fell as if she’d been punched. She vomited and went into a seizure. Her 5-foot-3, 86-pound body thrashed so violently that four firefighters held her down while a fifth injected her with medicine.

The local hospital in Bellevue, Nebraska, ended up sending her to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. The seizures continued until 3 a.m.

“When she finally stopped seizing, she was able to see and talk and understand you,” said her mom, Tirzah Hebert. “But I could see the fear in her eyes.”

Tests — and seizures — continued throughout the next day. Finally, doctors declared she’d suffered a stroke.

The next day, Amber sat in a chair holding a cup and walked around her hospital floor. The following day, she had a bit more difficulty holding a cup but could still walk. That night, Tirzah asked if she understood what had happened.

“I don’t know,” Amber said.

The next day, a Saturday, Amber couldn’t walk, talk or hold up her head. This continued until Tuesday, when she finally underwent an MRI. It showed that her brain was swelling.

Doctors were able to reduce it with medicine. Then came the waiting game to determine the extent of brain damage. Soon, she began smiling and communicating with her left hand — fist for yes, open palm for no.

These days, Amber walks, but sometimes the toes on her right foot curl, causing her to drag her foot.

She can’t move her right hand or wrist. She also has aphasia. Therapists believe that with practice she’ll improve in every area. (Doctors never determined the cause of her stroke.)

Alas, there have been other obstacles.

Shortly after Amber made it home, her dad’s dad — with whom she was very close — died of cancer. Four months later, a lump in her dad’s neck was found to be cancerous. Early detection plus chemotherapy and radiation helped him beat it.

School proved no refuge. She went from being one of the most popular girls at school to getting bullied. Her two lifelong best friends “just disappeared,” Tirzah said. Amber switched to homeschooling until giving the classroom another try this summer.

“She’s a happy girl, for the most part, very loving and caring,” Tirzah said. “She still has some depression, but who wouldn’t? To have your life completely turned upside down like hers has?”

***

Even as a child, Nik Latter struggled with migraines. So, last June, when he had one that was bad enough to go to a hospital, nobody thought much of it.

Nor did anyone think twice when he left work complaining of a migraine on Sunday, July 5, 2015.

The next day, he endured what he described as the worst migraine he’d ever experienced. He wore sunglasses indoors and had his mom, Rhonda, drive him to a clinic. The next day, he slept at his grandparents’ house because it was quieter than being home with his two younger sisters.

Rhonda visited him Wednesday, he stared blankly. He tried talking, but nothing came out.

“He’s having a stroke,” she declared. “Call 911!”

A scan showed a mass on the right side of his brain. During an operation, doctors determined it was a stroke. Days later, it was determined the cause was a sinus infection gone severely wrong. The infection broke the barrier between the sinus and the brain, releasing a blood clot.

Nik’s recovery started great. He gave hugs, pulled his mom’s hair and played thumb wars with his sisters. Then, in the early hours of July 16, he had another stroke. On the other side of his brain.

Doctors said Nik may not survive. But the family wanted to give him every chance. Their faith was rewarded when he was weaned off the breathing tube.

He continued clearing hurdles, although he remained hospitalized until March. The long struggle seemed to deflate him; being home reinvigorated him. He now puts his right foot down and pushes his wheelchair. He fist bumps with his right hand, laughs, smiles and kicks.

He makes sounds and, sometimes, says words. Not enough to say he’s talking. But he’s trying.

“He’s very aware of his surroundings,” Rhonda said.

***

While each stroke story is different, every stroke shares similarities.

Time lost is brain lost. The sooner the stroke can be recognized, the sooner treatment can begin. The gold standard of treatment is called tPA. If this clot-busting drug is administered within three hours, and up to 4.5 hours in some cases, the extent of recovery can improve drastically.

That’s why the American Stroke Association urges everyone to remember the acronym FAST. When you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911.

Stroke is the No. 2 killer worldwide and No. 5 in the United States. While it’s true that strokes usually happen to older people is true, Ryley, Amber and Nik are proof that’s not always the case.

The world of pediatric stroke is small enough — and the pull of the internet is strong enough — that families of survivors are bound to find each other.

For instance, Terri connected with Lea Chaulk, a Canadian mom whose son was about the same age as Ryley and had a stroke about the same time. Terri and Lea became like sisters as they helped their sons grieve over the lives they lost and learn to embrace their new reality. Lea later introduced Terri to Rhonda.

Meanwhile, Ryley got to know four teenagers from the Kansas City area who were featured by American Heart Association News after they overcame strokes during high school to graduate on time. One of those families had gotten to know the Heberts, and they connected Terri and Tirzah.

The three moms — Terri, Tirzah and Rhonda — lean on each other often. They’ve yet to meet in person, although Ryley and Amber have shared messages via Facebook.

“Knowing that I’m not alone has helped soooo much,” Tirzah said.

“If I didn’t have some of these moms, I think I’d go insane,” said Rhonda, laughing. “Sometimes I sit down and get lost in thought and get upset. Then I’ll send one of them a message saying `I need you to bring me back down to Earth.’”

Three families irrevocably altered, all on a July 8. It’s incredible. Yet from this coincidence comes strength.

“I’ve told my family, `Look, it happened to two other kids on the same day,’” Tirzah said. “It’s like, Wow. And we’ve all made it this far. And you know what? We’re going to keep on going.”

Read the rest of the story on the Huffington Post.

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Stroke Strikes Close to Home

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

Each of us who supports the AHA|ASA has our own unique path that brings us here. As the preeminent health organization that leads the fight against America’s #1 and #5 causes of death (heart disease and stroke) it is difficult to find anyone who hasn’t been significantly impacted by the death or disability of a loved one who has been impacted by these terrible diseases.

Here at the AHA|ASA we recently went through a little rebranding through our “Life is Why” campaign. This beautiful campaign (click here to watch a short video) draws in each of us to reflect upon the reason(s) why we engage in our life-saving mission and work. For some, it is Life, for others it could be a specific family member, friend, or loved one. Whatever the reason(s) for us being here, each of us came with a desire and the motivation to make a difference; to change the statistics; to make a significant impact in the fight against cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

A few months ago I had a chance to share with you a story of how our work to get CPR taught in every high school is already making an impact and saving lives. Moments like these have led me to develop my own personal mantra of “Saving lives is Why”. And while saving lives continues to be a personal motivation, the experiences of the past few weeks have drawn my attention a little bit closer to home.

My wife’s grandmother recently passed away from a hemorrhagic stroke. By all accounts, she was young and healthy. She will also be terribly missed. Our family was heartbroken as someone so close to us passed away much too soon. Her passing has caused all of us to reflect not only on the memories we will cherish of her, but also those moments that we might have let pass us by – those memories that could have been made but other things in life may have gotten in the way. It is in these moments when I have experienced a paradigm shift – or a change in the way I think about things. Losses such as these have a way of helping you understand that there truly is a price on time, on moments, and on memories. And that price is paid in the moments of lament afterward asking the grand question “What if …?”  

And so, as I reflect on the recent passing of our grandmother I find that my motivations, my “why”, is beginning to change – and that this change reinvigorates me to continue on in the work we do. For me, family – and the memories I want to make with them – are why I continue on in my fight to help me – and others – to lead healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Continue on with us in our journey and our life-saving Mission. For with you, together, we can and will be the cure.

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What are you actually drinking?

We all know that certain drinks have added sugar in them but how easy is it to really know just how much?  Sometimes even when reading the nutrition label, understanding grams of sugar just doesn’t really make sense in practical terms. This graphic from the Center for Science in the Public Interest does a great job demystifying just how much sugar is in some of the most commonly consumed beverages.  For your heart health, make sure you know what you are drinking during these hot summer months. And remember, a glass of cold water is not only refreshing but it is sugar free!

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Knowing CPR Saved My Son

A lifesaving event retold by Kristy Stoner

In June 2014, my friend Erin and I planned a pool day together as we decided we would spend the afternoon together at her private community pool, where we could eat lunch and chat while the kids could swim. We both have 4 kids all under the age of 8. The day went pretty much as expected, perfect weather, kids got along and we were having a great time.

Towards the end of the day, I had a distinct thought “It’s quiet…” and in a home of 4 boys, quiet is NEVER a good thing, unless they are sleeping. I looked over and noticed only 3 boys, off to the side of the pool. And, after a quick scan of the pool I said “Where’s Max?” Almost immediately Erin yelled, “Kristy! He’s in the water!” I had noticed in the middle of the deep end a small, slightly darker area, all the way at the bottom. My heart dropped when I realized that tiny, hard to see figure was in fact my little boy’s body. What else could it be?!

I knew I had to get him out and I had to do it fast! All in a matter of seconds Erin had taken my 8 month old baby, Harry, from my arms and I jumped in the pool.  Mid jump I remember noticing how calm the water was. There were no signs of struggle on the water. Then I noticed his body-hunched over in an upside down U position, with his arms hanging down and his back at the highest point just like in the movies.

Once I grabbed him and made my way to the side of the pool, Erin called 911. When I got to the side, I tried to throw his body out, but again, I was brutally disappointed when I realized how heavy his lifeless body was.

Once I got him out of the water, I rolled him onto his back, I then realized the color, or lack thereof, of his face. His face, lips, and eyelids were completely bluish grey. All I remember thinking was, "Time to make him breathe.” So I took a large settling breath and proceeded with CPR techniques I learned 10 years ago!

I'm not sure how long I was working on him, we guess it was about 2 minutes, but I remember noticing when I would breathe for him, the color would come back to his face a little at a time.  At one point, Max's eyes flickered a little and I remember the sense of gratitude that rushed over me at that moment. Then all at once, his eyes opened as wide as they could possibly go. He tried to breathe, but he still couldn't, so I breathed for him a couple more times and then set him up to try and get him to breathe on his own!!

I could hear the water inside of his breath so Erin handed me the phone to talk to the 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher wanted me to calm him down, so his body would be able to throw up the remaining water in his lungs. Eventually, he threw up. It was 99% water.

The EMT's arrived a few moments later and started checking him. I'm so glad they brought a fire truck too, because that made Max happy and helped to cheer him up. He talks about it now when he tells the story. How he got to see a fire truck up close and ride in an ambulance!

In the ambulance, Max didn't want to talk much, but he did provide his explanation of events:  "I was swimming on the red floaty, my arms slipped off. I tried doing my scoops (swim strokes), got tired and then I sinked!” Once they knew he was stable they let him go to sleep.

At the hospital, I answered a lot of questions, but am still surprised how many people wanted to know "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" "How long did you do it?" Everyone was so encouraging, so positive, and so sweet to me. I consistently heard "Good job mom! You saved his life!"

Eventually, I was able to talk to the RN watching over Max. He told me "how lucky we were," and I asked him with a drowning like ours, what were the chances of full recovery. He replied with "It is a miracle he is alive." Alive?! A miracle that maybe he didn't have water in his lungs or any noticeable long-term damage, yes, but, a miracle he was alive? Really? Why wouldn't he be? I sat and thought about that for quite a while. Maybe I did do something right. Maybe, just maybe I did save his life! I had no idea! We later asked the doctor why people don't do CPR and the doctor said "either fear, panic, fear of doing something wrong and causing more problems, or the fact that it's gross." We were shocked! But, more importantly, I was so happy that the idea of not doing CPR had never even crossed my mind.

Truth is that 80% of sudden cardiac arrests (when the heart suddenly stops) happen out of a hospital setting, while only 40% of those victims receive CPR on the spot before EMT's arrive and only about 10% of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive the event.

Since the incident Max has made a full recovery; he even persuaded me to let him swim the NEXT DAY!! My lasting thoughts are that we cannot watch our kids 100% of the time. We can’t. We need to teach them to be smart and how to protect themselves. As parents, we also need to be prepared. Be prepared on how to respond in an emergency situation, learn CPR and first aid training that could save the life of a loved one!

If you want to refresh your knowledge of CPR techniques, please visit here.

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Air Pollutants and High Blood Pressure

For most of the year, Utah’s air quality is among the best in the nation, but when high pressure builds up for extended periods of time in the summer and winter, inversions develop in the Salt Lake and other valleys that lead to poor air conditions. Poor air quality not only limits our ability to enjoy Utah’s natural surroundings and spend time outside, it impacts the health of Utah’s population. Check out the latest evidence in the story below that shows that poor air quality is not only bad for your lungs, it’s bad for your heart as well!

Exposure to air pollutants linked to high blood pressure

By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

For your heart’s sake, limit your time outdoors when pollution levels are high.

That’s the conclusion of researchers who recently found that short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants from coal burning, vehicle exhaust, airborne dust and dirt are associated with the development of high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

“People should limit their exposure on days with higher air pollution levels, especially for those with high blood pressure,” said epidemiologist Tao Liu, Ph.D., lead author of the study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. “Even very short-term exposure can aggravate their conditions.”

In the first study to simultaneously estimate the effects of short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants on high blood pressure by meta-analysis, researchers focused on these air pollutants:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuel.
  • Nitrogen oxide (NO2) comes from fossil fuels burned at power plants and vehicle exhaust.
  • Particulate matter (PM) are in the air and include dust, dirt, smoke and liquid droplets. (PM 2.5 is smaller than a speck of dust and is the most common and hazardous type of air pollution. PM10 includes PM2.5 and PM2.5-10).

In the study, high blood pressure was significantly associated with short-term exposure to SO2, PM2.5 and PM10 and long-term exposure to NO2, which is produced from combustion, and PM10.

Researchers didn’t find significant short-term effects of ozone and carbon monoxide exposure.

Meta-analyses combine results from previous studies to estimate the overall effect of a particular variable on a result. Of 5,687 air pollution studies, researchers focused on 17 that included more than 108,000 people with high blood pressure and 220,000 people without high blood pressure.

Researchers defined high blood pressure as a systolic blood pressure of more than 140 mm Hg and/or a diastolic blood pressure of more than 90 mm Hg, or by use of high blood pressure medication. They assessed air pollution exposure by averaging data from the nearest air pollution monitoring stations or using complex dispersion models or land use regression models.

Previous studies have indicated that air pollution might be a risk factor for hypertension, but the results were controversial, said Liu, deputy director of the environmental health division at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China. The mechanism by which air pollution could contribute to the development of high blood pressure includes inflammation and oxidative stress, which may lead to changes in the arteries.

“Next, we plan to further delve into the effects of particulate matter and their sources on hypertension risk, which we hope will inform air pollution control policymakers,” Liu said.


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The AHA|ASA is Striking Out Stroke with U of U Health Care

Since January 2015, University of Utah Health Care has partnered with the AHA|ASA on our Together to End Stroke initiative. This past month our two organizations were able to collaborate on a number of fun and educational activities across the Salt Lake Valley to encourage Utahns to know and recognize the F.A.S.T. symptoms of a stroke. Here is just a sampling of the activities:

  • Cafeteria tables in University Hospital were adorned with special table toppers to remind staff and visitors (family and friends of patients) of the F.A.S.T. warning signs. In coordination with this, AHA|ASA volunteers staffed an informational table near the cafeteria to educate staff and visitors on things they can do to avoid stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. *hint* – might want to put the salt shaker down 

  • The AHA|ASA had an opportunity to celebrate National Nurses Appreciation Day by delivering fruits and other heart and brain healthy snacks to nurses at UUHC. Staff also passed along special Together to End Stroke lapel pins to doctors, physician’s assistants and hospital leadership to remind them of the important role they each play in preventing and treating strokes. AHA|ASA staff also participated in the UUHC Stroke Symposium, held each year to bring stroke experts from across the intermountain region to train them on the latest and greatest in stroke treatment and care.

  • The UUHC and AHA|ASA also teamed up to reach out to the community. Clinics from across the valley were given special stroke awareness materials in both English and Spanish. A special “Striking Out Stroke” event was held downtown where hundreds of Utahns were taught to recognize stroke symptoms and encouraged to pitch F.A.S.T.  balls into a special pitching net that clocked how fast participants threw. Subway provided sandwiches and Muir Copper Canyon Farms provided apples to those who took a short F.A.S.T. quiz.

  • In addition to these great events, UUHC doctors had multiple opportunities to engage with the public through social media (#StrokeChat), television (cooking segment on KUTV 2 with Chef Bryan; interview on FOX 13 during our Striking Out Stroke event), and radio (interviews on KSOP 104.3 FM). Comcast Newsmakers also interviewed the UUHC Stroke Center Clinical Manager regarding stroke awareness and our upcoming Saving Strokes event on June 17 at Nibley Park. This golfing rehab event starts at 10:30 am and is for stroke survivors and their caregivers. The Comcast interview runs throughout June to raise awareness and encourage attendance in this wonderful event.

We are so grateful for our partnership with University of Utah Health Care and their commitment to helping us achieve our 2020 goal: To improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths by heart disease and stroke by 20%. With strong partnerships like this we are well on our way to achieving our life-saving mission!

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Advocate Highlight - Claudette Kenmir

In December of 2006, I was a healthy 45 year old woman, newly divorced, with a high stress job and living by myself for the first time in my life. I started having severe headaches and couldn’t figure out why.  Two weeks before the onset of the headaches, I had begun to take birth control pills again for premenopausal symptoms.  I was in and out of the hospital and clinics for two weeks while trying to figure out what was going on. 

My youngest sister had come to stay with me to accompany me to my neurologists. On the morning of the appointment, I woke up, tripped getting into the shower and didn’t quite feel right. After dressing, I reached the top of the staircase and couldn’t figure out how to get down.  I ended up sliding down the staircase on my butt. My sister asked if we needed an ambulance but since I could still talk, I told her no. 

She quickly drove me to the doctor’s office and asked the doctor if I had had a stroke. He told my sister that I hadn’t but he was going to admit me to the hospital for some additional tests. 

A couple of days later, the doctor said I had actually had a stroke.  I spent that night crying myself to sleep unsure how I was going to be able to go home and live independently let alone return to work.  I couldn’t figure out how to work my Blackberry (this was 2006) or dial the phone that was next to my hospital bed. I couldn’t even wash my hair.

A few days later, I asked one of the wonderful nurses how a healthy 45 year old could have a stroke.  She said that it’s becoming more common. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  My family genetics at work!  

As far as anyone can tell, my outcome was positive, no noticeable deficits.  I was lucky! My stroke was a wakeup call. It made me “Stop and Smell the Roses”.  Now I play as hard as I work.   

I’m thankful for the work the American Heart and American Stroke Association does to educate the public on what can be done to prevent heart disease and reduce stroke.  I’m also very thankful for the support of my family and friends who helped me through a very frightening time.

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WE ARE THE CURE for cardiovascular disease and stroke

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

Each May we have an opportunity to celebrate and educate on an issue that is close to all of us – Stroke. As we have shared in the past Stroke in the fourth leading cause of death in Utah – and it doesn’t have to be. With your support we have improved the systems of care in Utah for how stroke patients are treated in our local hospitals. The success stories that we hear about are remarkable and it is all thanks to you!

One of the things that we have seen real movement on is the recognition of stroke signs in the community. FAST, can you name them?

  • Face droopiness, numbness and weakness
  • Arm numbness and weakness
  • Slurred speech or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Time to call 911 if these or other symptoms occur

More and more Utahns are becoming aware of these signs and acting accordingly when they seem them in themselves or others. But more can be done. Nationally, nearly one third of all Americans don’t know the signs. So, to celebrate our successes, familiarize ourselves with proven stroke prevention, educate the public on FAST signs – and have a little fun – we have been partnering with University of Utah Health Care in our “Together to End Stroke” community education program.

We are hosting several events in Salt Lake this month in hopes of creating “Stroke Heroes” among us!

  • Stroke Support Group – May 17th, 5:00 - 6:30 pm @ AHA|ASA Salt Lake Office (465 S 400 East, Suite 110)
    • For survivors, friends and families affected by stroke. This is an opportunity for individuals to share their successes and challenges, connect with others, and realize that you’re not alone! Caregivers are welcome to attend this group meeting as well. This month’s guest speaker will be speaking about Occupational Therapy. 

 

  • USOAR – Utah Stroke Outdoor Activity and Recreation, May 18th, 5:30 – 7:00 pm @ Liberty Park, Northeast Corner (600 E 900 S)
    • The University of Utah Health Sciences Program is having their kickoff event for this program. Activities will focus on ways to help stroke survivors adapt to outdoor activities and how these can help with rehab. Activities like biking, golfing, rafting, bowling, and more will be showcased!

 

  • Striking Out Stroke, May 25th, 11:30 -1:30 pm @ City Creek Shopping Center (40 East South Temple)
    • The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association, in conjunction with our “Together to End Stroke” community partner, University of Utah Health Care, will be putting on a special event downtown. We’ll have a pitching area for participants to show off their pitching skills, an on-site vehicle from 101.5 The Eagle to share some tunes, and heart-healthy snacks for all to enjoy!

 

  • Savings Strokes – June 17th, 10:30 – 1:00 pm at Nibley Park Golf Course (2780 S 700 E, Salt Lake City)
    • A free opportunity for stroke survivors and their caretakers to participate in golf for pleasure as well as for physical rehabilitation. This year’s event is sponsored by University of Utah Health Care and will feature a free lunch for participants.

If you would like more information on these events or would like to volunteer to help us out please contact Lavinia Sasaki with the AHA|ASA at Lavinia.Sasaki@heart.org.

Together, with your help, WE ARE THE CURE for cardiovascular disease and stroke!

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