Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Send a Message from Your Heart for the Holidays...

You may have sent your holiday cards to friends and family, but have you shared the gift of heart health this year?

Our advocacy efforts can make a greater impact with legislators when the message comes from the heart -- from people whose families have been touched by heart disease or stroke, or have a personal stake in this fight to save lives. Do you know someone who is passionate about heart and stroke issues? Have you invited them to join our You're the Cure Network?

This holiday season, we're asking you to take a couple of minutes to recruit your friends and family to join our You're the Cure Network.
Follow the link below to log in to You're the Cure and click on the Tell a Friend Link to personalize your message to friends and family today:

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for supporting our You're the Cure Network and for all you've done to help the American Heart Association save lives.

We can't spell CURE, without "U".
Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thank you, Kate Steigerwald, for Giving Your Time and Advocating for a Healthier Tomorrow!

Throughout the holidays, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope.
We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for “Giving” your time and sharing your lives with us.
You can’t spell CURE without "U"!
Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Read Kate Steigerwald's story below:

Originally from Bellville, Illinois I have lived in Springfield since 1977. I have been fortunate to have had several professions while here, including; professional ASL sign language interpreter; television talk show host; and legislative liaison (lobbyist) for a commission with the state of Illinois. I have learned a lot over my years in Springfield and enjoyed every new venture tremendously.

I have one daughter, Julie, who lives in Long Beach, California, and four step-children with seven grandchildren all living in Bloomington, Illinois. I have been married to my husband and caregiver, Clarke, since 1985, and we are both very active in stroke support groups such as the statewide organization, Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other (SSEEO), and the Lincolnland Stroke Support Network serving central Illinois.
After my stroke in October of 2004, I have learned how to paint with both acrylics and pastels and how to knit with one hand. Now I feel that I have it all---the smart stuff and the art stuff!

As a former lobbyist I was naturally attracted to SSEEO and all of the important legislative work they are doing on behalf of the stroke community and in partnership with the American Heart Association. I joined You're the Cure, the American Heart Association's network of advocates, to make sure my story as a stroke survivor was heard.
As a You're the Cure member, I am committed to helping in any way that I can to promote and pass any legislation that will improve the awareness, treatment, and prevention of stroke related issues. I am now retired from the state and after five years on disability leave I am once again seeking to return to the professional working world as a contractual lobbyist serving medical and social policies.
You may be like me, a survivor of stroke or heart disease, trying to find something you can do to get your life back. I encourage you to get involved, join SSEEO at or You're the Cure at and share your story!
-Kate Steigerwald

Friday, December 18, 2009

ABC 7 News Healthbeat Report Features Advocate, Dr.Stephen Archer, on CPR

From ABC 7 News Healthbeat Report:

December 17, 2009 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can more than double the chances of survival for someone who has a heart attack.

It is not the CPR you remember from Girls Scouts and it's certainly not a joke. The classic 1970's disco hit 'Staying Alive' has a purpose. It's all about demystifying cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. It's a pace that matches the beat of many songs and it's something a nervous lay person can sing in their head as they pump away.

"If we have a song to relate to that's going to make the person feel more comfortable, okay I do know what 100 beats a minute is and I do know how fast," said Leonard.

And here's something else to help a skittish bystander choose to do something rather than nothing. In a major change to traditional CPR, the American Heart Association says mouth to mouth breathing which makes some people uneasy in many cases is not needed.

"It's pretty radical and yet it's something we now know is very effective," said Dr. Stephen Archer, cardiologist, University of Chicago Medical Center.

That means if a person collapses in front of you chest compressions alone may be enough until professionals arrive. During a recent CPR class at the State Bank of Countryside that news was a relief to many participants.

"I would definitely be more willing to do this," said Vicki Borsilli, CPR training participant.

"The chest compressions definitely just doing that makes it a lot easier," said Anne Ronstadt, CPR training participant.

Why the change? It's not just about making bystanders less uneasy.

Newer research is showing hands-only CPR is just as good and possibly better than traditional CPR.

One reason is that some doctors say is that stopping hand compressions to do mouth to mouth tends takes much longer than recommended.

"While the breathing might be nice in principle and you are in a hospital that's different. But in the community it's just the compression of the chest that's actually giving you the pressure and blood supply to the brain," said Dr. Archer.

Pushing hard and fast on a person's chest helps move blood still rich with oxygen through the body helping sustain life and prevent brain damage which can happen in a matter of minutes.

"They called the priest and he gave me last rites," said Cheri Kalas. But 52-year-old Oswego High School teacher Cheri Kalas was one of the lucky ones. Two years ago when she was about to begin a 5K charity run she collapsed.

A married couple also running the race performed CPR. Another bystander got hold of a defibrillator and they kept Kalas' heart going until an ambulance arrived. Kalas says despite the odds she suffered no permanent damage. She credits the brave bystanders who were willing to try CPR.

"You are saving somebody's mother somebody's father, brother, sister, somebody's somebody," said Kalas.

Traditional CPR is still recommended in other cases, especially for children and adults who may have been involved in a near drowning or drug overdose. Not everyone in the medical community is convinced compression-only CPR is better and some would like more research before endorsing it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You're Invited: Participate in a Health Care Reform Discussion Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, our National You're the Cure Network will be hosting a call entitled: Health Care Reform in the Senate and Beyond.

The call is tomorrow from 1-2pm CST.

You're invited to join the AHA's CEO Nancy Brown, and Chairman of the Board Neil Meltzer for this important call!

RSVP Today by Following this Link: RSVP for HealthCare Reform Call!

Please make sure to dial in a few minutes early -- an operator will ask for your name before connecting you to the call.

During the call, you will hear directly from volunteer and staff leaders about the progress being made in the Senate, the work left ahead, and how you can continue to work with the AHA to ensure affordable, accessible, and adequate health care is achieved. There will also be time for you to pose questions to the speakers and share your own story that illustrates the need for reform.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clearing the Air on the IL Smoke-Free Law...

An article posted today reports that the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the conviction of someone who violated the Smoke-free Illinois Act. However, the article fails to mention that this is one of the issues that was corrected in a subsequent law which addressed procedural questions raised by original smoke-free statute. We hope that this “old news” does not cause confusion or encourage people to ignore the law.

The bottom line: This decision is based on an outdated legal case. The law has already been changed to address the issue raised by the appellate court. The Smoke-free Illinois Act is still the law of the land and should be followed and enforced accordingly.

Here is the article posted today from the Sun-Times Media Wire:

Joliet smoking conviction reversed by higher court

JOLIET, Ill. (STNG) -- Late last year, a Will County jury found a southwest suburban Joliet woman guilty of violating the state's smoking ban.

Now a higher court has reversed that decision.

Daniel O'Day, the Peoria lawyer who has represented several local residents and others around the state who have been charged with violating the 2008 law, heard the news Tuesday morning. And he certainly was pleased.

"For a year and a half or more, smokers in Illinois were terrorized by threats of arrest for misdemeanors or petty offenses," O'Day said Tuesday afternoon. "That turned out to be bogus, according to the Illinois Appellate Court."

His client is Kathleen Kane, 56, of 702 Ingalls Ave. in Joliet.

One day in March 2008, she was at Woody's at 1008 W. Washington St. in Joliet. At the time, Kane worked tending bar there, but she wasn't on the clock when the arrest happened, O'Day said. A Joliet police officer and a representative from the Will County Health Department stopped at the bar and ticketed Kane and others for smoking inside the building, O'Day said.

After Kane was convicted, O'Day filed an appeal.

The higher court ruled Monday that Kane's case should have been handled administratively, not as a criminal matter in the court system.

The fine and court costs totaling $231 will be refunded, O'Day said.

With local co-counsel Ted Hammel, the Peoria lawyer has several similar cases pending in Will County. They'll be in court Dec. 16, he said.

"Now they will have to be dismissed," O'Day predicted.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

HAPI Ordinance?

According to the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council (MCHC), hospital access in Cook County is threatened by a proposed Cook County ordinance, the Healthcare Access Protection Initiative (HAPI).

TAKE ACTION: Take our survey about this ordinance (located on the right side of this blog page) and tell us what you think! Should the Cook County Board move forward with the HAPI ordinance or should they hold off while national health care reform is being debated?

Here is the action alert from the MCHC:

Despite its name, the HAPI ordinance would actually force hospitals to cut services by imposing an arbitrary new standard for charity care and taxing hospitals that do not meet this predetermined threshold. The proposal does not take into consideration any of the community benefits provided by hospitals, including support for research, screenings and community health education, and money losing programs and services such as emergency and trauma care. In fact, non-for-profit hospitals in Cook County provide over $2.5 billion in charitable community benefits to the communities they serve. They also provide over $877 million in free care, roughly the operating budget of the Cook County Health and Hospital System.

If implemented, hospitals in Cook County would face about $340 million in new taxes, in turn forcing hospitals to make service cuts or quite possibly shutter their doors, negatively impacting access to care and potentially affecting 5,000.

While we certainly understand the intent of the HAPI ordinance – to ensure access to care for the uninsured – the proposal would have the opposite effect as it attempts to solve the problem of the uninsured on the backs of our local hospitals at the cost of reduced access to care.

Please urge your Cook County commissioner (click here) to oppose an ordinance that would severely limit access vital care services.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advocate Addresses Smoke-Free Laws in Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune: December 5, 2009

Ignoring Smoke-Free Laws
I was extremely disappointed to read that some bar owners are ignoring the Smoke-free Illinois Act ("Despite smoke ban, defiance smolders; Some bars have become havens for lighting up, and smokers pitch in to help owners pay fines," Page 1, Nov. 25).

As a cardiologist, I support this law and urge authorities to enforce it.

A majority of people throughout our state share this position. The numbers have spoken: Smoke-free laws reduce heart attacks; this has been proven many times. The seductive notion of rebellion against the government notwithstanding, flaunting the smoke-free law is not a virtue.

Imagine being one of my patients. Before the smoke-free law went into effect, once patients got sick, many could never return to the places they had frequented their entire lives -- their favorite restaurants, bars or clubs. As cardiac patients, they simply could not afford any exposure to secondhand smoke.

This law expanded their universe and enriched their lives. We're talking about our relatives, friends and neighbors. Do we really want to exclude them?

Unfortunately, debate on this issue has produced more heat than light. It has drowned out the voices of the majority, who are delighted to have equal access to all establishments while avoiding secondhand smoke.

While I believe that going smoke-free was the right thing to do, I realize that some people disagree. I respect their right to try to overturn this law but not to ignore it.

In the meantime, smoke-free opponents can be comforted by the fact that avoiding secondhand smoke reduces the chances that they'll ever need to meet me in the emergency room with a heart attack!

-- Annabelle Volgman, MD, American Heart Association, Chicago

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You're Invited! Participate in a TV Series About Women's Health!

WTTW/Channel 11 and Northwestern Memorial Hospital have partnered to informand inspire women to take control of their health through a four-part television Series, Health Secrets: What Every Woman Should Know.

Hosted by award winning journalist, Paula Zahn, each one-hour program is aimed at different points in a women’s life, benefiting women in all stages of life.

Participation is free and open to the public, however reservations are required.

Seating is limited.

To be part of the studio audience please contact:
Lindsay Miller,Audience Coordinator 509-5473

Audience members must arrive one-hour before taping.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicago Tribune Highlights AHA's Holiday Eating Guide

The Chicago Tribune is highlighting AHA's Holiday Eats recipes online at,0,2738999.photogallery

Check it out for yourself and share with your family and friends!

Heart-healthy holiday eats
Stay healthy over the holidays with these special recipes from the American Heart Association.

Enjoy a gift from Start! this holiday season, the Start! Holiday Healthy Eating Guide is available for download at
This booklet includes tips and recipes to help get through the holidays with your health in mind and is available for free when you register for Start!

Monday, November 16, 2009

AHA Advocate Published in Today's Chicago Tribune: Saving Lives

An opinion piece published in today's Chicago Tribune by Illinois Advocacy Chair, Kathleen Grady:

November 16, 2009

Saving lives
In a fitting tribute to Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day," Metra riders seem doomed to suffer through the same discussion of the need for automated external defibrillators on trains each year ("Sudden death, hard lesson; Trains without defibrillators called safety risk," News, Nov. 10). Every time a Metra rider suffers cardiac arrest on one of its trains, the community calls for these lifesaving devices and Metra says it is studying the issue.

Metra has been told for years that AEDs are incredibly easy to use and will save the lives of passengers, and yet Metra Chairman Carole Doris still says, "We're educating ourselves" on this issue.

At this point, what is there left to learn?

Metra needs to install AEDs in its train cars. Just recently it took a big step into the 21st Century by accepting credit cards. Let's keep that forward progress going and get AEDs in these trains.

-- Kathleen L. Grady, chair,
Illinois Advocacy Committee,
American Heart Association, Chicago,0,646564.story

Friday, November 13, 2009

U.S. smoking rate stuck after years of declines

An article from today's Chicago Tribune...


November 13, 2009


-- Efforts to help smokers kick the habit have stalled in the United States, with hardly any recent change in smoking rates, federal researchers reported Thursday.

Slightly more than 20 percent of the adult population smoked in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Overall smoking prevalence did not change significantly from 2007 to 2008," federal researchers wrote in the CDC's weekly report on death and disease.

"In 2008, an estimated 20.6 percent (46 million) of U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers; of these, 79.8 percent (36.7 million) smoked every day, and 20.2 percent (9.3 million) smoked some days."

The CDC's Ann Malarcher and colleagues analyzed data from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey of 21,781 adults.

From 1998 to 2008, the number of smokers fell by 3.5 percent, from 24.1 percent to 20.6 percent, with almost all of that decline before 2005.

Smokers tended to have less education, the survey found.

Only 5.7 percent of people with advanced graduate degrees smoked. Meanwhile, 27.5 percent of people with less than a high school diploma did so.

Smokers included more than 41 percent of people who had a General Educational Development certificate in lieu of a high school diploma.

Smokers were defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes, and current smokers were defined as smoking every day or nearly every day.

Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration the power this year to regulate tobacco.

"Legislators in states with high smoking rates must redouble their efforts to increase tobacco excise taxes, use that money to fund comprehensive programs to prevent children from starting to use tobacco and help current smokers quit," American Heart Association Chief Executive Nancy Brown said in a statement.

The American Cancer Society says tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., and cigarettes account for about 443,000 premature deaths every year, including 49,400 in nonsmokers.

A study published this month found that smokers who switch to a low-tar, light or mild brand of cigarette will not find it easier to quit and may find it harder.
1,000 people in U.S. take up smoking every day

45%: Segment of smokers who reported they had tried to quit at least once in the past year

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,0,7440025.story

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Automated defibrillators boost survival rates, but Metra trains don't have them

Another article in today's Chicago Tribune...

Automated defibrillators boost survival rates, but Metra trains don't have them
Advocates push to put more devices on trains

By Richard Wronski
Tribune reporter

November 10, 2009

Marlene Allen's husband, James, experienced sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed after he boarded a Boston-bound commuter train. The conductor did not stop the train and there was no defibrillator onboard. James Allen died. (Photo for the Tribune by Darren McCollester / October 16, 2009)


James Allen, his heart beating wildly out of rhythm, collapsed shortly after he boarded a commuter train.

Despite pleas from passengers and from a doctor who performed CPR on the 61-year-old Wellesley scientist, the conductor refused to halt for emergency help at the next station, or even two more after that as precious minutes ticked off.

If the Boston-bound train had carried an easy-to-use device that restores the heart's regular beat to those stricken with sudden cardiac arrest, Allen's chances for survival on that summer morning in 2002 would have been good, medical experts said.

But it didn't, and Allen died.

More than six years later, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. in February became the first major commuter line to install portable automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, on all its trains. But it took a campaign by Allen's widow -- who also filed a lawsuit -- to make them more readily available in the Boston area.

Similarly, the death of a 64-year-old Barrington Hills financial executive onboard a commuter train last month has prompted Metra to consider installing the devices on all trains.

Experts say the defibrillators are so simple to use that anyone can operate them, even without training. They can cost $1,000 to $1,200 apiece. To put one on every Metra train -- there are 317 locomotives and electric-propelled cars in Metra's rolling stock -- could cost $300,000 to $400,000.

In Illinois, state and local laws require them in airports, gyms and some malls. Federal law requires them on passenger airliners, but they're not on commuter trains. Advocates wonder why not.

"It's easy to say we should have them on every train, but the question is more complicated than that," Metra Chairman Carole Doris said. "We're educating ourselves, we're looking at this carefully and we want to do the right thing for everybody on our trains."

Metra officials said onboard emergencies involving cardiac arrest or heart attacks are rare, perhaps occurring once or twice a year. But the commuter railway does not keep a record of their occurrence, officials said.

A 47-year-old Melrose Park man died Aug. 18, 2008, after suffering what is believed to have been a heart attack while riding a Milwaukee District West Line train.

Carol Cummings, a registered nurse from Bartlett, performed CPR on the stricken passenger. Afterward, she called on Metra to install AEDs on trains, saying that having one onboard might have helped the victim.

In a letter to Cummings, Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano wrote that the agency had evaluated whether to install AEDs on trains but determined there were "inherent difficulties" in doing so.

"Given the environment in which we operate, we have serious concerns about our ability to maintain a sensitive medical device onboard," Pagano wrote.

Experts, however, insist AEDs are reliable and sturdy enough to be used outdoors and on moving trains, airplanes and boats.

Sudden cardiac arrest strikes nearly 300,000 Americans a year, statistics show, and has a survival rate of less than 8 percent. But nearly all of those who survive do so because they received CPR and the shock of an AED or an implanted defibrillator, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association said.

Studies show the use of AEDs by police in Rochester, Minn., and by security guards at O'Hare International and Midway airports and at Las Vegas casinos have achieved a 50 percent to 74 percent survival rate for adults with sudden cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association said.

Known as the "beach doctor," Allen was a prominent scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey, and an adjunct professor at Rutgers University. His specialty was studying coastlines.

Appropriately, Allen was carrying pencil sketches of beach projects in his suit pocket when he set off for work on July 20, 2002.

Shortly after boarding the train, he collapsed. For at least 20 crucial minutes after he was stricken, his heart "jiggled" out of rhythm, said his widow, Marlene. Inexplicably, the conductor refused to stop for emergency responders until the train arrived at Boston's Back Bay station. There, paramedics treated Allen with a defibrillator, but by then it was too late. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Allen probably would have survived had he received emergency help or a defibrillator treatment at any of the three stations that were passed up, said lawyers for Marlene Allen. Each stop was close to police and fire personnel with the devices, as well as to a hospital.

In 2004, Allen's family sued the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amtrak for wrongful death. The next year, the agency agreed to a $3.9 million settlement.

The MBTA also apologized, saying it had been "placed in the extraordinarily difficult position of having to defend the despicable conduct of the Amtrak train crew." Amtrak no longer runs the commuter rail line.

In February, with Marlene Allen in attendance, officials from the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which took over management of the commuter rail operation, announced defibrillators were being placed on all 84 of its commuter rail trains.

The transit agency spent about $200,000 for equipment, upkeep and training, said John Hogan, the commuter rail's director of safety and security.

Two weeks after the commuter line began installing the defibrillators, bystanders used one for the first and, so far, only time, successfully reviving a 53-year-old man who had collapsed in a train station waiting area.

Since her husband's death, Marlene Allen has become a vocal advocate of equipping trains with defibrillators. She also works to educate others about the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest, which her husband experienced.

"You don't have time to screw around with sudden cardiac arrest," Allen said.

A heart attack is caused by a blockage of blood to the muscle, while sudden cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical irregularity of the heart. However, a heart attack can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, experts said.

Michelle Crowe isn't sure a defibrillator would have saved her father, Michael, who collapsed Oct. 8 aboard a Union Pacific Northwest Line train while riding to work at Mesirow Financial in Chicago. She said her father had a pre-existing heart condition.

Two nurses went to his assistance and performed CPR, according to witnesses and police and fire reports. Paramedics treated Crowe at the Palatine station and took him to Northwest Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Michelle Crowe, who is trained in using defibrillators, said having a device onboard would have provided valuable diagnostic information to the medical responders.

"We fully support the idea of Metra installing AEDs on trains," she said.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association has urged Metra to place defibrillators on trains.

Marlene Allen believes the day is coming when defibrillators will be as common as smoke detectors.

"They're easy to use; there's no liability," she said. "The only problem is if you don't try anything. The person's going to be dead.",0,5759173.story

AED debate: CTA study says defibrillators wouldn't have helped customers with chest pains

An article from today's Chicago Tribune...

AED debate: CTA study says defibrillators wouldn't have helped customers with chest pains
Agency would consider AED devices with outside funding

By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune reporter

November 10, 2009

Defibrillators would not have helped any of the 176 CTA passengers complaining of chest pains in the last two years, an analysis by the transit agency found.

Nonetheless, CTA officials still are interested in acquiring the heart-shocking devices if outside funding can be identified.

It would cost $5 million to $5.5 million to deploy defibrillators at all 144 CTA rail stations and on the agency's approximately 2,000 buses, said Amy Kovalan, CTA chief safety and security officer.

The agency does not expect to put defibrillators on its 1,200 rail cars, because train operators are instructed to proceed to the nearest station in a medical emergency. .

CTA records show more than 900 cases of passengers complaining of chest pains over the last five years. The analysis this summer did not evaluate all 900 cases, Kovalan said. Instead, 101 cases from 2008 and 75 cases through this August were studied.

Last year, 73 of the cases were onboard buses and 28 were on trains. So far this year, 56 were on buses and 19 were on trains, officials said.

In none of the cases did the individual suffering chest pains lose consciousness, Kovalan said. "We looked at the data and did not see a case where defibrillators were warranted," she said.

Only unconscious victims with no pulse and not breathing are candidates for defibrillators, according the American Heart Association.

A recent incident occurred Oct. 8, when a rider on a Blue Line train apparently suffered a heart attack, transit officials said.

As CTA personnel called for the fire and police departments, a customer onboard who was a nurse and another customer attempted to assist the ill rider until emergency help arrived. The ill customer was taken to a hospital.,0,75928.story

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thank you, Phil Fasone, for Giving Your Time and Advocating for a Healthier Tomorrow!

Throughout November, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope.

We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for “Giving” your time and sharing your lives with us.

You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.


Read about Phil Fasone's story below:

My name is Phil Fasone and I am proud to be part of the American Heart Association’s advocacy program; especially for AED legislation. My personal story illustrates that with knowledge comes power: In this case, the power to help save lives.

Eleven years ago I found employment with WorldPoint Inc., a distributor of the American Heart Association. WorldPoint offers free CPR classes to all its employees. In the course, I learned many things including the signs and symptoms of a heart attach and how to use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). These were two life-saving skills that would change my life.

While I was traveling though O’Hare International Airport, I witnessed a passenger go into sudden cardiac arrest. Because of the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver AED Course, I was able to offer my assistance. I defibrillated the victim two times and he regained consciousness at the scene. The paramedics were then able to safely transport him to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Several years later at the age of 39, I realized I was suffering from the signs and symptoms of a heart attach. I was able to get to the hospital in plenty of time where they discovered I had 5 blockages in my coronary arteries and required 6 stents. Had I not been aware of these signs and symptoms, I would have never realized the importance of immediately seeking medical treatment. The outcome could have been very different.

Volunteering as an advocate for the American Heart Association is a way to support their mission of saving lives. “Learn and Live” is not just their slogan, it is the hope that their staff and volunteers bring to a community.

Be sure to join the advocacy network of volunteers, You're the Cure, at to LEARN how you can help others LIVE by telling our lawmakers to make heart health a national priority!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hands Can Do Incredible Things...But Nothing Compares to Using Them to Save a Life!

If an adult suddenly collapsed, would you know what to do?

Hands-Only CPR is easy, and it is helping save lives. Go to to learn more.

CPR. A lifesaving action.
When an adult has a sudden cardiac arrest, his or her survival depends greatly on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Unfortunately, less than 1/3 of those people who experience a cardiac arrest at home, work or in a public location get that help. Most bystanders are worried that they might do something wrong or make things worse. That’s why the AHA has simplified things.

Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.
It’s not normal to see an adult suddenly collapse, but if you do, call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help. Take a minute and look around this site and invite your friends! Increasing the number of people who know about Hands-OnlyTM CPR will increase the chance that someone can help when an adult suddenly collapses, and more lives can be saved.

Check out this video to see Hands-Only CPR in action.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cardiac arrested,0,716256.story

October 22, 2009

If you're struck by a heart attack in Los Angeles, Boston or many Chicago suburbs, you're fortunate in at least one way: The ambulance that speeds you to the hospital is outfitted with the latest in high-tech equipment to help save your life. It's a device called a 12-lead EKG and it is designed to let paramedics and hospitals know quickly if you're having a so-called STEMI, or "widowmaker," heart attack. That's the kind in which a major artery to the heart is largely or completely blocked. It's the kind that most consistently kills.

But heart attack victims in Chicago aren't so lucky. Not one of the Chicago Fire Department's 75 ambulances carries these advanced EKGs, Tribune reporter Judith Graham has reported.

"The ugly truth is that Chicago is behind the times" on its emergency response, said Dr. John Kao, director of cardiology at the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago.

Why isn't Chicago keeping pace with Waukegan, Winnetka, Franklin Park, Bolingbrook, Bensenville, Aurora, Arlington Heights, La Grange -- and many more suburbs that outfitted ambulances with these machines?

The Fire Department explanation:

1. Money. The cost of buying the equipment and training Chicago paramedics is estimated at $4 million.

2. Protocol. Fire Department ambulances operate under strict rules: They rush heart attack patients to the nearest hospital. But the new equipment would complicate that decision. Some hospitals aren't ready to treat STEMI (short for ST segment elevation myocardial infarction) heart attacks. They don't have special teams ready to perform emergency balloon angioplasty around the clock. Only about half of Chicago's hospitals can do that, and many are on the North Side. Sounds like a hospital turf war brewing.

Chicago fire officials say there's no reason to buy expensive EKGs before everyone agrees on rules that will establish equal care for every neighborhood across the city.

Health care professionals have a different view, a different sense of urgency. For the last year or so, the American Heart Association has led a drive called Mission: Lifeline to bring 12-lead EKGs to Chicago.

But right now it should be called Mission: Life Support because progress is frustratingly slow. What the effort needs, says Anne Gavic-Ott, the director of Mission: Lifeline, is a leader who will say, "This is a priority. Get it done."

We know money is very tight (see the editorial at left). If Chicago can't start now with a buying program, private givers ought to step up. As for the rules, many cities and towns in Illinois have figured that out. They've done so because hospitals and ambulance operators got together and worked out the rules.

Couldn't Chicago take its cue from them? How about rolling out a pilot program? Northwestern Memorial Hospital offered to launch such a program a couple of years ago but talks with the Fire Department "never went anywhere," says Dr. Charles Davidson, medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Northwestern Memorial.

Why not plug into the hospitals that are ready right now to receive radio transmissions of the vital EKG information from an ambulance? Or a fax.

Even if EMS workers hand-carried the information from the EKGs into the emergency room, they'd still save a minimum of 10 to 15 critical minutes.

A heart attack victim in an ambulance doesn't want to hear about endless talks.

Let's focus on what's best for patients and get this done.

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

AHA Advocate Voices Opinion on Idea of Menu Labeling Programs

I was disappointed to read Steve Chapman’s recent column “Adding fat to the nanny state” (Oct. 11). Mr. Chapman suggests that menu labeling programs at fast food restaurants—which provide consumers with vital nutrition information including calorie counts and fat content--are ineffective in encouraging diners to choose healthier menu options. Menu labeling programs are just beginning in many states, and I believe that over time, they will make an enormous impact on the way Americans eat. Instead of declaring this relatively recent initiative a failure, we should be educating the public on the health costs of the foods they’re choosing and reinforcing that message at every possible opportunity.

Think of it in terms of a company who advertises in the Tribune. If that company places one ad in your paper and gets little to no response to it, what do you tell them? “Sorry it didn’t work”? No, you tell them that a successful campaign is based on repetition of the message. Studies regularly show that consumers must see ad messaging multiple times before they even begin to make a purchasing decision.

So, let’s take a lesson from our friends in advertising and give the Menu Labeling programs some time to sink in. The information they provide can save lives, and repetition and education will be the key to the success of these initiatives.

-Andy Rauh, M.D.
River Forest, IL

Monday, October 12, 2009

Legislative Victories for the American Heart Association thanks to Corporate-lead Employee Giving Drives!

A few weeks ago the Daily Herald ran this story about a golfer who suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of his game. While the American Heart Association may not have been mentioned in the article, we were all over it – from the research we funded in the early 1960’s that led to the development of CPR, to our development of resuscitation guidelines that are recognized as the international gold standard, to our leadership in passing the Colleen O’Sullivan Act in Springfield a few years ago requiring athletic facilities, including golf courses, to have AEDs.

This is just one example of how the AHA is working every day to improve the quality of care for heart and stroke patients – right here in our back yards.

In fact, we’re working for patients and families from the moment a person dials 9-1-1. We know that when it comes to diagnosing and treating stroke, minutes matter. The American Heart Association has been working for years to improve the systems of care in Illinois for stroke patients. And in August, Governor Quinn signed into law House Bill 2244, which will ensure that stroke patients are taken not just to the closest hospital, but to the nearest primary stroke center – one that is best equipped to treat stroke. Thanks to our advocacy efforts, your family members and friends – and possibly you – will have much quicker access to effective, proven treatments, which could significantly reduce serious disability from stroke and greatly improve overall quality of life.

How can YOU help us continue to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Well, one way you can take action is to designate the AHA in your employee giving campaign. Help us to continue to celebrate legislative victories like the ones mentioned above.

Each year, millions of dollars are raised for research and education through these campaigns. Please consider choosing the American Heart Association this year and be a part of our mission by taking action today:

1.) Participate in your company’s employee giving campaign! Be part of the team and part of your community.
2.) Choose the American Heart Association through payroll deduction. Every penny helps us fulfill our mission.
3.) If the American Heart Association is not a listed organization, designate it in the ‘write in’ option.
4.) Talk to your campaign manager and ask them to add the AHA as a direct giving option for next year’s campaign.
5.) Spread the word! Share your passion with others and encourage them to choose the American Heart Association!

**If you have questions about how to designate the AHA through your employee giving campaign in Illinois, please contact Melissa Lach:

Death on Metra Train Sparks Further Debate

Click on the image below to watch footage of a news story highlighting the need for AEDs on mass transportation like Metra in Illinois:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Metra rider dies, and lack of defibrillators debated

Metra rider dies, and lack of defibrillators debated
Heart devices are required on planes but not on trains

By Richard Wronski and John Keilman
Tribune reporters

October 9, 2009

Metra Train 610 had just left the Barrington station early Thursday when passengers were jolted by an announcement: Immediate assistance was needed for a passenger.

At least two nurses rushed to assist crew members trying to help a 63-year-old Barrington Hills man with heart attack symptoms. They attempted CPR.

Emergency responders who met the train at the Palatine station also tried to revive the man, who died.

The tragedy quickly raised concerns among some passengers and medical authorities, who questioned why Metra trains, unlike passenger airplanes, don't have defibrillators. Neither do CTA buses and trains.

The lack of the life-saving devices -- automated external defibrillators, or AEDs -- came as a surprise to some of the passengers who witnessed what happened.

"Metra professes that their passengers' safety and security are their No. 1 priority -- not so much if AEDs are not available on their trains," said Jennifer Siegel of Woodstock, who was riding in the next car.

"I am heartbroken for this poor man's family who sent him off to work this morning fully expecting him to come home tonight. His death could have been prevented."

But whether having an AED aboard the Union Pacific Northwest Line train would have saved the passenger's life is unclear, officials said. It was unknown late Thursday what the victim's condition was by the time Palatine responders arrived, or whether their treatment could have saved his life.

Steven Glumm, a Palatine Fire Department division chief, said an AED might not have helped. "There is no guarantee an AED readily available will impact the outcome of a patient's condition," Glumm said.

Defibrillators deliver an electrical current to correct an irregular heartbeat and can revive victims of a heart attack. Because of their portability and relative lost cost, the devices are increasingly showing up in offices, schools and stores. The FAA has required them on airplanes since 2001.

Metra has been evaluating whether to place AEDs on trains but has made no decision, spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

The devices are available at Metra's five downtown rail stations, and some suburbs have placed them at outlying stations, she said.

"The first step was to place them in downtown terminals," Pardonnet said. "We will continue to assess the need for them onboard trains."

The CTA does not have AEDs at its rail stations or onboard any equipment, a spokeswoman said. "We have looked into it, but it's too cost prohibitive," spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said.

Mark Peysakhovich, senior director of advocacy for the American Heart Association, said his organization has long been concerned about the lack of defibrillators on Metra trains.

"Metra's never been willing to put (the devices) on the trains, which is unfortunate," he said. "Clearly they need them."

He said state law exempts government agencies, building owners and others from liability when they make defibrillators available. It also shields people who use the devices in an emergency, even if they're not trained.

"This is not an issue of liability," he said. "If Metra wants to be true to its customers, it would put them in rather than make excuses about why they can't."

Mary Newman, president of the Pittsburgh-based Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, said defibrillators cost $1,200 to $2,500, though bulk purchases could drive down the cost. They're designed to be used by novices, she said.

"They will not shock anyone unless they need to be shocked," she said. "The device itself determines if the heart has stopped beating, and the device will tell you when to push the button."

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which operates 13 commuter rail lines carrying 140,000 passengers a day, became the first major commuter rail line to install AEDs on all its trains earlier this year, said Richard Davey, general manager.

The Boston-area commuter line's program was launched after settlement of a lawsuit in the death of a passenger.

The agency bought nearly 100 AEDs for about $200,000 and spent about $100,000 to train crew members, Davey said.

Within weeks after they were installed, an off-duty paramedic used an AED to aid a stricken passenger on a commuter platform. The passenger survived.

"As far as I'm concerned the program has paid for itself by saving one life," Davey said.

Freelance reporter Andrea Brown contributed to this report.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thank YOU for Taking an Extra Step for Advocacy at Heart Walks in IL!

Thank YOU to all the advocates who took an extra step at the Chicago Area Heart Walks!


State AED Grants - Nov. 13th Deadline!

The State of Illinois is making a limited amount of matching grants available to public institutions such as, but not limited to Schools, Conservation Districts, Public Park Districts, Forest Preserves Districts, Municipal Recreation Departments, Colleges and Universities to help with the purchase of automated external defibrillators. The deadline for applications is November 13, 2009.

Details can be found at the following link:

Good luck with your applications!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cook County Looking For Volunteers for Mass H1N1 Vaccination.

The Cook County Department of Public health is planning to conduct H1N1 mass vaccination of those deemed at high risk for developing serious complications if they become infected with the H1N1 virus, and we urgently need health professionals to assist with these vaccination efforts beginning in late October.

Please contact the Cook Co. Health Department directly. The information follows below:

Healthcare Providers Needed to Help VaccinateAgainst Novel H1N1 Flu This Fall and Winter 2009

CALLING ALL:• advanced practice nurses • physicians• emergency medical technicians (EMTs) • physician assistants• licensed practical nurses • registered nurses• pharmacists


PHONE 708-492-2820

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rep. Biggert Co-Sponsors FIT Kids Legislation!

As you know, the FIT Kids Act (S. 634/H.R. 1585) is legislation that amends the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to support quality physical education for all public school children and ensure they learn about important health and nutritional information. Recently, U.S. Representative Judy Biggert co-sponsored this legislation showing that physical education and nutrition is vital for kids in Illinois and nationwide. Rep. Biggert's co-sponsorship is vital as she helped originally craft NCLB and serves on the Education and Labor Committee, which will help move forward the FIT Kids legislation.
Follow the link below or call to thank Representative Biggert for being a leader on this important legislation:
Call Rep. Biggert at 630-655-2052 to Thank Her for Co-sponsoring the Fit Kids Act.
The message is simple: Thank You for Supporting the Fit Kids Act.
*Note: If you call Representative Biggert's' office, please let us know by e-mailing Melissa Horn, Grassroots Advocacy Director at
Want to let your legislators know you support FIT Kids?!
Visit TODAY!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Statement by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown on President Obama’s Address to Joint Session of Congress on Health Care Reform

Washington, September 10, 2009 -- The President has reminded us that health care reform is not about politics, it’s about real people who wake up each day hoping that a medical emergency won’t throw them into bankruptcy. We all agree that the current health care system is not working well for the insured, it’s not working well for the underinsured and it’s certainly not working for the uninsured. That’s why we’re pleased the President has brought the debate back to where it started – focusing on the needs of Americans who cannot access affordable, quality health care. We cannot forget the children with congenital heart defects who surpass their lifetime insurance coverage limits before they’re toddlers, we cannot forget the families who lose their homes because of high out-of-pocket medical expenses to treat a chronic illness, and we cannot forget those who go without needed, even lifesaving care because they can’t access or afford insurance. Their stories must be the reason why Congress must continue in their efforts to find common ground and pass meaningful health reform this year. We urge Congress to not lose sight of the goal we all share - to build upon what works in our health care system and fix those parts that are broken and simply unsustainable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

For Chicago Public Schools, gym class finishes last

State requires physical education, district advises it, but schools aren't doing it
By Monica Eng
Tribune reporter
September 8, 2009

On paper, Chicago Public Schools' gym program sounds great.

The district boasts one of the country's strictest wellness policies, recommending 155 minutes to 225 minutes of physical education per week for elementary school students. And it's located in Illinois, one of only two states to require daily gym for students.

The problem is the district doesn't follow those rules. Several elementary schools surveyed by the Tribune reported offering gym class once a week, and a district spokeswoman said that was typical.

A lack of physical education may not seem urgent compared with other challenges Chicago schools face, from gang violence to a 50 percent dropout rate. But obesity experts say structured daily exercise is crucial for the city's schoolchildren, many of whom are at unusually high risk for weight-related health problems.

Federal data show Illinois suffers from the fourth highest level of childhood obesity in the nation, and other research has found children in Chicago are heavier than their counterparts in the rest of the state.

To put Chicago's physical education program in some context, the Tribune called four diverse districts in the area and found that Evanston-Skokie, Naperville, River Forest and Joliet all offered gym more often than Chicago.

The state can grant waivers to districts who argue they cannot provide daily gym, but officials said Chicago Public Schools has never applied for or received such a waiver for its elementary schools.

In e-mailed comments, district spokeswoman Monique Bond said the district faces a nearly "half-billion-dollar deficit this year and cannot afford to add additional programs that contain large new cost drivers without finding substantial new cost savings elsewhere."

Bond also said "scheduling PE five days a week would cut into instructional time, a priority that we must also carefully balance."

Supporters of physical education say that, far from impeding academic instruction, exercise makes students more receptive to learning. Many point to the work of Harvard Medical School clinical psychology professor John J. Ratey, who found physical exercise has direct neurological and intellectual benefits.

"A fast-paced workout boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. I call it Miracle-Gro for the brain," Ratey wrote in his book "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain." "The end result is a brain that's better able to perform."

Responding to the district's economic objections, the Illinois Heart Association's Beth Mahar said that supporting physical education for Chicago students now would pay high dividends later.

"The money it takes to provide a child with daily PE now doesn't even come close to the money it will cost the nation or that child in terms of the chronic diseases they are looking at in the future," said Mahar, a former gym teacher on the heart association's advocacy committee. "If they don't establish healthy habits early on, the ballgame is over. And we are never going to catch up with that child."

Linda Wallace taught gym at Prescott Elementary School in Lincoln Park for more than six years but was laid off last spring when the position was reduced to half time.

She said she finds this sad personally and professionally, "but mostly I feel bad for the kids because they're the ones who really suffer."

The gym teacher said that last year she calculated the body mass index of students and found "a high percentage of kids who were overweight and even one 7th grader who qualified as morbidly obese."

"It's terrible," she said. "And the exercise they got at school was pretty much it, because they didn't do it at home. I know this because I was there for more than six years."

Julie Carter, a gym teacher at Carson Elementary School in Chicago, saw firsthand how districts can differ when she moved to the Chicago district after teaching in Wheaton and Berwyn, where she said students had gym much more often. "Also in the suburbs my students could play safely outside when they got home, a lot of their parents could afford to sign them up for after-school sports programs and they got recess every day," said Carter, president-elect of the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance's Chicago chapter.

Activists have been lobbying for more Chicago schools to offer recess; those who don't cite time, staffing and safety.

Holden Elementary School gym teacher Kathleen Cantone recalls that when she was a child in Chicago schools decades ago, "we walked to and from school every day and we walked home and back for lunch every day. Things are very different now."

Some suburban districts that offer more physical education than Chicago can do so in part because they have more resources, facilities and equipment.

But Joliet District 86, which also serves many low-income children, has found a way to incorporate exercise into the classroom, which doesn't require gyms or new teachers. The district requires teachers to conduct fitness exercises in class three days a week in addition to students' twice weekly gym classes.

"Our teachers know that in order for children to function well in a classroom they need physical activity periodically to perk them up and get them going again," said Carol Sossong, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Advocates of physical education stress that today's "new gym" (actually about 20 years old) is much different from the humiliating dodge-ball games of yesteryear. Activities are offered in "a cooperative environment where students of all abilities experience success so they can enjoy being active through adulthood," Carter said.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, about 30 percent of Illinois districts have received waivers that allow them to opt out of daily gym. But others, including Chicago and northwest suburban District U-46, have not applied for the waiver for their elementary schools despite failing to meet the mandate, according to the state board. Both did obtain waivers for high school students who meet certain requirements.

David Thomas, an exercise science professor at Illinois State University, looked at the issue in 2001 and found that a third of the districts followed the gym mandate, a third had obtained a waiver and "one-third operated as if they had the waiver when they didn't."

Critics say the waiver program, even when followed, makes it too easy for districts to neglect student fitness. Last year, the program was tightened to limit schools' use of the waivers to a maximum of six years -- and each waiver must now be applied for in two-year increments, with up to two extensions.

Still, there are few consequences for violating the rules. The state board said it has never sanctioned a district for non-compliance with the physical education law. And although the creation of wellness policies is federally mandated, actual implementation is not.

"There is no carrot and stick here," said Jamie Chriqui, senior research scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy.

Chriqui was the lead author on a study of wellness policy implementation that found even those districts that follow the letter of the law "aren't necessarily following the spirit of the law because these policies lack teeth."

Funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the study was released in July to coincide with this fall's reauthorization of the federal Child Nutrition Act, which mandated the wellness policies in 2004. Chriqui is urging Congress to strengthen the law with national physical education standards, more specific language and a system for monitoring progress.

Bond said the Chicago district is "quite concerned about meeting ... compliance" with state physical education laws and is creating a task force to look at these issues.

As a veteran of Chicago schools, Cantone said she would like to see daily gym but acknowledges the issue is complex. "There are serious scheduling issues that would have to be considered, and we'd need to hire more gym teachers," she said. "It's a lot more complicated than people think. ... But if CPS really decided this was a priority, it would happen."
Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You're Invited! Join a Heart Walk in Your Area!

Heart Walk season is upon us and people throughout Illinois are advocating for heart healthy lifestyles by getting physical fit and educating their friends and family about our nation's top killers: heart disease and stroke!

Not involved in a heart walk yet? No problem! It's easy to get involved! Follow the links below for more information:

Chicago Area Heart Walks

Additional IL Heart Walks

Upcoming Heart Walk Event:

Got 2 Have Heart – Heart Walk Fundraiser
Time: 10pm
Entry:$10 Donation
Place: The Playground 3209 N Halsted St.Chicago, IL

The evening will include great entertainment...the line up includes:
Musicians that will be tugging on your heart strings (Guitars)
Multimedia Musical Group
On Tap Chicago, Tap Dancing
2 Improv Groups, Rick, Oops Sorry and BP

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dangerous delays: Chicago ambulances lack equipment to detect the deadliest heart attacks early

3 hours, 6 minutes 50 minutes
Dangerous delays
Chicago ambulances lack equipment to detect the deadliest heart attacks early

By Judith Graham
Tribune reporter
September 2, 2009

3 hours, 6 minutes was how long after 911 was called before Roy Frazier, 81, of Chicago had a balloon angioplasty performed. His ambulance lacked a 12-lead EKG machine. (Tribune photo by Brian Cassella / August 7, 2009)

If you're struck by crushing chest pain in Los Angeles or Boston and call 911, an ambulance will bring equipment that can tell if you're having a "widowmaker" heart attack -- the most consistently deadly kind.

The information allows paramedics to alert hospitals immediately so doctors can prepare to administer potentially lifesaving treatments soon after you arrive.

That's how it works in many U.S. cities and many Chicago-area suburbs, from Aurora to Cicero to Waukegan. But not in Chicago.

None of the Chicago Fire Department's 75 ambulances carries equipment that can identify "widowmaker" heart attacks, or STEMIs, which occur when a major artery supplying blood to the heart is largely or completely blocked.

As a result, medical experts say, treatment is often delayed, increasing the chances that the patient will suffer permanent heart damage or die.

"The ugly truth is that Chicago is behind the times" on its emergency response, said Dr. John Kao, director of cardiology at the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago. "We are doing a disservice to our patients."

The cost of buying the diagnostic equipment, called 12-lead EKGs, and training Chicago paramedics to use it is estimated at $4 million, less than 1 percent of the Fire Department's annual budget.

Chicago fire officials say they plan to buy the equipment when it can be incorporated into a broader plan for improving emergency medical services for patients with STEMI heart attacks.

"We are 100 percent behind this," said Marc Levison, assistant deputy fire commissioner for EMS operations.In the meantime, officials say, ambulances respond rapidly to emergency calls and patients aren't compromised.

"Our patient care has not suffered at this time," Levison said.Medical experts disagree, noting that because Chicago paramedics can't determine which people are having the potentially deadly heart attacks, hospitals can't mobilize the appropriate treatment in advance.

"There's no question that patients are sometimes compromised," said Dr. Richard Feldman, a medical director for part of Chicago's EMS system who is based at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

For every 30-minute delay in treatment, the risk of dying from a STEMI heart attack rises substantially, said Dr. Peter Kerwin, who directs the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

Nationally, about 400,000 people a year suffer STEMI heart attacks (the term stands for ST segment elevation myocardial infarction), and half die before reaching the hospital. Of those who get hospital treatment, another 10 percent to 15 percent die. A little more than 2,300 STEMI patients were treated in Cook County hospitals in 2007.

The American Heart Association has made improving care for STEMI heart attacks a national priority, and many suburbs and private ambulance services in the Chicago area have outfitted their ambulances with 12-lead EKGs over the last five years. When the Journal of Emergency Medical Services surveyed 34 major U.S. cities this year, Chicago was the only one that didn't have the equipment for emergency medical responders.

"The question you have to ask is, how big a priority is this for them?" said Dr. Charles Davidson, medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "It should be a priority, because lives are at stake."

Leslee Stein-Spencer, the Fire Department's manager of medical administration and regulatory compliance, said the department requested $4 million for 12-lead EKGs in 2008 but withdrew the request because of other operational needs. Another request for funding is now outstanding.

She also said officials have been meeting for more than six months with hospitals to discuss a plan for improving care for heart attacks. Davidson is one of the participants.

The 12-lead EKGs provide a detailed representation of the heart's electrical activity and identify key abnormalities. Paramedics place six leads, or electrodes, on a patient's arms and legs; the other six go on the chest.

Oak Park bought new software for its current monitors in two ambulances, upgrading them to 12-lead status this year. "It's changed our way of thinking and responding," said Bob Rehse, an EMS coordinator with the suburb's Fire Department.

"It's more obvious what's going on and it's more clear to us what we need to do," he said.

For Ken Roush, 75, of Glen Ellyn, rapid response by a suburban fire department helped lead to a full recovery from a massive heart attack that could have proved fatal last October.

Roush, who owns a marketing company, was on the way to a client meeting early in the morning when he started feeling "sweaty and clammy." Turning around, he went home and asked his wife to take him to a hospital. Instead, she called 911.

When paramedics identified a STEMI at Roush's home, the cardiac catheterization lab at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital was activated. Doctors and nurses met him at the hospital door, and 14 minutes later Roush's completely blocked left anterior descending artery was opened via an angioplasty procedure.

"I was lucky to live in this district," Roush said.

By contrast, in Chicago the electrocardiograms are done at the hospital, which slows things down by 15 to 20 minutes and in some cases much more, said Dr. John Lopez, director of interventional cardiology research at Loyola University Medical Center.

Although paramedics call in all suspected heart attacks, according to Stein-Spencer, medical experts say the information is of limited value.

"The cardiac cath lab isn't going to be activated off a phone call like that," Northwestern's Davidson said. If it were, he said, there would be too many cases where medical teams mobilized unnecessarily.

During the day, such teams may be able to assemble relatively quickly. But at night, doctors and nurses on call may be at home, adding to delays.

Complicating the situation, only about half of Chicago's hospitals can perform the preferred treatment for STEMI heart attacks -- balloon angioplasty -- expeditiously around the clock, Feldman said. Yet the Fire Department takes heart attack patients to the closest hospital, regardless of its medical expertise.

Balloon angioplasty involves snaking a catheter through the groin to the site of a blood clot and inserting a thin wire with a tiny balloon. Inflating the balloon destroys the clot, and blood flow resumes.

Most hospitals can administer clot-busting drugs to patients with STEMI heart attacks, but 25 to 40 percent of the time, these don't work, said Dr. Atman Shah, interventional cardiologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Roy Frazier, 81, experienced gaps in care that can occur in Chicago when he had a heart attack in February. Frazier knew what to do after he began to feel a burning sensation in his chest -- he'd had a first heart attack 10 years ago -- and quickly called 911.

He recalls asking dispatchers to take him to the University of Chicago, his regular hospital. Instead, the ambulance rushed him to St. Bernard Hospital, which was closest to his home but wasn't able to perform balloon angioplasty.

Since the ambulance didn't have a 12-lead EKG, Frazier had to get that test at St. Bernard. After more than an hour and a half there, he was transferred to the University of Chicago, where doctors opened his right coronary artery, which was 99 percent blocked.

It's likely Frazier's heart was permanently damaged because he didn't get the medical intervention sooner, said Dr. Neeraj Jolly, senior interventional cardiologist at the U. of C. Medical Center.

"We see this all the time: patients who get taken to the ER of a hospital that does not have the capacity to do emergency angioplasty and then are transferred here and their outcomes are worse," Jolly said.

"It's a bad policy they've got right now, taking you to the closest hospital instead of the right hospital for you," Frazier said.

Other cities have made different arrangements. For instance, for several years Los Angeles ambulances have taken patients to designated "STEMI ready" medical centers, bypassing closer hospitals.

The Chicago Fire Department and local hospitals are discussing a similar setup, but there's little agreement so far on what it might look like.

The Fire Department wants to ensure that "citizens get equal care throughout the city," said Levison, the EMS official. That's difficult because North Side hospitals tend to be better funded and have more robust cardiology programs.

Also, no hospital wants to be identified as not being able to deliver the best care. And medical providers that might be bypassed don't want to lose business.

Meanwhile, experts agree it's better to call 911 and let paramedics come to your aid than to ignore symptoms of a potential heart attack or drive to a hospital on your own -- in Chicago and the suburbs.

Roush was among the patients who thought: "I don't want to inconvenience the paramedics. What if they get here and nothing is wrong?" Now, he's glad his wife called 911.

"If everyone knew not to deny what is happening, not to put it off, to call for help," he said, "that would be a very good thing.",0,7168938.story
Chicago Tribune

Monday, August 24, 2009

Healthcare Reform Questions Answered

There are lots of rumors flying around and plenty of misinformation available regarding the health care reform proposals currently before Congress. Today's questions address some of the confusing things you may have been hearing.

Q: Will health care reform lead to a “government takeover” of health care or result in “socialized medicine,” as some claim?
A: No. The bills before Congress preserve our nation’s current employer-based private health insurance system, with public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid continuing to be available as a safety net for older and low-income Americans. The “government takeover” concern is largely based on the public health insurance option that may be available as a choice under some of the bills. It’s very important to note, however, that each person, not the government, would decide whether a private plan or a public plan is the right plan for him or her – if the public plan choice is available at all.

Q: Will health reform lead to rationing of care, as some have said?
A: No. This concern is based on provisions in the bill that authorize “comparative effectiveness research.” This is research that evaluates which drugs or other treatments work best for different medical conditions and different patients. The American Heart Association supports this research because it will provide doctors and their patients with more and better information to help them decide the best course of treatment. Ultimately, however, doctors and patients − not insurance companies or the government −will decide what treatment is best.

Q. I’ve heard claims that health care reform will deny older Americans end-of-life care. What is this about?
A. Nothing could be further from the truth. The House health reform bill includes a provision that would provide reimbursement to physicians who provide counseling to Medicare patients about the care they choose to receive if they have a living will or an advance directive. These consultations are not mandatory, occur only upon the request of the patient, and in fact are designed to make certain that the patient’s wishes come before those of insurance companies or hospitals.

Take Action by Signing our Petition for Healthcare Reform by following the link below:

Click to Enlarge this Word Search Activity on Healthcare Reform and Share it with your Friends:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stroke Bill Signed by Governor Quinn TODAY!!!

We just received word that Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 2244 into law earlier this morning. This law provides for designation of Primary Stroke Centers by the Illinois Department of Public Health and significantly advances the process of dramatically improving stroke care and reducing death and disability throughout the state of Illinois.

Follow the link below to thank Governor Quinn for signing our stroke bill into law:
Thank Governor Quinn for Signing the Stroke Bill!

Culminating over four years of effort by countless stroke survivors, volunteers and staff of the American Stroke Association as well as health care providers and other stakeholders, this was a true team effort. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to this effort for always keeping the best interests of the patient first and foremost.

There are three people who deserve a special mention. First, our chief legislative sponsors, State. Representative Bob Biggins, a stroke survivor, and State Senator Heather Steans, provided the leadership, commitment and legislative muscle needed to advance such a complex and far-reaching bill through the legislative process. We could not have done this without their passionate support. Also, kudos and thanks to Brittan Bolin. In her capacity as our Springfield lobbyist, she is the team quarterback. Much of our legislative progress can be attributed to Brittan’s tireless legwork, wise council and steady leadership.

Thousands of emails, letters, phone calls and legislative visits went into this victory. On behalf of the American Heart Association and its division, the American Stroke Association, thank you everyone for your advocacy and for your continued support!!!

You're Invited!! SSEEO to Host Annual Conference

Click to Enlarge Image

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Strike Out Stroke Event TOMORROW, Aug.13th!

Click to View Larger Image.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

U.S. Representatives to Hold Healthcare Reform Town Hall in Naperville TOMORROW, Aug. 12th!


10th District Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Arlington Heights) and 13th District Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-Willowbrook) will be hosting a town hall meeting on health care reform in Naperville.

The event is hosted by the Naperville Chamber of Commerce. Due to the recent furor at public meetings across the country, the sponsors have created a registration page on their website for free tickets. You can sign-up here. Or visit the Naperville Chamber of Commerce website at .

If you are interested in attending, RSVP to Melissa Horn at .

Wednesday, August 12
11:00 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.

Arista Hote Grand Ballroom (Naperville, IL)
2139 City Gate Lane
Naperville, IL 60563

I-355 to I-88W to IL-59 Exit. Take IL-59 N Turn right at Westings Ave, Turn left at City Gate Ln. Arista Hotel will be on the right.

Monday, August 10, 2009

IL Legislators Speak Out on Healthcare Reform

Last week in Chicago, Governor Quinn and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky were among several legislators speaking out in support of healthcare reform. Your American Heart Association is also monitoring the healthcare reform discussion very closely.

The health care reform debate can be confusing– the current health insurance system is very complex and there are several different bills to reform it. Many people are left with questions about the different proposals and just what the bills mean for them.
Why does the American Heart Association support health care reform?
We believe that the bills before Congress, while not perfect, will make care more available and affordable for the millions of individuals with heart disease and stroke who are uninsured or have inadequate coverage. The bills preserve what works in our current healthcare system; include an important and long overdue emphasis on preventing illness; and will help to improve the quality of care that everyone receives. The bills also make sure that individuals are protected from insurers that evade their obligations to pay for needed care.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Candy Cigarettes Not So Sweet

I was delighted when a new candy store opened in LaGrange recently. (Suburban Life, July 22, 2009). I liked what I saw when I stopped by -- until I noticed four teenage boys giggling over their purchase of cigarette-shaped gum. I’m not sure I would have noticed these “cigarettes” if the boys weren’t so exuberant with their purchase. As expected, they pretended to smoke them while walking out the door.

At the same time, according to public health data, each day more than 3,500 U.S. kids try their first cigarette. Each day, 1,000 kids under 18 become new regular smokers. Over 90% of adult smokers begin as teenagers while a third of youth smokers will die prematurely of smoking-related diseases.

Research shows that kids are disproportionately influenced by advertising and marketing because they learn by mimicking adults. By allowing kids to “play” adult, candy cigarettes make for very effective marketing. It sure looked like those boys who walked out of the store were feeling cool with “cigarettes” hanging from their mouths.

At that point I expressed my concern the owner and asked her to pull this product. After all, is the profit to be made on candy cigarettes worth even one more kid becoming interested in smoking?

Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP
American Heart Association, Metro Chicago Board of Directors

UPDATE: Lynne's article was published in the Sun Times on August 4, 2009. Congratulations, Lynne!,CST-EDT-vox04.article

Do You Agree with Lynne? Leave Us a Comment or check the "Reaction" boxes below. (Like/Dislike/Interesting)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Letter to the Editor Calls Attention to Fit Kids Act - Take Action TODAY!

Letter to the Editor Published in Daily Herald Today Highlighting the Fit Kids Act:

The current debate over health care priorities presents a critical opportunity to take a closer look at the state of our children's health. With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing across the nation, more emphasis should be placed on teaching youngsters how to become more physically active. Overweight children have an increased risk for heart disease in early adulthood, the leading cause of death among Americans, and particularly here in Illinois.

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert can help improve the health and well-being of our children by co-sponsoring the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act, which amends the No Child Left Behind Act to encourage schools to increase physical education and give children the tools they need to stay fit and healthy through adulthood. Not only is a fit child at less risk for future heart disease, studies show they also achieve more academically.

Giving the nation's children a head start on physical fitness to reduce their risk for obesity-related diseases should be a top priority for this Congress and as we seek to reform our country's health care system. Encourage Representative Biggert to join her colleagues to help kids lead healthier lives, learn more effectively and achieve more academically.

Judy Tiggelaar
Downers Grove
Want to Contact Your Legislators on this Important Issue? Follow the link below to encourage your legislator to co-sponsor the Fit Kids Act TODAY: