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!

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:

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Five-Year-Old Fighter

Updated: Thursday, 23 Jul 2009, 10:24 PM CDTPublished : Wednesday, 22 Jul 2009, 7:18 PM CDT

In three days, he turns five years old. And in that short time span, Max Herrick has come closer to death more times than most people do their entire lives.

While the economy and the recession have got many people worried, tonight Mark Saxenmeyer tells the story of a resilient little boy who puts the word "struggle" into much better perspective.

Beneath the mask he almost always wears when he's out and about, Max Herrick is chomping his gum. He can blow bubbles...he can imitate a frog. And while his face may be covered, it's easy to see his smile.

The halls of Children's Memorial Hospital are like a second home to Max, even though he's pretty clear, saying: "The only thing I like at the hospital is the play rooms."

Max, at heart, is a fighter. Because Max has been fighting for his heart since the day he was born.

We first met Max nearly three years ago, when we explored the subject of bereavement photography. People who capture images of children who aren't expected to make it.
Max was born with a congenital heart defect and had just had a heart transplant. About 400 American children every year successfully undergo this kind of operation.

Max's mom is Liz Herrick. She says: "Everybody always says 'well God will only give you as much as you can handle.' And part of me is like 'why does he trust me so much?'" Shortly after the surgery, Max's body began to reject his new heart. Max pulled through, but then his anti-rejection medications created a new problem.

Dr. Jeffrey Gossett is a pediatric cardiologist. "Somewhere between five and ten percent of patients can develop these post transplant cancers."

Max's dad, Jared Herrick says: "The medicine is what actually caused the cancer." Steroids and chemotherapy followed.

Liz Herrick says: "I sleep with probably one eye open. Either a hand on his chest making sure 'hey you're going to wake up tomorrow.' He's gonna wake up tomorrow. He's got to wake up tomorrow."

Max's older brother and sisters are now being checked to make sure they haven't inherited any of the problems Max has.

Max's sister, Alyssa, says: "I'm doing a lot of sports next year so i think it's kind of important."
And Max is at their side to give them reassurance. Grabbing brother Tyler's hand, Max says: "I am so proud of you."

In fact, with all his experience, Max can tell you, point blank, where a needle should and shouldn't go.

Two weeks ago, Max's most recent biopsy indicated he was no longer rejecting his heart.
As for the cancer? Dr. Gossett says: "I don't know that I'd quite say that he's clearly in remission yet, but we're certainly in that neck of the woods."

Dad says: "His spirit is so strong that it overcomes anything else."

To help pay for Max's on-going medical bills, his father works 84 hours a days a week.

Jared Herrick puts it this way: "We look at everything with a different perspective because we've had to...if nothing else it's brought a lot more understanding, compassion about how people should really live their lives."

Francesca is another of Max's sisters. She says: "Your whole life is not ruined until you almost lose someone you love."

And brother Max? "It makes me feel actually really bad. I wish i could take his place. Yeah."
For the Herricks, the thought of life without Max never enters their minds. Mom explains: "Seriously, Max is pretty much the air that I breathe."

And as for Max, well, he's got just one wish for his fifth birthday this Saturday. "When I'm done with the hospital, I never have to go to it!"

Children like Max who have had a heart transplant have 10 to 15 year survival rate with their new heart. More than 50 percent need to have a new hear transplant before they reach the age of 20. Since pediatric transplants are still relatively new, long-term survival is still unclear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

OFPD presents life saving awards to three citizens

by Orland Park Prairie Staff
July 16, 2009

The Orland Fire Protection District, at its regular Board of Trustees meeting held June 24, presented life-saving awards to three citizens for life saving efforts performed on a 61-year-old male in full cardiac arrest at the Palos Health and Fitness Club on May 27. As a result of the quick action taken by other members in the health club who witnessed the man’s collapse, 911 was called and an automatic external defibrillator was quickly put into use, along with CPR, successfully resuscitating the man just prior to the arrival of the OFPD’s paramedics.
Also present at the meeting was Lynne Donegan, a District 135 School Board Member, and an advocacy volunteer for the American Heart Association, who is employed at the Attorney General’s office. Donegan spearheaded a bill in Springfield about five years ago, called the “Colleen O’Sullivan Law” that requires every public facility to have an AED, a person on the premises certified in CPR, and an emergency procedure plan filed with the State. Donegan expressed her praise and gratitude to Michelle Adams, Dave Zdunek, and Ben Plotner for coming to the aid of the man who was in severe distress that day, and who were truly responsible for saving his life.
“For every defibrillator you see, there is a face and a story, and a reminder of what is good and right in the state of Illinois,” Donegan said.
OFPD Chief Bryant Krizik stated that “the Chief William Bonnar, Sr. Citizen Life Saving Award was created in honor of the late battalion chief who died in the line of duty, and who was a huge advocate of CPR, defibrillators and early intervention.”
Battalion Chief Randy Reeder presented the life saving awards to the recipients. A full recovery was made by the man whose life was saved, and he expressed his gratitude to the people who saved his life that day.
“The life saving efforts of good samaritan citizens should not be overlooked by the District, and the installation of AED’s in all public places is a requisite that is necessary and life saving in many instances,” said Patrick Maher, board of trustees president.
He went on to say that the OFPD conducts CPR classes throughout the year, and encourages citizens to learn this life-saving procedure. CPR classes for healthcare providers are conducted monthly for a small fee, and the “Friends and Family” non-certified CPR classes are free and held bi-monthly.

For more information, call (708) 349-0074.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hot Topic! Learn About AHA's Role in Healthcare Reform

Washington DC is buzzing with talk about healthcare reform. Congress is busy drafting proposals, and the American Heart Association recently hosted a call for You're the Cure advocates to discuss our role in the debate.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Health Organizations Urge IL General Assembly to Raise Tobacco Tax

As the General Assembly returns to work on the budget crisis this week, it is more important than ever that we help educate them about the benefits of an increased cigarette tax in Illinois. Not only does it help raise hundreds of millions of dollars to address the fiscal crisis, but it's also a policy initiative that carries important public health benefits.

The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago are among the health organizations asking the General Assembly to support this life-saving measure.

For every 10% increase in the cost of cigarettes, we can reduce youth smoking by 6.5%. Not only will it help reduce smoking rates, but it also will lead to significant reductions in long term health care costs. By convincing our legislators to include the cigarette tax in the solution to the budget crisis, we can help save Illinois lives from the harmful effects of tobacco.
Do YOUR Part and Take Action TODAY:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Even after death, heart attack treatment may not end

By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Chances of surviving a heart attack that occurs outside of a hospital are slim, but paramedics often take people who have died to a hospital anyway because a variety of factors keep them from following recommended guidelines, a new study finds.

In the United States, paramedics treat almost 300,000 people with cardiac arrest each year. But despite what's portrayed on TV, fewer than 8 percent survive, according to the American Heart Association.

The association's guidelines include the recommendation that people who have not responded to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced cardiac life support in the field not be taken to a hospital. After paramedics have tried and failed to resuscitate a patient, they should stop, researchers say.

"Paramedics provide all the same lifesaving procedures that we can provide in the emergency department," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Comilla Sasson, Robert Wood Johnson clinical scholar and clinical lecturer in emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"Once you have done 20 to 30 minutes of cardiac resuscitation, the best practice guidelines are to cease if a patient does not have a pulse," she said. But the study, published online June 30 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that several factors inhibit this from happening, including:
  • Local laws that mandate procedures for paramedics and other responders
  • Insurance policies that allow higher reimbursement when someone is taken to a hospital
  • Public misperception about the odds of survival

"When you look at TV shows, 90 to 95 percent of the people survive cardiac arrest," Sasson said. "In reality, it's less than 8 percent, so there is a big disconnect about what people understand about cardiac arrest survival and what happens in the real world."

She said that paramedics often feel pressured by these expectations to transport the patient to a hospital. What people don't realize, Sasson said, is that the care paramedics provide in the field is exactly the same treatment that the patient would receive in the hospital.

Another problem, Sasson said, is that health insurers -- including Medicare -- pay less for paramedic care than for care in a hospital. "There is a large financial disincentive for paramedics to stay on scene," she said.

Also, she said, some states "mandate that every cardiac arrest patient get transported to the hospital." And some require that even people with do-not-resuscitate orders must be treated if the person does not have the proper state form in his or her possession, she said.
Taking people to a hospital needlessly for treatment also creates what Sasson described as an opportunity cost.

"When you bring in a patient that is essentially dead, all of your resources go to that patient, which leaves the rest of the emergency department unmanned," she said. "When you are trying to resuscitate someone who should have never been transported to the hospital in the first place, you are shifting away resources from people who actually have conditions that are treatable."

The findings explained by Sasson stemmed from three small focus groups, including emergency physicians and emergency medical services (EMS) directors, conducted during the 2008 National Association of Emergency Medical Services Physicians meeting in Jacksonville, Fla.

Sasson and her fellow researchers concluded that, to help solve the problems pointed out by the focus group members, state laws need to be brought into line with American Heart Association guidelines and payment for paramedic care needs to be based on the care that's given, not on where it's given. Also, she said, the public needs to be made more aware of the realities of surviving a heart attack.

Dr. Kathleen Schrank, a professor of medicine and chief of emergency medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine -- and also an EMS medical director for Miami Fire Rescue -- said she agrees that barriers to stopping resuscitation exist.
Public perception that most people survive a cardiac arrest is a particular problem, Schrank said.

"Families have not only the hope but the expectation that their loved one is going to survive," she said. "They think that the emergency department has more to offer than what EMS can do."

She pointed out, though, that exceptions to stopping resuscitation do exist -- including children and pregnant women, in cases where the fetus might survive.

But Schrank noted that every situation is different and that paramedics and the doctors they're communicating with via radio need to be sensitive as they prepare family members to accept that their loved one has died and need not be taken to a hospital.

By American Heart Association guidelines, a decision to stop resuscitation should be based on clinical judgment and respect for human dignity. Also, stopping lifesaving efforts should be approved by a doctor who is in contact with paramedics by radio, the guidelines say.

"Most families, when they see all the things a rescue crew goes through trying to save a person in cardiac arrest, usually do recognize that everything was done," Schrank said.

More information: The American Heart Association has more on cardiac arrest.

SOURCES: Comilla Sasson, M.D., Robert Wood Johnson clinical scholar, clinical lecturer, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Kathleen Schrank, M.D., professor, medicine, and chief, division of emergency medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami; June 30, 2009, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes online

Copyright © 2009 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.