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!

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!