Monday, December 29, 2008

Please Support The Lung Cancer Partnership

As many of you know my father was diagnosed with lung cancer this summer. His battle is ongoing, and has been incredibly difficult. Lung cancer is an insidious disease that takes the lives of tens of thousands each year. I ask that you take a moment and learn more about the Lung Cancer Partnership, and donate in honor of someone you love. I have!

The staff at the National Lung Cancer Partnership would like to wish you peace and happiness in the New Year and thank you for your continued support.

Honor your loved ones this season!

Invest in the National Lung Cancer Partnership by making a donation in the name of someone you care about.

Your gift will allow us to continue to focus on our mission of helping lung cancer patients live longer and better lives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Fun!

This time of year is wonderful, and allows us all to enjoy family and friends like no other time of the year. I was so honored to be Mrs. Arkansas International 2005, and had a wonderful year with my director, Bernee Thurow. Bernee has been a great friend and support to me since, and was so encouraging to me in my decision to try one last time for my dream job of Mrs. International. I wanted to do something special for her, and her contestants. This sunday I hosted a Christmas Tea for Bernee, and all her 2009 contestants. We had a fabulous turn out of about 25 lovely ladies, and enjoyed holiday goodies and great fellowship.

Later, we participated in AETN's "Arkansas International Night". We took pledge phone calls from donors who wished to support the great work that AETN/PBS does in our state and around the nation.

It was a great start to a lovely Christmas season!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The most wonderful time of the year!

It has finally hit; the time of year when I knew I would be so busy that simply writing a blog update would take days to accomplish. However, I’m setting aside at least a few minutes to try to update all of you on the adventure that this year is and will continue to be for me!
First let me update you on dads’ condition. I cannot thank you all enough for the continued calls and emails inquiring after not only his status, but mine as well. To say this has been a long journey would be an almost painful understatement. We know we have a long way yet to travel, but at least we’ve reached a very important milestone. Dad has finally finished his chemo! We are so grateful that our weekly trips to the hospital are at an end. What we didn’t anticipate was just how difficult this particular time in this process would be. The compounding of the drugs in dads system over these many months has not ended simply because we no longer make a trip to the hospital. The drugs are still hard at work, and therefore, hard on him. He is still extremely weak, tired, nauseated and immune-suppressed. The week after his last treatment we were back in the hospital, but this time for a few more units of whole blood. But we know that his recovery is in site. We trust God’s goodness and have faith in his ability to continue to give us all strength to get dad through these next few months. I know that by the time I am giving up my Mrs. International crown this will all be a memory. Pray for us as we await his first post-treatment PET scan, which comes in two more months.
I have been extremely busy with the AHA. I have been elected as the state chairman of the Advocacy committee. We had our meeting with the national lobbyist director, Terri Broussard, and it went wonderfully. Terri and I are of an age, and share the same enthusiasm for the AHA and its mission. I think we will really enjoy working together. I spent the day in Little Rock with Terri filming segments for the new You’re the Cure blogspot. I am not a camerawoman, by any stretch, but it was fun to get to be behind and in front of the camera for the event.
Last week I took part in a press conference asking our legislators to support a rather large increase in the tobacco tax in our state. The AHA advocacy committee is part of the Step Up Coalition, which includes other well known groups like the cancer society, the department of health, and many more. The Coalition is going to fight hard to see this tax increased during this legislative session. Our desired increase could funnel as much as $139 million dollars into the state budget, and fund programs like the AED act, and the statewide trauma system. I also met with Jody Woodson, state legal counsel for the state of Arkansas, and sought his support on these issues.
Last Thursday mom and I went to a photo shoot for the cover of Arkansas Life magazine. Our story of surviving heart disease will be featured there in next month’s edition. I’ll provide a link as soon as the magazine comes out of print. Then Thursday I was up at the crack of dawn for the morning news show. I was on air with a representative of Zoll defibrillators, demonstrating how the devices work and asking people to contact their legislator’s in support of funding the act.
In a few weeks I’ll be heading to New York City for a huge Go Red event, then off to DC for National Lobby Day. Interspersed are innumerable activities, on which I’ll keep you posted! We are off and running in the new Go Red season!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

AHA, Election Day and a Grand Ball!

This has been another whirl-wind few weeks. I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up with my blog, but I’m determined to do my best!
I have had several really lovely opportunities over the last weeks. The first was to present Go Red and You’re the Cure at the 501 Life Holidays event the first weekend in November. The event was the first of its kind and drew attendees from all over the state. Attendees were treated to demonstrations on cooking, flower arranging, and of course a lecture by none other than Mrs. International on living a heart healthy lifestyle! Initially we thought that attendance was just under 350, but after reviewing ticket sales we discovered it was actually over 400. What an amazing success for an inaugural event! I was so honored to be asked to be part of it.
November the 4th was an historic day. Alice Paul, one of the truest suffragettes, is a personal hero of mine. It is very much in her honor that I vote at each and every election, whether it be for city council, or the highest office in the land. The year I wanted to do something special to mark this amazing and historic Election Day. One cannot forget that none of us would have the right to cast our ballot were it not for the devoted men and women of our armed forces. So, I spent my Election Day packing and a shipping care packages to our brave men and women fighting overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kevin and I had the distinct privilege of being asked to attend the Opus Ball. Proceeds from Opus Ball support the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra music education programs and performances, which include the ASO Arts Partners, the Youth Orchestra, the Academy Orchestra and the Preparatory Orchestra. This event is an opportunity to sustain a vital part of the ASO’s future. Last year’s Opus Ball revenue was more than $630,000, which shows an extraordinary commitment to the ASO and its music education programs. I was asked to model a live auction item; a diamond necklace and earring suite donated worth $19,500. It was such a pleasure to be involved in this amazing event!
My father received his last chemotherapy[y treatment last week, and will get his port removed next week, God willing. The coming weeks will probably be his worst, per his doctors warnings. Apparently as the drugs compound in your system your symptoms worsen for a time before full recovery can begin. He is truly at his lowest, and is feeling miserable. I hope you will all keep him in your prayers!
I have a meeting coming up on November the 25th with the national lobbyist leader for the AHA, Terri Bloussard. Terri led the lobbyist training in Austin, but this will be her first trip to my home state. I am very anxious and excited about hosting her here. I’ll keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grief, glory to God, and giving back in October

October has been a month of extreme up’s and down’s, both for the entire state of Arkansas and myself. I want to begin by sending my very thoughts and prayers out to the family of the beautiful and talented Anne Pressley. Anne was the amazingly gifted anchorwoman of Good Morning Arkansas, who was brutally attacked in her home and who lost the battle for her life last week. I cannot claim to have known Anne, or to have been a friend to her. I can tell you that I had the wonderful opportunity to meet her, and to have spent time with her just the week before this horrific event. I first net her at the Children’s Tumor Foundation event where Anne and I modeled together. We both had our make-up done by the “professionals” from a local beauty school…and laughed together in horror at their work when we saw ourselves the mirror. That night I got to know a bit of Anne’s powerful personality, one which dominated the entire room with its’ brilliance. The following week I got to see Anne again at the CARE for animal’s event, where Anne emceed the fashion show in which I modeled. Anne remembered my name, and we laughed about how much better each of us looked that evening when allowed to be in charge of our own appearances. I was in awe of her incredible confidence, something I often fake but could never truly have in the way Anne did. There really was something amazingly unique about Anne, and it was something that anyone who knew her for even a moment of her too brief life would have been well aware of. I cannot believe she was taken so early, and in such a horrific fashion. I pray, along with everyone who hears her story, that her killer will be caught and brought to justice. I pray for peace for her family as they grieve her loss.

October has been an incredibly busy month for me. We started our series of committee meetings with the Arkansas Advocacy Committee. I also had the opportunity to attend both state and national lobbyist training in Austin Texas, for the American Heart Association. It is my hope that as a result of my involvement as a lobbyist with the AHA this year that all future Mrs. International national titleholders will have the opportunity to serve as lobbyists.

On October the 13th I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Paws on the Runway event at the Governors Mansion. CARE is the Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals. This wonderful organization removes adoptable pets from kill shelters, spays or neuters them, and has them in foster homes until loving adoptable homes can be found for them.

On the 23rd I traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend the Dallas Furniture Banks’ CHAIR-ity Friend-raiser. The furniture bank provides furniture for families who have lost everything to natural disaster or economic hardship. This year alone the DFB has impacted the lives of more then 5200 individuals.

I am thrilled to report that we had our first adoption occur as a result of the Greater Arkansas Heart Gallery! We launched the gallery only a month ago, and already one of these beautiful children has found a forever family! What an amazing blessing!

On a personal note, my father has only two chemo treatments left. We had a very hard spot a few weeks ago when his counts dropped to such a low that blood transfusions were required. We then had quite a scare with a blood clot in his lung, but he is doing wonderfully right now. He has lost some use of his hands, but all things considered he is doing very well.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let me hear from you!

You've watched the Presidential debate and heard from each of the candidates how they'll reform the American healthcare system. Now, I want to hear from you. Visit the You're the Cure blog, and leave a comment telling me your thoughts on reinventing healthcare in our country. Comment here. Do you think the candidates demonstrated that healthcare reform is a priority for them? Are there any questions you wish they had addressed? How have your own experiences with the healthcare system shaped your position on healthcare reform? I'd love to hear how your watch parties went and know what issues were raised during your discussions. Visit our blog and share your thoughts! We all have to get involved to solve the current healthcare crisis. You are taking action just by joining the conversation. It's a simple first step in addressing a big challenge. Together, we can help reinvent healthcare in a way that serves the best interests of patients affected by heart disease and stoke.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reinventing Healthcare

Have you felt the effects of rising healthcare costs? Too many patients suffering from heart disease or stroke have, and they simply cannot afford the medical care they need. It truly is a heart-breaking situation. That is why, against the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential campaign, the American Heart Association is engaging in the healthcare reform debate. We're working to achieve meaningful reform that will serve the best interests of patients. Our goal is affordable, accessible, quality healthcare for all Americans. Will you join us in reinventing healthcare? If you haven't already, pledge your support today. The American Heart Association recently convened a panel of experts to discuss health policy reform by examining real life situations. You can watch some highlights from the discussion at the University of Mississippi, where panelists discussed how to best provide quality and affordable care to all Americans. Click here to view highlightsWith that conversation in mind, invite your friends over and tune into the final Presidential Debate this Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 9 pm Eastern. This debate will focus on domestic issues, and we expect to hear about the candidates' plans for healthcare reform. Click here and you can find discussion questions, games, sample recipes and more resources for your watch party. Stay tuned for opportunities to share your thoughts with us after the debate! On behalf of heart disease and stroke patients struggling with the current healthcare system, thanks for joining us.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red Carpet for Research

As all of you know my passion has always been and will always be heart disease education. However, since being honored with the Mrs. International title I have been given the opportunity to branch out in my volunteer activities, and use my time to support several extremely worthy and amazing causes. This past Thursday was just such an occasion. I had the opportunity to have lunch last week with John Prentiss, whose seven year old son is affected with Neurofibromatosis. Neurofibromatosis is more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, MS, and many other conditions that we hear about regularly. Sadly, NF gets little public or media attention, and therefore, little funding for research and awareness. John’s precious son has two tumors in his small body; one on his spinal column and one in his brain stem. All may remain well for years, but John and his family live with the knowledge that everyday their worlds could change.
The neurofibromatoses are genetic disorders of the nervous system that primarily affect the development and growth of neural cell tissues. These disorders cause tumors to grow on nerves and produce other abnormalities such as skin changes and bone deformities. Although many affected persons inherit the disorder, between 30 and 50 percent of new cases arise spontaneously through mutation in an individual's genes. Once this change has taken place, the mutant gene can be passed on to succeeding generations. Scientists have classified the disorders as neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). NF1 is the more common type of the neurofibromatosis. In diagnosing NF1, a physician looks for changes in skin appearance, tumors, or bone abnormalities, and/or a parent, sibling, or child with NF1. Symptoms of NF1, particularly those on the skin, are often evident at birth or during infancy and almost always by the time a child is about 10 years old. NF2 is less common. NF2 is characterized by bilateral (occurring on both sides of the body) tumors on the eighth cranial nerve. The tumors cause pressure damage to neighboring nerves. To determine whether an individual has NF2, a physician looks for bilateral eighth nerve tumors and similar signs and symptoms in a parent, sibling, or child. Affected individuals may notice hearing loss as early as the teen years. Other early symptoms may include tinnitus and poor balance. Headache, facial pain, or facial numbness, caused by pressure from the tumors, may also occur.
I was incredibly honored when John asked me to bring my title, and the awareness that it garners, to the first “Red Carpet for Research” benefiting Neurofibromatosis. I was thrilled to model in the fashion show presented that evening, then have the opportunity to speak on the benefits we all share from donating to incredible organizations like the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and the NF foundation. Thank you John for allowing me to be part of your amazing event.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Updates and Appearances

Life is a whirlwind, but wonderful to be sure! We are getting back into the “season” with the AHA. We have our first lobbyist meeting on the 22nd of this month, and will follow up with another on November the 25th. I have been going through special training for the multi-state lobbyist program in Texas, and will fly back out Monday for a course on national lobbyist training. I am really hoping that these courses will increase my effectiveness with getting some of our 2009 initiatives passed. My main goal, as I have shared, is to see that tobacco tax increased. With that added money in our state pocketbook we will be able to fund the other initiatives that are so important in the state, and will set important precedent for the nation.
It has been an incredibly busy few weeks, and will continue at the same pace for a few more. Last week I was so honored to attend the Festival of Wines in Little Rock, and be allowed to volunteer my time there. The Festival brings together wine connoisseurs from all over the United States, and all the monies raised at the event go toward research projects for the American Heart Association. I am proud to say that the monies raised at this event stay at research hospitals in my home state of Arkansas, but the discoveries made with this money will benefit people across the country and around the globe.
I also had the honor of attending the launch of the Greater Arkansas Heart Gallery, at the Arkansas CASA Festival of Chairs. This Festival raises money and awareness of the work that CASA does on behalf of families who have entered child protective services. It was a wonderful event, attended by a huge number of citizens who are deeply immersed in this incredible cause. The Heart Gallery was displayed for the first time, and the response was overwhelming. If even one child finds a “forever family” through this program then all the hard work involved will have been worth it.
Thursday morning was a really fun event. I was asked to model for Jamileh Kamran, an internationally known designer whose home base is Little Rock. I was featured wearing her clothes in a fashion show on KARK channel four. It was a fun morning for all involved, and a great honor to be included.
Please continue your prayers for my father. The excellent news is that, due to his new drug regime we only have 5 rounds of chemo left. Bad news is that his hemoglobin is so low that he must have a blood transfusion tomorrow. Thank you so much for your continued love and support.
I have more appearances this week, and will be sure to remember my camera this week as I travel to Lobby School. Check back soon for more updates!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Events, Action and TRAINING!

September has flown by, and I am excited to share with you that October and November look to be really exciting months. September was filled with wonderful appearances, and some fabulous opportunities to share the International pageant and the Go Red program with people across the state of Arkansas. I ended the month with some really fun events. On Friday the 26Th I was interview for the television show "Living Local", hosted by Heather Kendrick. we were able to sit in my living room, and just have a really nice "girl chat"...that just happened to be filmed! Heather and I discussed the International pageant, my personal pageant journey, and of course my work with the American Heart Association! The show will air at the end of October. Then, on the final day of the month I was interviewed by Women's Inc. Women's Inc. is a statewide periodical that focuses on issues of import to women in all stages of life. I am very honored that they have chosen to feature me in their November issue, which is all about individuals who give back to their communities. Mother and I were featured as "cover girls" for Women's Inc in 2005, and our story of commitment to educating women to the dangers they face from heart disease was the topic. I am thrilled and so honored to be back in their pages, this time as Mrs. International 2008. This interview focuses once again on my work with the AHA, but also the Mrs. International system and what sets it apart from all other systems.
October starts out with a bang! Thursday evening is the AHA's Festival of Wines, which raises $200,000 annually for heart disease research and education programs in Arkansas. I'll be there making an official appearance, and working behind the scenes. Friday night I have the annual CASA "Festival of Chairs", and the launch of the Greater Arkansas Heart Gallery. We are so excited to finally be launching the Heart Gallery, after months of planning and preparation. Then, it's off to Austin Texas for me for the AHA's multi-state lobbyist training. This training actually prepares and qualifies me to lobby in several states. I'm thrilled to be branching out with my legislative duties. We then have our first full committee meeting of the Legislative Advocacy committee on the 22ND, and will have the AHA vice-president of Legislative Advocacy, Terri Bloussard, with us. That is both exciting and stressful for me as the chairman of the committee.
These next few months are going to be full and fun! I'll do my best to keep you posted. Thanks to all of you for the continued emails of support and encouragement.

Statewide Trauma system needs your help!

Heart disease is the #1 killer in Arkansas and stroke is #3. However, many lives can be saved by creating a statewide trauma system that will improve the transport and treatment of heart attack victims. Quick transport and effective treatment can be the difference between life and death for a cardiac patient. Tell your lawmakers to help create a statewide trauma system. Currently there is no statewide system that provides the necessary EMS transport and treatment for individuals that may suffer traumatic injuries including heart attacks and stroke. This issue needs to be a priority for all lawmakers as they develop their agenda for the upcoming legislative session. Please help get this issue on their radar today.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Keeping you up to date!

Such an incredible month! I must apologize for the lapse in updates to the blog. The weather here in Arkansas has been inclement, to say the least, and along with the storms that ravaged our town came an outage in my internet service. Those of you who know me know that this is a punishment almost worse than death! The internet is my right arm, so without it I am at a loss. But we are back up and running and I have many new exciting things to share.
I had lunch today with Barbie Kumpe, our lobbyist leader. Barbie has been out of the office for the last six weeks having total knee replacement surgery. She is back at the office, and slowly getting back on her feet. It was wonderful to sit down and get back to business with her. We were able to review all the initiatives for the upcoming 2009 session, and make plans for our upcoming committee meetings. We are putting together special task forces for each of the upcoming legislative issues, to try to really target the people/funds/strategies that will help us make the most impact. Our largest and most ambitious goal for this session is the increase of the tobacco excise tax. Arkansas could raise this tax by fifty cents, and only then be at the national average. Doing so would give our state the funds it needs to place AED’s in all public schools, create a statewide trauma system, and support additional childhood wellness programs. Passing only one of our financial initiatives could easily pave the way for the others to fall into place. I leave October the 13th for multi-state lobbyist training. I’ll be traveling the states this year helping advocacy groups enact change in their states.
I was also honored to be the guest speaker at the Arkansas Newcomers Luncheon September 11th. I was asked to present “Go Red for Women” to this group of 170 ladies, and was also able to speak to them about the AHA’s legislative issues for 2009. As many of them are in fact new to the state this was the first time they were hearing about the exciting activities that the AHA conducts on their behalf. I was able to recruit literally dozens of new members to both the Go Red campaign, and the You’re the Cure advocacy group.
On the fun and frivolous side of my year, I had the opportunity to travel to Dothan Alabama for my official Mrs. International head shots at the end of August. I got to spend two unbelievable days with Clay Spann and Joey Retherford; truly two of the most amazing talents in the pageant industry. Clay’s photos are just magical, and Joey is a wardrobe master! I am so honored to get to work with them both this year!
Kevin and I were honored to travel to Chicago Illinois for the Mrs, Miss and Teen Illinois International pageant. We were so pleased to be asked to judge this incredible group of women. What an amazing, but also amazingly difficult experience it was!
Enjoy the photos-I promise to try to do better with keeping you up to date.


If there is one thing our legislators know by now, it is that You're the Cure advocates are tough to ignore- and yesterday, Congress showed us that they have been listening. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the HEART for Women Act by a unanimous voice vote, bringing us one big step forward in our mission to see the bill become a law. Congratulations! It was your action on this important issue that has brought us to this point. As every good advocate knows though, with the celebration of crossing one hurdle comes the call to action to get us over the next one. The full House of Representatives could vote as early as next week to pass the bill and send it to the Senate, so our Congressmen and Congresswomen need to hear from us! Urge the House to swiftly pass the HEART for Women Act! The current session of Congress ends soon, so we don't have much time. Your immediate action is necessary to keep the pressure on the House to consider the bill at its earliest available opportunity. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for the women close to your heart. Every email you send, phone call you make, or visit you go on raises awareness about the critical need to address the cardiovascular diseases that claim the lives of nearly 460,000 women each year. Margaret Mead once said "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has"- and you and your fellow You're the Cure advocates prove that every day. Keep up the good work!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Go Red Website, Heart Gallery, Heart Ball Fashion Show and more!

What an incredible week it has been. There have been amazing things happening, and amazingly difficult things as well. First, I am so honored to share with you that my video testimony has gone up on the national Go Red For Women web site. Visit to see the clip, and my introduction as a national spokesperson for this amazing organization. This really feels like the beautiful culmination of eight incredible years of dedication and work. I have had the privilege of speaking to groups from as small as 8 women, to as large as 1000, but I could never have hoped to reach the number of women that will be reached every day by this piece being featured on the Go Red site.
Our fund raising season has kicked off, and we are starting to have the fabulous round of events that lead up to the Heart Ball. I was so excited to be asked to model for the kick of fashion show at Barbara Jean fashions in Little Rock. Miss Arkansas International Erin Golden and I were thrilled to model the fairy tale fashions of French designer Domanique DeSentino. I also had the opportunity to open the show by introducing Go Red and the Heart ball to the attendees. I had only five minutes, but I packed some incredible information in that short span of time! I so look forward to this incredible season of fund raising, educating, and awareness!
I was also so thrilled to get to be part of the inaugural shoot for the Greater Arkansas Heart Gallery. I have been honored to serve on the board of this incredible organization for about a year. The chairwoman is my dear friend, Robin Moore. Robin has such a heart for these precious children, and after a year of hard work and dedication we celebrated the first photography session with some beautiful and gifted children. I can’t share photos of the children with you, due to legal reasons, but please enjoy the photo of Robin, and the wonderful photographer Stuart Holt. Stuart is remarkably generous, and donated his time and talents to this incredible cause. We cannot thank him enough; finding a photographer for this incredible project has been the most challenging step so far. Stuart stepped in and saved the day. We cannot wait for the kick off exhibit!
I want to thank all of you who are calling and emailing your thoughts and prayers for my father. This has been a very difficult week. On Monday we discovered that my fathers white blood cell count had plummeted. Normal range for white cells is 2.8-7.8. On Monday dad’s cell count was 0.8, and he was extremely dehydrated. He has been in isolation for the week, receiving IV fluids, antibiotics and shots of a drug which encourages the bone marrow to increase white cell production. Please continue to keep him in your prayers!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lions Club 2008

I was the guest speaker at the Lions Club today. What an incredible group of volunteers and community leaders these individuals are. We had an incredibly large group despite being bumped from the normal location; there were about 150 people at the luncheon. I was incredibly honored to speak before this group in 2003, and it was a blessing to return. I am always amazed at how open and receptive people are to the message of women's heart disease education and awareness. As usual I asked the members of this group to sign up for the "You're the Cure" advocacy circle. On average I am lucky if I get 25% participation from a group, especially one of this size. I believe that typically people are hesitant to give out their email, for fear of more spam in their in-boxes. We at the AHA assure them that we do absolutely zero address sharing, but people are still hesitant. I am thrilled to report that we got 100% participation today! These members were so excited about the opportunity to become political activists for such an incredible cause, and with so little effort!

This was the first opportunity I had to speak before an audience wearing the Mrs. International banner. I'm still just overwhelmed when I put it on. I'm overwhelmed that I am the face of such an amazing organization; I'm overwhelmed that I am the representative of such an incredible group of women; I'm overwhelmed at the possibilities before me this year!

Monday, August 4, 2008

STOP Stroke Act Stopped in the Senate

On July 28, the Senate voted to consider a package of 35 bills, called the Advancing America’s Priorities Act, which contained the Stroke Treatment and Ongoing Prevention (STOP Stroke) Act. Unfortunately, the package did not get the 60 votes needed to move forward, slowing the progress You’re the Cure advocates worked so hard to achieve with STOP Stroke.
Although the outcome was not what we had hoped for, You’re the Cure advocates were clearly heard on Capitol Hill! In just a few short days, you helped generate nearly 7,000 emails, contacting all 100 members of the Senate. We also placed phone calls and sent faxes to targeted members, and the AHA was proudly represented by Virginia stroke survivor and You’re the Cure advocate Paul Berger at a press conference just days before the vote. In addition, STOP Stroke was mentioned numerous times on the Senate floor throughout the debate.
We may be down, but we are not out, and the count continues until Congress adjourns for the year. Now, more than ever, we need your help to keep the pressure on the Senate. It is very important that you tell your Senators that this bill must move forward before the session ends.
Send a message to your Senators today to let them know that their You’re the Cure constituents are following their actions and will stand up for the nearly six million stroke patients and their families in this country.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Updates, appearances and the AHA

First of all I want to thank all of you that are calling and emailing to check on my father. His condition can best be described as "improving". We were so happy to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his pastorate at our church in Conway on the 27th. I was so honored to be able to speak during the morning service, and tell him publicly just how proud I am of what he has done with his life. We had a state senator, the mayor of Conway and several community and church leaders come and speak about what an incredible ministry my father has had. As wonderful as the day was it was exhausting for dad. When I came home from Chicago I was honestly shocked to see him so thin and pale. He is extremely anemic, and that has to improve before his chemo can begin. Sundays activities really drained him further, and he has spent the last three days in bed resting. We will meet with his oncologist next week to determine how his counts are doing, and when his chemo will begin.

This last week has been amazing in many ways. My friends at the AHA have been thrilled with the news that I was crowned Mrs. International. My advocacay leader Barbie Kumpe is out having knee replacement surgery. I am anxious for her to get back so we can move ahead with out plans for the 2009 session. Marlene Vadjunec is our metro executive director, and is thrilled that Mrs. International is in her home state. We have many events coming up for the 2009 season, that I cannot wait to be part of as the representative of the International system. The festival of wines is always our first event of the season, and of course Kevin and I are in the thick of the planning season for the '09 Heart Ball.

I've started what will no doubt be a wonderful year of incredible appearances. My first was to film a knew segment for the home page of the "Go Red" website. I cannot wait to see the completed piece, and see it go up on the website. It should wrap the end of this week. I also had an interview with our state NBC affiliate, which gave me a chance to really talk about what makes the Mrs. International system "the" system for married women . I also had an interview with our state newspaper which will come out this Sunday, and an interview with AY Magazine, a statewide periodical, which will come out in September. It has been an incredible and incredibly busy two weeks, and I cannot wait to see what is to come! I still marvel at this opportunity, and feel so blessed to be living this dream that I have had for so long. God is good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Arkansas Moving Toward 2009 Session

The 2009 Legislative session will be a busy one for the American Heart Association, with three major issues on the agenda. The first is the creation of a statewide trauma system. Such a system would allow Arkansas to properly treat strokes and other traumatic brain injuries. Currently, Arkansas does not have a statewide trauma system or a level one trauma center. Last session legislators could not come to an agreement on the funding for the system therefore no legislation was approved. However, several funding streams are currently being discussed in preparation for legislation in 2009.

Contact your legislators and let them know how important this issue is for Arkansas.

Next on our agenda is funding for automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for all schools in Arkansas. Representatives Janet Johnson and Sandra Prater have taken the lead on this issue, and are reviewing information to determine how best to move forward with funding for schools across Arkansas.

Encourage your representative to work to fund AEDs in all schools in AR.

Finally, Arkansas' tobacco tax is well below the national average — just 59 cents compared to a national average of $1.18 according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Not only is price a big deterrent to youth smoking (for every 10 cents you increase the tax you can see a 7 to 10 percent decrease in consumption), Arkansas is leaving dollars on the table that could be used to provide much needed health disparities programs that reach into communities all across Arkansas.

We will keep you updated as this issue advances in preparation for the 2009 legislative session.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mrs. International 2008!!!

As I sit at my desk typing these words I am filled with more emotions than I can articulate. I have been raised in the knowledge that for everything there is a time, a purpose and a season. For me, this is the time and season to be Mrs. International 2008 and I vow to carry out those duties with purpose.

The International system has always been the penultimate of married women’s pageants. They, as an organization, represent all that is best in pageantry. Mel and Mary Richardson have an unwavering dedication to ethics and integrity, and a desire to use their forum to showcase the most beautiful attributes of married women; strength and purpose. They and their staff are to be commended for their beliefs, their commitment to excellence, and their incredible love and compassion.

I was so honored to compete in the Mrs. International pageant this year. I knew beforehand that I was going to be among a field of unbelievably accomplished, educated and passionate women. Upon arrival that reality was even more evident as I spoke with women like Cynthia Ducett who has dedicated her life to preventing drug abuse in teens since losing her daughter to a tragic overdoes; Shannon Devine who has dedicated herself to spreading the life saving message of organ and tissue donation; Sasha Townsend who has a passion for raising children in a healthy environment, and supporting them through the worst of times; Michelle Beckwith whose personal loss has empowered her to become a passionate spokesperson and activist on behalf of prostate cancer victims across the nation. I could go on and on and on, but the knowledge that I was singled out as the representative for a group such as this is overwhelming, unbelievable and amazingly humbling. And not only were all of the contestant spiritually beautiful, they were all physically beautiful as well! Everyone glowed from the inside, and there were some of the most beautiful evening gowns I have ever seen in my life on that stage. What an incredible event it was! Matt Davenport and his production team outdid themselves this year. The new PR firm, WPRK, organized several outings for the group that really made all of us feel so special. And of course, Mel, Mary and their staff were glorious to work with.

It is an unimaginable honor to have been chosen to represent this system this year. The International system has partnered with “Go Red for Women” as their national platform. I cannot begin to express what that means to me! As I left the stage after my crowning photos I was presented with my Swarovski “Go Red” dress pin from Monica Flores, the national head of “Go Red”. That was the moment of the evening that moved me to tears. After spending eight years with the AHA I am going to be able to spend this year as their “face”. God is amazing! There truly is a time, a season, and a purpose for everything.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The best of bad news!

Sorry for the delay in my updates to you. I have been at the hospital with dad in the CCU unit at every available moment. The pathology came back from dads cancer, and it was indeed the best of bad news! The cancer is stage 1A, and had not spread to the surrounding lymph system. PRAISE GOD!!! This last week has been more emotionally and physically exhausting than anything I could have ever imagined. For the last seven days we have been through countless tests, and each day has seemed to be endless hours of waiting to hear just how bad, or prayerfully, how good the outcome would be. We now know that my father is in the best situation in which one can be when the diagnosis is lung cancer. The oncologist has strongly recommended four full rounds of strong chemotherapy. None of us are looking forward to that treatment, but we also know that this cancer is aggressive, and tends to metastasize in the brain, liver or bone. Chemotherapy should greatly reduce the risk of it's return. We praise God daily for the miracle of the discovery of the cancer at such an early stage. Dad's prognosis is great. Now, we anticipate the journey through his recovery and look forward to celebrating his cure.

The Heart Association is and always will be my passion. I've devoted almost a decade of my life in service to the AHA, and to educating women to the dangers they face from this killer, and I look forward to many decades more. During dads illness I have still been attending meetings and having phone conferences with the lobbyist group, and the heart ball committee. I've been told that our Health Initiatives team, of which I am a member, will definitely be travelling to the UK to meet in person with the Rt. honorable Dawn Primarolo in February of 2009. I'm honored and ecstatic; I've never been to the UK and can think of no better reason for my first trip "over the pond". But, I'm also really looking forward to forming my fist ever Relay for Life team. It will be an honor to devote some of my volunteer hours in honor of my father. Kevin, Mom, Leigh and I will relish the opportunity to honor and repay him for the hours of support he has given to us all. Watch out cancer; here we come.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Update on dad

Dad had his surgery today and Praise to God it went very smoothly. It began at 12:30, and was over around 5:00. The entire lower lobe of the left lung was removed, along with all of the lymph system surrounding the area. The surgeon told us that he saw no visible evidence of cancer in the lymph structure. We should have the pathology back from both the growth in the lung and the lymphatic system surrounding it within about 48 hours. Our prayer is that God continue to be with my father as he recovers, and give him the strength that he will need as his treatment continues. We are anticipating radiation and one full round of chemotherapy. We will know more once the staging process is complete. Until then, let me extend my personal thanks to each of you who have reached out with emails, phone calls and notes. You have no idea what your kindness and love means to me at this moment. It is your support and encouragement that are carrying me through this difficult and terrifying time. I treasure each word, and each of you! Please excuse my brevity; my entire family and I are exhausted. I know God will give us the strength we need to endure for dad through this time. Love to you all-Laine

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Prayers for my father

July has always been an important month to my family. My beautiful sister, 8 years my junior, was born on the first of this month. My mother underwent her triple bypass surgery and began the journey to a healthy life in this same 31 day period, and we have always celebrated my father’s birth on the 12th with delight.

My father and I are just alike. We think alike, we talk alike, our physical characteristics are almost identical (thanks for the short waist dad!). I inherited my love of public speaking, and my heart for the public from him. My father is an amazing man. He graduated from high school in 1966 at the top of his class. His ACT score was one point shy of perfect, and his SAT earned him a spot on the list of National Merit Scholars for that year. He led his debate team all through high school, and it was his skill in that field that aid his way through what was then Central State University in Edmond Oklahoma. His intended career field was medicine. My father dreamed of being a cardiovascular surgeon, an irony that would not go unnoticed in years to come. God had other plans. After finishing college, once again at the top of his class, my father surrendered to the ministry. He received his masters of Theology and Philosophy from Southwestern Theological Seminary on Fort Worth Texas in 1974, when I was one year old.

My father has always been the grounding force in my life. In the most important and difficult moments in my life he has been a stalwart against the storm. It was my father that pulled me from the wreckage of our car when a drunk driver hit us when I was four years old, and I was pinned between the dash and steering wheel. It was my father who taught me to ride a bike, swing a bat, and love my neighbor. My father is a living example of what it means to be a “Christian”. It was my father who held my mothers hand as the healed from her bypass surgery, and who encouraged my sister and I while we watched her struggle for her life. It has been my father on many occasions that attended American Heart Association and TWTH events when my precious husband was unable, to take photos or video, or just be a supportive face.

My father has lung cancer. My amazingly gifted father, who has devoted his life to service, who has never smoked a cigarette or worked in an asbestos factory, has lung cancer. He was diagnosed on the fourth of July with adenocarcinoma. A fluke in a test meant to uncover problems in his heart found it extremely early. We thank God for the miracle of that. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday to remove the bottom lobe of his left lung, and it will be determined what directions we need to go after that to prayerfully have a full recovery. It is hard to believe I am actually writing these words, but to do so is in it's own way cathartic.

So many of you are faithful friends and followers of my blog and Taking Wellness to Heart. I ask that you keep all of us in your prayers at this time, and that you especially have my father, David Hatfield, in your thoughts.

Most sincerely and with love, Laine

Monday, June 30, 2008

"Project Red Dress" 2008 a SUCCESS!

In slightly more than a week we will celebrate my mothers eighth birthday. Naturally, it isn’t her actual birthday, that day falls on April the 18th of every year. No, this birthday is the day we celebrate her successful open heart surgery, which bypassed three blockages in arteries of her heart. On July 10th we’ll mark eight years of life and love that we may not have had if she hadn’t received an accurate diagnosis in time. As a woman suffering from heart disease nearly a decade ago, she almost didn’t. Since that time I’ve made it my personal mission to make sure that every woman I have the opportunity to come into contact with has the weapons they need to protect themselves from the nations leading killer of women.

This last weekend I was so honored to speak to the group of ladies who assembled for the second annual “Project Red Dress” event. “Project Red Dress” is in conjunction with the “Go Red for Women” campaign. Designers from across the state and nation designed amazing red gowns, which were modeled in a fashion show. Winners were chosen from both a professional and amateur category, and each winner received round trip airfare to New York and tickets to the national “Go Red” fashion show. There were approximately 500 women in attendance, and I was thrilled to be able to share with them the mission of “Go Red”, and invite them to join the “You’re the Cure” network. I always speak about my mothers experience obtaining a diagnosis, and my own struggle to receive treatment. I am always overwhelmed by the response of the audience. Sadly, there are always attendees who share with me stories of their loved ones struggle to get an accurate diagnosis, for which there was no happy ending. It is my dream and mission to see to it that every woman gets the adequate care that is needed to insure that no one die an early and senseless death from heart disease.

You’ll also no doubt notice that I am wearing a banner in these photos. I am so excited and honored to be Mrs. Southeast International 2008. I will be leaving for Chicago on July the 14th to compete in the 2008 Mrs. International pageant. Mrs. International really embodies all that is good and of value in married women’s pageantry. Mrs. International is a woman of high moral fortitude, integrity, passion, drive and honor. This incredible organization has partnered with the American Heart Association, and has chosen "Go Red For Women" as their national platform. Having been involved in "Go Red" since it's inception I cannot imagine a better opportunity to promote both organizations which hold such a special place in my heart.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Meeting with Incoming Speaker Wills

This email just came in from our Lobbyist Leader, Barbie Kumpe;

"Laine and Dan, I wanted to ask both of you to attend a meeting with incoming Speaker Robbie Wills. I will be calling to set up an appointment with him to discuss our issues for the coming session. I don’t have a date but would like for both of you to go with me. Can you let me know if you are willing and then I will try to set a meeting with him. I know it will depend on the date and time if you can go but you both are my first choice for attending.

Barbara Kumpe

American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

South Central Affiliate/Arkansas

909 West Second Street

P.O. Box 1610

Little Rock, AR 72203

Toll Free - 866.877.5883 Ex. 4134

Little Rock Directline - 501.379.1182

Cell - 501.951.2992

Fax - 501.375.9066"

This is extremely exciting, as we are getting a head start on the upcoming legislative session. Any time there is such a huge shift in the legislative body as we will experience this session it is imperative that we have the ear of those officials. I'll keep you posted on this meeting, and the upcoming Advocacy group meeting!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Help Us Help You!

Every voice is important, but there is strength in numbers. The more You're the Cure advocates we have talking to their elected officials, the better our chances of successfully pushing heart-healthy policies. Do you know someone affected by heart disease or stroke? Is a friend or colleague passionate about these issues? Please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to join the You're the Cure network!

Congress: Help Saves Lives in Schools!

Each year 166,000 Americans suffer a sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital. Sadly, more than 95%, die before reaching medical care. But a simple device and some basic training on how to respond in these emergency situations can help prevent tragedies.

Right now, legislators are considering an important bill — the Josh Miller HEARTS Act — which would establish a grant program to help schools pay for automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and training. The bill was prompted by the tragic death of 15-year-old Josh Miller who suffered sudden cardiac arrest at a high school football game. It recognizes the importance of providing schools with the equipment and training necessary to save the lives of children and adults in the education community as part of an overall medical emergency response plan.

Quick application of proper CPR and defibrillation can make a difference and save lives. This bill would establish a grant program to help your schools purchase AEDs and provide training for their use, for cases of sudden cardiac arrest on school grounds.

Tell your lawmakers to help make our schools safer for everyone by supporting the Josh Miller HEARTS Act today!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Laine and Kevin Kick off Heart Ball planning for 2009!

Planning for the 2009 Heart Ball began yesterday with a bang! It is hard to believe it has already been a year since we started planning for the ’08 event, but time seems to fly when there is so much to do. Kevin and I were honored to serve on the ’08 Auction Board for the event, and we along with the other 8 members of the board were successful in raising over 1.1 million dollars for the American Heart Association in ONE EVENING! That is a huge number to try to duplicate, especially in these difficult economic times when giving to charitable organizations is down across the board. However, we will continue undaunted! We hope to up our overall giving at the event to 1.6 million for 2009. We are once again lead by the incredible Carol Dyer, whose hard work and dedication to this event has made it the largest in the nation. Our small but determined board is ready for the 2009 challenge! I’ll be keeping you posted on our progress.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The childhood obesity rate has now reached epidemic proportions in our country. With overweight children at greater risk of developing heart disease as adults, it is imperative that we, as a nation, take steps now to reverse this trend. Please join me and urge Congress to support the FIT Kids Act.

Tell Congress that we consider the health of our children a priority – send your message today!

By 2010, 20% of U.S. children are expected to be obese. While many factors have contributed to this alarming rise in overweight children, one of the main culprits is a decrease in the physical activity levels of today’s youth.

The FIT Kids Act (The Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act) addresses this specifically, seeking to amend the No Child Left Behind Act to ensure the quantity and quality of physical education in our schools is recognized.

But to get this critical piece of legislation passed we must reach out to our legislators and impress upon them the importance of making our kids health a priority … and that is where people like you come in.

If you haven’t already, please contact Congress right away.

It is imperative that our kids take part in regular physical education and learn to live healthier lifestyles, in order to reduce health risks including cardiovascular disease. Please don’t wait- join us in this critical effort and speak out for a healthier generation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

15 Minutes to TAKE ACTION!!


As we draw near the end of our fiscal year, I wanted to personally thank you for your hard work and dedication to our mission. Your efforts directly impact the lives of so many. Cures that seemed impossible yesterday are possible today because of your unwavering commitment to our strategic impact goal of reducing coronary heart disease, stroke and risk by 25% by 2010.

Within the final days of this fiscal year we still have much work to do, and I would like to call on you for one final push to reach our affiliate goals.

Please join me on Monday, June 16 at 11:45 a.m. to be a part of "15 Minutes to Goal!"

"15 Minutes to Goal!" is a unique opportunity for staff and volunteers to simply take a short 15-minute break to:

Tips: Call and recruit your friends, family, companies, vendors, volunteers, alliances, survivors, and caregivers. Ask each of them to recruit at least three people for you. Refer to our Go Red For Women e-mail template and our program benefits document for ideas.

Imagine reaching our affiliate goals in just 15 minutes. As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great states, "Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline." Your commitment and determination to see this goal through will raise the South Central Affiliate from good to great. I look forward to reporting great results from the South Central Affiliate at our next Board of Directors meeting.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Action ALERT!! Your voice CAN make a difference!

Heroes aren’t born, they’re trained. This week is National CPR/AED Awareness Week. Now is the perfect time to educate lawmakers on the importance of having Automated External Defibrillators in public places, as well as training the public to use them and become heroes. The good news is the Arkansas Legislature passed a bill requiring an AED for every school in the state. However, no funding was made available so many schools lack these life saving devices. Please urge Arkansas lawmakers to make this funding a top priority when the legislature reconvenes next year. The American Heart Association strongly supports public access to AEDs for many reasons including: -Each year, more than 250,000 people suffer cardiac arrest, usually away from a hospital. More than 95 percent of them will die, in many cases because defibrillation occurs too late to reverse the cardiac arrest. -Every minute that passes before returning the heart to a normal rhythm after a cardiac arrest causes the chance of survival to fall by 10 percent. -In public places and schools where strong Public Access to Defibrillation (PAD) programs have been implemented which includes the placement of AED’s, survival from cardiac arrest has significantly improved. Thanks for your support! Laine

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nominated for L'Oreals "Woman of Worth" award

I am so honored to be able to share with you that I have been nominated for a L'Oreal "Women of Worth" award! This is one of those rare occasions where the nomination is as important as the award itself. Sherri Higgs of Texas, someone very special to me, who has followed my 8 year  volunteer career, nominated me for this very special honor. It is such a blessing to know that I have touched one persons life to such an extent that they find me worthy of this honor. Thank you Sherri for your faith in me and my work!

Dear Mrs Laine Berry,

Sheri wants to let you know that you have been nominated for the L’Oréal Paris 2008 Women Of Worth Award!

Here it is!!!

About The Women Of Worth Award

For over 30 years, “Because I’m Worth it” has been used by L’Oréal Paris to
celebrate Women Of Worth. As a progression of this philosophy, L’Oréal Paris has created the Women Of Worth Community. A continually growing group of
extraordinary women who are helping connect the personal commitment,
community and well-being of women.

Enlighten us about a Woman of Worth whose volunteer work is making a
beautiful difference in your community.

Nominate her and she could be awarded a donation of $2500 to support her
most cherished cause. And you’ll be a part of building L’Oréal’s ever-growing

Women Of Worth Community. L’Oréal Paris will make an additional $2500 donation in
the name of each of our winners to support the Ovarian Cancer Research
Fund (OCRF). To date, L’Oréal Paris has raised over $13 million on behalf of OCRF
to honor their commitment to women. Join L’Oréal Paris’ Women Of Worth
Community today. Because We’re All Worth It!

Visit to learn more L’Oreal Paris’ Women Of Worth

Saturday, May 31, 2008

CPR Across Arkansas and City Goes Red

For the past several months we have been in the process of planning the largest ever mass CPR training ever to occur in the state of Arkansas. I am thrilled to report it was a rousing success! In all honesty, it was far beyond my wildest hopes!! Taking Wellness to Heart, the American Heart Association, Air Evac and the Arkansas Heart hospital were all sponsors of the event, and our early estimates are that more than 1500 people were trained in the life saving technique known as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. It was an inspiring site to see hundreds of people gathered on the playing field of War Memorial Stadium, under the blazing sun, learning how to save lives. We began the training sessions this morning at 8 AM, and they ran until 2 o’clock.
There were many other opportunities for attendees to benefit from as well. The Heart Hospital staff was on hand to provide free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. Their booth was, by far, one of the most popular. It is an honor to be able to provide life saving medical tests free of charge to those who may not normally be able to afford them.
I also spent time at the AHA “You’re the Cure” desk, signing up new YTC members. These members will become part of the largest life saving team in the nation. These individuals will receive emails when our state and national representatives are considering legislation that we at the AHA consider important to the overall health of our populace. I’ve mentioned this before, but it certainly bears repeating. Our legislators tell us that they rarely hear from even ten constituents on any legislative issue. Your one email could actually be considered a mandate to your representative.
The American Red Cross was in attendance as well, and had a more than successful blood drive from our attendees. Each drop of blood collected today represents a life saved.
Today was also out kick off event for our new movement, City Goes Red. This is our newest outshoot of the Go Red for Women movement. I am honored to serve on our state board of directors. We hope in this coming year to use CGR to encourage large corporations around our state to become deeply invested in the Go Red movement. We will organize health fairs for the employees of these corporations, and in turn we will have their corporation and fiscal sponsorship in the Go Red movement. We are thrilled to see where this new partnership can take Go Red!
I also got to spend some time with the rep for Zoll AED’s. (automatic electronic defibrillators). The Zoll AED is working closely with the AHA to follow each of the AHA’s considerations for AED’s. It is important that we on the Legislative Action Committee be fully aware of all brands of AED’s as we author new considerations to attach to next year’s AED’s legislation. Zoll is an incredible company, and I look forward to a lengthy relationship with them.
Other exciting news includes the upcoming Legislative Action Committee meeting at the end of June. As chairman I’ll be assigning our members their “areas of action” for the coming session. We have individual committees that in the coming session will divide their attentions between AED legislation, obesity law, disparity research, tobacco excise issues and physical activity in schools. I’ll be giving out their “assignments” at the end of the month, and then the REAL work will begin!
Also, June 18th is our first board meeting for the 2009 Heart Ball. I cannot believe it has already been three months since the ’08 event, and already time to begin the hard work again! We have a huge goal ahead of us, since each year we seek to raise more than the year prior. Last year we raised 1.1 MILLION dollars in one evening. I hope we can top that success this year!
Please enjoy the photos from today’s event!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May is Stroke Month-Educate Yourself and those You LOVE!

Did you know that when it comes to stroke, time lost is brain lost? Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke and every second that person goes untreated, thousands of brain cells are lost, potentially impairing their ability to carry out the simple, every day tasks we take for granted.

While the statistics are startling, we all have a role to play in ensuring future victims of stroke have the best chance for recovery. Join me in learning the five warning signs of a stroke and how to respond to them quickly. Your ability to recognize a stroke and act could make all the difference.

• Walk — Is their balance off?
• Talk — Is their speech slurred or face droopy?
• Reach — Is one side weak or numb?
• See — Is their vision all or partly lost?
• Feel — Is their headache severe?

If you see just one of these symptoms, even if it goes away, do not wait- call 9-1-1 immediately! For more information, visit

Even our legislators on Capitol Hill have a role to play in raising awareness about stroke- but they need to hear from you that this health issue is a priority. Right now, the Senate is considering the STOP Stroke Act- legislation which aims to ensure that stroke is more widely recognized by the public as a medical emergency and treated more effectively by healthcare providers. Join me in sending a message to our Senators today, urging them do their part to pass the STOP Stroke Act.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Telecommuting to the UK, CPR Month and MORE!

WHEW!! May has been whirl-wind in more ways than one! A lengthy vacation took a chunk out of the middle of the month for me, but we are back home and running!

May started with the creation of the International Coalition to Defeat Childhood Obesity, which I am honored to have been nominated to. I will serve as an Arkansas Liaison to this incredible organization, with hopes to travel to the UK in a few months time. We had hoped to host the Rt. Honorable Dawn Primarolo MP, Minister of State for Public Health, here in the state of Arkansas. Sadly, the Myanmar tragedy preempted those plans. International focus needs to be with those victims at this time, and we in Arkansas are among those praying for the survivors, and supporting the relief efforts. However, we are blessed to live in the 21st Century, and have amazing technologies at our disposal! So, instead of shaking hands and meeting face to face, we clicked on our computers and enjoyed a “telecommute” to the UK! The UK is very interested in our BMI bill, and deeply wants to install a similar program in its’ public education system. We began by sharing our original BMI bill, which was voted into law and ratified by former Governor Mike Huckabee in 2003. We then detailed for Ms. Primarolo the rollercoaster ride of alterations and changes, and even the battle for repeal that have come since that time. We were happy to share with her that there is now a strong backing for the current BMI procedures in Arkansas, and the seven other states that followed suit. More meetings are to follow, so stay with me as we continue this process over the coming months. I anticipate my first trip to the UK in the near future!

May is national CPR month across America! We at the AHA are attempting to get as many persons as possible trained in this life saving technique. Workshops will be held nation wide through the month to train individuals on how to react in crisis situations, and how to be part of saving a life. If bystander CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival fall 7 percent to 10 percent for every minute of delay until defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation are successful if CPR and defibrillation are not provided within minutes of collapse. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can double a victim’s chance of survival. We will be having our CPR training day in Little Rock, on May 30th. I hope to see you there!

Also, Taking Wellness to Heart is gearing up for another fundraising season. Be watching for “Heartstrong Woman” conferences in your area, and opportunities to give to and AED drive near you. Last year alone we placed 17 Automatic Electronic Defibrillators in the state of Arkansas, bringing our overall total since 2005 to 47. We hope to double that number next year!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Heart Walk 2008!!

This past Saturday was our annual Heart Walk here in Arkansas. God blessed us with the best weather of the season, and an OUTSTANDING group of volunteers and walkers. In the last 8 years I have been at the Heart Walk in many capacities, from organizer to emcee. This year I was thrilled to be there as the Advocacy (lobbyist) committee representative. It was a wonderful to time to catch up on with old friends who are there every year, celebrating their survival and helping raise funds for life saving research and legislation. My favorite friend to see every year is Kirk Johnston. I first met Kirk when he was only 5 years old, and after having survived multiple heart surgeries. Kirk’s parent’s had already lost a daughter in infancy to a heart condition, and in this I can empathize. Kirk was born with an equally life saving condition, but miraculously is with us today-a healthy, vibrant teen-ager. We were able to sign up many many more “heart warriors” - we had fabulous success getting the walkers to join “You’re the Cure”. Speaking of which, TODAY is national “You’re the Cure” lobby day in Washington DC! Barbie Kumpe is there, along with a lovely mother/son team from Arkansas who plan to share their story of survival with our nations legislators. I was unable to attend this year, as tomorrow is the day I’ll be meeting with the Health Minister of the UK to discuss beginning the BMI program in his country. I am so blessed to get to be part of this international movement toward a heart healthy future!

Monday, April 28, 2008

We need your Stinky Sneakers TODAY!!

Tomorrow is You’re the Cure on the Hill- the American Heart Association’s federal lobby day, and hundreds of You’re the Cure advocates will be on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to pass legislation to help counter the childhood obesity epidemic we presently face.

With the event now only hours away, I wanted to remind you to take part in our Sneakers for FIT Kids Photo Petition, so we can demonstrate the widespread support for the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act).

Remember, the FIT Kids Act would amend No Child Left Behind to ensure the quality and quantity of physical education begin provided in our public schools is prioritized. Tomorrow is an important step in our efforts to see that this important bill is passed, and your participation today can have an invaluable impact on the outcome.

There is still time for you to take part in the Sneakers for FIT Kids Photo Petition. All it requires is that you take these three easy steps:

1) Take A Picture Of Your Well-Used, Stinky Sneakers – Whether they are high tops, tennis shoes or cross trainers, just snap a photo of your sneakers or of you being active in your sneakers. And get creative- create a sign expressing your support to include in the shot!

2) Send Your Picture To Take a look at the hundreds of sneaker pictures we have already received. We would like to add your photo too so we can demonstrate to Congress that ensuring the health of our kids is an important priority.

3) Wear Your Sneakers April 29th – Even if you cannot join us at You’re the Cure on the Hill in person, be sure to wear your sneakers tomorrow to raise awareness of the issue and show your solidarity with our cause.

In closing, I would like to thank you on behalf of the American Heart Association – and the millions of kids whose lives you can make healthier – for supporting our campaign.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

2008 Red Cap Rally

April 16th we at the AHA celebrated our annual Red Cap Rally. The Red Cap Rally is a wonderful celebration for survivors of heart disease and stroke. This year the Rally was held at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, where our very own Arkansas Razorbacks play their SEC football games. Now, you need to understand that the whole football connection really means nothing to me, but my beautiful and loving husband was really excited about it, so it is important to me too! It was just an overwhelming event; what an amazing experience it was to look out over the sea of red caps from the podium, and realize that our efforts at the AHA contribute to each one of those saved lives. I’m not exactly certain how many were in attendance, but early estimates were between 600 and a thousand. We were entertained by a great band made up of Cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons from across the state, and heard words from Dr. Weeks, head of Cardiology at Baptist Health. I was asked to speak about the Legislative Advocacy Committee, what we do, and how the public can help us in our efforts. I asked the attendees to sign up for the “You’re the Cure” network. You’re the Cure is the Advocacy component of the AHA, and I have served as chairman of the directorship committee for the last three years. YTC collects email and residency information from its membership and then notifies said membership when legislative issues are coming before their elected officials that need action. As little as two clicks of your mouse can contact your representatives and tell them to TAKE ACTION on these life saving measures. We were so blessed to sign up dozens of new members to our action team that night.

There are few events that I participate in where picture taking is appropriate. But, this wasn’t one of those, so I hope you enjoy the few snapshots, and enjoy getting to see some the faces that are working daily to save lives by changing laws!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Amazing things happening with our Lobbyist Group!

I have so much to share today! Yesterday was the committee meeting of the lobbyist group on which I serve for the AHA, and we have so much work ahead of us for the 2009 season. Of course, our next official legislative season does not begin until January of 2009, but we begin NOW to plan, write and find sponsors for bills that are going to be argued in that upcoming session. There are going to be many carry-over issues from last session. There are huge life saving/changing issues that require further support and action, as well as new issues that we are going to wrestle.

First, last session we were successful in the passage of The AED Act, which mandated that all public schools in Arkansas have Automatic Electronic Defibrillators…pending funding. While it was a great success to have the bill fly through both houses like it did, not having the funding piece included basically made it ineffective. We basically had an unfunded mandate, and those have little value. That left it up to organizations like mine, Taking Wellness to Heart, to find funding for these devices. While we placed several last year we certainly do not have the capability to place one in every public school in the state. Sadly, in the 2007 school year we lost a Little Rock school student to cardiac arrest. Had there been an AED present his life might not have been forfeit. In reaction to all of the above we are writing an addendum to the AED Act, which will provide one million dollars in state funding to provide these life saving devices statewide. Rep. Sandra Prater, who sponsored the AED Act for us, has agreed to sponsor the addendum. We have every indication that this addendum will also fly through both Houses. We are also working on a set of “considerations” for the schools to use when purchasing their AED, and the protocol to put in place for their use. We want to make sure that the public schools are buying FDA tested and approved devices, and have someone on staff trained in the proper usage of the device.

Second, we are working diligently on increasing the excise tax on tobacco products. I am ashamed to say that Arkansas has an excise tax of only 59 cents. Many states in our nation have a tax of 3-4 dollars per pack. Studies show that for every 10% increase in the tax on a packet of cigarettes usage decreases by 10%. This will also increase tax monies available for other state health initiatives. The AHA takes no state funding, and therefore the state cannot tell us what to do with our funds. However, we strongly support our initiative partners receiving “devoted” funds. This would mean that the American Cancer Society and other health organizations would have the potential to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from this tax. Sadly, our new Governor is not a fan of “devoted” funds, so we have an uphill battle before us on this issue.

Third, we are again working on a State-Wide Stroke Trauma System. This would create a system of medical facilities across the state to treat stroke victims in the critical first three hours. It will take approximately 25 million dollars in yearly funding to create the trauma system, and getting both houses to agree on where those funds will come from has created a difficulty. Last session both houses agreed that the system was imperative, and recognized its life saving benefits. Arkansas leads the nation in deaths by stroke. However, each house had its own ideas on how to fund the project on a long term basis. This next session our focus will be on getting the two houses to agree on funding, and begin the lengthy process of setting up this life saving system.

Most exciting of all, we have been asked by the Health Ministry of the UK to help them establish a BMI testing protocol in their various countries. Arkansas passed Act 1220 in 2003, and set the benchmark for the US for this life changing program. We now have five years worth of experience with this very sensitive issue, and the UK wants to see how we have put the program in place, how we have handled the dissemination of the information, and how we have handled the back lash from teachers and parents. We will be meeting with them this month, and traveling to them during the next calendar year. Who would have EVER thought a piece of legislation that I worked on would be of interest on an International level, and who would believe that the tiny state of Arkansas would be an example to the world??? I am overwhelmed!

April the 16th I’ll be speaking to more than 1000 heart disease survivors at the Arkansas Red Cap Rally, and April 26th we’ll be celebrating the Central Arkansas Heart Walk. May the 31st is CPR Across Arkansas, where we hope to train 1000 people on CPR administration.

SO many exciting things going on-stay posted!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

AED Funding on the line-TAKE ACTION!

Legislation was passed during the 2007 Legislative session requiring all schools to have an automated external defibrillator (the device used to shock the heart when sudden cardiac arrest occurs) on site with trained staff and protocol in place.

However, there was no funding included in the bill so many schools currently lack an AED on campus. Contact your Legislator and ask them to make funding for AED a part of their agenda and to work with leadership to find the money to fund this effort.

Click here to urge lawmakers to make this funding a priority.

Some schools in the state are currently placing AEDs in their gyms and at sporting events. This effort was highlighted by the recent death of a high school basketball player in Little Rock and many schools are moving forward without the state funding.

The American Heart Association has been working with the Department of Education and many other entities to make sure that school authorities have the knowledge needed to make informed decision when purchasing the devices. The American Heart Association is very clear that AED protocol needs to be in place for the devices. It is vitally important that schools have a plan of action to take when an emergency situation arises.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Affiliate for Arkansas!

The American Heart Association is, of course, a national organization. As with any organization of its size and caliber, it can become difficult to accurately gauge the needs of each individual member of its constituency. Therefore, the AHA breaks it membership into “affiliates”. These affiliates are groups of states which ban together to empower one another in legislative and health initiative issues, under the guidance of the home organization. For the last several years Arkansas has been part of the “Heartland” affiliate. Our Heartland affiliate states included Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and as a lobbyist for the Heartland affiliate I was honored to spend time working on initiatives in many of these states. But as powerful as this affiliate was, it was becoming apparent that the needs of these states were so disparate that our impact was being lessened.

However, our dream of a new affiliate has been realized. We in the Advocacy Leadership Team had the dream of a new affiliate; one that would join together states with unique cultures, diversities and traditions, but similar health concerns. Our goal was to create a new “South Central Affiliate”, comprised of the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. Leadership from these states came together to form the new affiliate in record time! Oklahoma and Arkansas have the highest mortality rates from Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, while Texas and New Mexico have large “high-risk” groups.

This change will allow us to continue to make significant progress toward our 2010 impact goal. We at the AHA hope to reduce the death rate from heart attack and stroke by 25% by this date, and to do that it is imperative that we focus on our high risk populations.

On a personal level this is an extremely exciting change. I was born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and have lived in Arkansas for the last 20 years. This new affiliate will allow me to work closely with legislators in the states are literally and figuratively nearest and dearest to my heart!