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!