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The American Heart Association is celebrating progress toward its mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke by honoring four Pennsylvanians who have contributed significantly to that mission. Two legislative awards and two volunteer awards were presented at a luncheon in downtown Harrisburg celebrating the successful passage of two lifesaving policies for the state.
Receiving the Young Heart Award was Taylor Heath, from Mohrsville. Taylor had a massive stroke at birth that damaged 97 percent of the left side of his brain. Now 13 years old, Taylor has cognitive and developmental delays in addition to limited use of his right hand and a peripheral field cut. Despite all of this and the need to take daily medication for seizures, Taylor decided to take his experience to the halls of the capitol, both in District of Columbia and Harrisburg.
He quickly developed a “legislative bug,” as his mother describes it, and has talked one-on-one with several state and federal legislators about his experience and the importance of passing heart disease and stroke-related public policies.
“The American Heart Association is a volunteer-driven organization,” said Ebersole, “and we truly could not do the work that we do in policy change without dedicated volunteers like Gene Juillet and Taylor Health. Their commitment, passion and personal stories truly make a difference in changing policy and saving lives.”
Volunteer Gene Juillet was honored with the American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate Distinguished Achievement Award. From Schwenksville, Montgomery County, Juillet is a heart survivor who became involved with the American Heart Association more than eight years ago. Juillet’s dramatic survivor story makes him a living example of how research, and the work of the American Heart Association, saves lives.
Over the years, he has been a dedicated advocate, telling his story to elected officials locally, in Harrisburg and in the District of Columbia, and serving on the Pennsylvania Advocacy Committee as a field representative for the 6th Congressional District. He also has spent the last seven years speaking to students at Villanova University at the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine as well as to medical students at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine to provide a patient’s perspective on living with heart disease.
Sen. Lisa Baker of Luzerne County was presented with the 2012 Legislator of the Year Award in Cardiac Policy for her sponsorship of Senate Bill 351. The bill, which was signed into law in July, provides Good Samaritan liability protection for AED program facilitators and lay CPR rescuers, significantly strengthening the chain of survival for cardiac arrest victims in the state.
Only one-in-four out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims nationally receive bystander CPR, and for patients with atrial fibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 7-10 percent for each minute that passes without a shock to the heart from an automated external defibrillator.
The 2012 Legislator of the Year Award in Stroke Policy was presented to Judge Doug Reichley, of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. While still serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Reichley introduced House Bill 1400 to improve stroke systems of care. The bill requires that the Pennsylvania Department of Health recognize as Primary Stroke Centers those facilities that are designated such by The Joint Commission or other national certifying body.
Getting stroke patients to the most appropriate facility quickly is key to ensuring quality care and better treatment outcomes, and House Bill 1400 ensures that emergency medical service providers have the most up-to-date information on where Primary Stroke Centers are located.
“Our 2012 Legislator of the Year Awards recognize the work of two dedicated public servants who have made a tremendous difference in the health of Pennsylvanians,” said Jen Ebersole, Pennsylvania government relations director for the American Heart Association. “Providing Good Samaritan protection for those who step in to help save victims of cardiac arrest and strengthening stroke systems of care in the state will literally save lives and save families from devastating loss due to our number one and number four leading killers—heart disease and stroke.”
Founded in 1924, the AHA is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases — America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers — the organization funds cutting-edge research, conducts lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocates to protect public health. For more information about the association, visit www.heart.org.