Written By Marcy Shugert, California
The Rally for Medical Research met on September 17-18, 2013 to ask Congress to stop the sequestration of National Institutes of Health (NIH); and I was one of the people chosen to go - it was an unforgettable experience! From beginning to end, I was under the feverish rush of the politics of Washington, D.C., and I loved every aspect of it. I am a stroke survivor, and have been involved with many aspects of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA). I am very grateful to be an advocate, and that the AHA/ASA gave me the opportunity to meet my Representatives and Senators. It was, without a doubt, a chance of a lifetime.
The reason that we met on the Hill to help stop the sequestration of the NIH, and to add our personal story as to why the decision affects us. My reasons were two-fold; when I was having my stroke, I didn't know that people my age, at 33 could have the symptoms I was experiencing; had I known, I would have called the paramedics and would have gotten treatment much sooner. Secondly, if I had known about tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, then I would have asked for it in the hospital. tPA is a clot-busting drug that has the potential to save many people’s lives who are experiencing a stroke.
Therefore, I am an advocate through the AHA/ASA, and speak whenever I can about how I was healthy, ran, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol, did not have strokes in my family, and ate well. Yet, I was stressed and didn't do a good job of compartmentalizing my time. I then asked the Senators/Representatives to consider the sequestration to end because, as the AHA/ASA believes, we need more research on stroke. The young researchers we have invested NIH dollars into thus far will either leave the profession, or go overseas where they have more funding if NIH is not supported.
I met with staff from Senator Boxer, Senator Feinstein, Representative Issa, and Representative Calvert’s offices. I also had the chance to meet my Representative, Scott Peters in person. The meetings were 30-45 minutes long, and every person listened to what I had to say.
Overall, it was an excellent experience just being in the heart (pun intended of course) of our capital and speaking to the Members of Congress about making decisions for our future! Thank you AHA/ASA for making it possible for me to speak and be a part of our nation’s government for one day – I am inspired to do even more now that I have got a voice – both literally and figuratively. Here’s to more advocacy to everyone, in small and big places alike!