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Advocate Spotlight: Mary Michaels

My Dad is Why.

It was the month of May; I finished my second year of college and moved back home for the summer. I was a kid that actually loved hanging out with my parents. As the youngest of 6, I was raised going everywhere with them – concerts, plays, community events, or trips to visit family. I was looking forward to getting back to my summer job and having time to relax with my parents.  Less than a week after I got home from college, however, our world turned upside down.

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It was a Tuesday morning, and my mom and I were awakened by a loud bang.  My dad had collapsed against the door of the bathroom. My parents had recently downsized from a house to a condo, and I knew there was a doctor in the building. I first called 9-1-1, and then went to find help while my mom started CPR.

It was sudden cardiac arrest. He was only 57. He was gone.

I think my dad is why … through an interesting twist of fate many years later … I was led to a job with the American Heart Association.  I know my dad is why I became so passionate about healthy living and health promotion.

My family and I enjoy getting out and being active – whether at home or when we travel. Our son’s initials are JIM, in honor of the grandfather he never got to meet.

When I joined the American Heart Association, I wanted to do my part to raise awareness about heart disease and keep families together longer … to keep other daughters from losing their dads and not being able to share special events like college graduation, a wedding and the birth of a grandchild.

Through my work with the American Heart Association, I was able play a role in ensuring high school students have physical education to teach them the benefits of life-long physical activity, in protecting residents and visitors from secondhand smoke through our statewide smoke-free law, and in helping our very youngest South Dakotans get screened for congenital heart defects right after birth.

Today, I work with Live Well Sioux Falls – a community-wide initiative to help our residents Breathe Well, Eat Well, Feel Well and Move Well. It is rewarding to see individuals make healthy lifestyle choices, to help employers invest in their employees through worksite well-being and to work with great community partners (like the American Heart Association!) to create a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

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