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Advocate Spotlight: Pamela Dell

Just as I was beginning to become overly stir crazy from the "stay at home" order and my high risk condition, a request was presented to share my story regarding my support of the American Heart Association and my efforts to make a difference as a survivor.

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I have congenital heart disease, hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, and in early 2000 it presented needing massive attention. I was attending a Boise State University basketball game when I found myself waking up in the EMT area of the arena and being advised to go to the ER. I decided to wait until Monday and call my cardiologist. When I did see them the following week, I was told I was in severe heart distress and needed surgery.

By the end of the month I was on my way to the NIH after meeting the requirements to participate in a national health study. I made multiple trips to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland from my home in Idaho over three years to participate in the study which at one point included having an induced heart attack and let me tell you it was not glamorous, and it hurt! I was able to hold onto my job in part because fellow employees donated over 145 hours of their sick time - yes, the American spirit of helping others is incredible.

In 2003 the federal government cut a large portion of funding to the NIH and my clinical study was shut down. My savior, Dr. Fananapazir, during the NIH trial was let go and eventually moved to Israel to continue his work. I felt like a child who was pulled from her teddy bear. The study I was part of was abandoned and research into the Alcohol Septal Ablation procedure has proved to be complicated and challenging for mainstream medicine.

After the study ended, I began searching for a way to express my gratitude and thankfulness granted me by the NIH team. My search led me to the American Heart Association. I didn’t have the ability to make a large donation, but I did start participating in Idaho’s local Heart Walk and reached out to the local office to offer my time as a volunteer.

After I started volunteering my time, in 2012, I received a call from a member of the American Heart Association Advocacy staff asking if I would like to attend their Federal Lobby Day in Washington, DC as the Idaho representative due to my personal experience with the NIH. I began my You’re the Cure journey to advocate for replacing and increasing NIH funding, but it has led to other satisfying personal benefits. Since then I have attended 4 Federal Lobby Days and each time my basket has been filled with knowledge, a feeling of accomplishment, and a sense of giving back.

I’ve also become involved with state advocacy efforts in Idaho, where the American Heart Association hosts an annual Youth Lobby Day. Since I’ve started participating, they have worked on legislation promoting physical education in schools, establishing safe walking and biking paths in communities, providing CPR training in schools, regulating and addressing tobacco and vaping issues and various other healthcare issues.

Over the years I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the Go Red for Women Luncheon, various roles at the Heart Walk, helping teach CPR at community events and share my story to groups in hopes of inspiring them to support the American Heart Association. While I have loved all of those opportunities, my favorite has been supporting advocacy and lobbying efforts to increase funding for the NIH and improving the health outcomes for heart patients across the country and around the world.

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