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Catherine Lester Salchert

I am still personally excited about participating in my first AHA Lobby Day at the Connecticut State Legislature, which was held on March 8th.

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At that event, I had the opportunity to advocate in support of passing a sugary drink excise tax, raising the tobacco sales age to 21, and a bill that would recognize stroke centers in CT. Most recently, I wrote to my state representative on the importance of maintaining CPR certification training as a requirement for high school graduation. CPR training is critical to making sure that we have community lifesavers to work in tandem with EMT’s, and other first responders.

My family has been personally impacted by this training. Seven years ago my cousin collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest after finishing a hike with his son’s Boy Scout troop. The troop Leader performed CPR for 15 minutes before help arrived, keeping his heart beating, which was a true miracle. EMTs restarted his heart with an automated electronic defibrillator (AED); he ended up having open heart surgery, and today is hiking regularly. It probably is not a coincidence that my cousin was saved by the leader of his son’s Boy Scout troop. As a former Girl Scout troop leader, I know that annual CPR training is required of all leaders. CPR performed correctly can and does save lives!

While we all rejoice in my cousin’s good fortune (he calls it his “reboot”), we are ever mindful of my brother who died 12 years ago from sudden cardiac arrest. He was 45 years old. My brother collapsed on a business trip while exercising in his hotel. A co-worker summoned help, and CPR was performed until EMTs arrived. While this was a comfort to us, the delay in starting CPR, and lack of an AED, were likely factors in his death.

Serving as an advocate for the AHA allows me to honor my brother’s memory, and give back to an organization that has done so much to promote advances in treating heart disease, and to promote heart health. Knowing how to respond to heart emergencies, and knowing the risk factors that we can control, empowers us in the face of a disease that can seem so random in taking loved ones from our lives. I am proud to support the AHA in their life-saving efforts!

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