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Jane Cleaves: Amazing Advocate to the End

Jane Cleaves always inspiring us to do our best.

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Jane Cleaves never really retired. She may have left her job as a nurse at Maine Medical Center after 32 years of caring for Maine’s cancer and cardiac patients, but she immediately joined the board of the American Heart Association and got to work to change the environment to make it easier for her patients to recover, to improve their care and to prevent heart disease from even starting.

Jane passed away from cancer on January 4th. Just a few weeks earlier she joined our American Heart Association Advocacy Committee meeting by phone. She was tired. She did not speak during the meeting, but she was there. She always cared. Her dedication was amazing, and we will all miss her.

Jane came to Augusta countless times to talk to lawmakers about their responsibility to enact policies that reduce tobacco use, make nutritious food more accessible and make physical activity easier for all Mainers. In testifying about cuts to Maine’s prevention programs, she stated: “Over the past 3 + decades I have seen the effects of poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco use on my patients’ hearts. Time and time again, I saw patients with congestive heart failure. We would patch them up the best we could, educate them in the short time we were together, and send them on their way, only to see them back in the hospital with a relapse. This revolving door is incredibly expensive to Maine’s health care system.”

Jane knew from personal experience that preventing these cardiac events was the only way to get health care costs under control and to allow the people of Maine to live healthy and productive lives. She was committed to change, right up to the very end.

Our advocacy committee meetings will be a little less fun without Jane. We will miss her inspiration, her sense of humor and her willingness to do any task, no matter how small.

Goodbye, dear Jane, we will keep fighting.

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