As many of you know, I’m a career non-profiteer and feel very strongly about the role non-profits play in making our communities better places to live. Hey…HEY! Don’t stop reading just because this post is going to be educational! It’s still good! Now sit down. OK, that’s better.
As I’ve made my way through the non-profit world, I’ve have the great pleasure of working with amazing, smart, committed people. My friend A is just such a person. We used to work together at my organization until she went and fell in love with a guy in Philadelphia, married him, and moved away, leaving me with one less person to have lunch with at the office, darn her. But true love and a wonderful job with the American Heart Association’s advocacy office are acceptable reasons for leaving, I guess. Anyway, A was kind enough to give me her insider’s perspective on the American Heart Association:
Today, I made an interesting shift from professional staff of the organization to consumer of our information. This morning at her routine checkup, L [A’s infant daughter] was diagnosed with a heart murmur. I have a heart murmur too, and can quite calmly and rationally say that they are usually innocent and cause no disruption to a person’s life. But, I am a mother and that brings a certain halt to rational thinking. I began the insane process of worrying and trying to learn everything there is to know about heart murmurs heard in infants. So… today, I most value our wealth of information and resources. For concerned parents or parents-to-be who learn that something may be wrong with their child’s heart, or for the spouse/child/friend of someone who has just had a heart attack or stroke, I’m glad the AHA is there to answer all their questions and provide reliable information based on solid science. But that’s not the only amazing thing about the Heart Association.
I often think about the lives saved everyday because of our work promoting and teaching CPR and AEDs (automated external defibrillators). My grandfather died far too young, when my dad (his son) was just 4 years old. In 1955, when he collapsed in the school where he was a teacher, CPR and AEDs didn’t exist. (CPR was developed in 1960, AEDs arrived around 1980) A person’s chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest more than double with cpr and early defibrillation- but it all has to occur within moments, often before paramedics arrive. So it’s essential that regular folks in the community know what to do and the American Heart Association is teaching them. Not just classes (though we have lots of those), but in really cool ways, too. There are CPR-anytime kits that help you learn at home with a DVD and inflatable manikin in about 20 minutes. We’re utilizing online gaming – presenting a game like guitar hero that helps you learn the beat (100 beats per minute) for hands-only CPR, among others. There are vast media pushes to educate the public about the need to be trained and respond quickly in an emergency. And there’s our advocacy work in this arena- fighting for good Samaritan laws that protect bystanders from liability if they intervene, and working to secure funding for the federal program that helps small towns and rural areas train rescuers and buy AEDs. (check out cprweek.org)
I obviously think our advocacy program is super cool, too. We empower survivors or loved ones who’ve lost someone to heart disease or stroke to fight back against something that once made them feel powerless. We’re fighting for research and prevention dollars, and against childhood obesity and tobacco.
The Heart Association also funds research directly, but I think the really cool thing is that we focus on beginning scientists early in their career and on the most innovative research- because these are the areas with the greatest potential for new discoveries.
The American Heart Association is out there everyday, easing fears, saving lives, pursuing new lines of research, and advocating for access to cardiac care. That’s a lot of good, all tied up in a big red bow. To learn more about the American Heart Association, visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/. They can tell you how to save a life.