At the end of June, more than 330 American Heart Association volunteers and staff from 46 states, including Oklahoma, traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for federal research support and key legislation that will benefit Americans with cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The advocates urged their members of Congress to prioritize National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for heart and stroke research and to support bills that would expand access to stroke telemedicine (telestroke) and cardiac rehabilitation. They also encouraged their lawmakers to oppose the American Health Care Act or any Senate substitute that reduces access to affordable and adequate health care coverage.

Each volunteer had a unique story and perspective to share, and we are grateful for our Oklahoma advocates, who traveled over 1,421 miles to Washington D.C., to advocate for heart-healthy and stroke-smart policies. On the Hill, they had a chance to share their unique perspectives with our Oklahoma lawmakers.

Mechele lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma with her husband Clyde, and together they have three children and two grandchildren. Mechele is a Nationally Registered EMT-Intermediate. She is currently the Community Relations Coordinator and Public Information officer for Muskogee County EMS. With a family history of heart disease and stroke and a passion to help others, Mechele volunteers at many events statewide and in other states to raise awareness in the fight against heart disease and stroke.

Mechele has been an AHA BLS Instructor and volunteer since 2002 and is currently an AHA Regional Faculty member, the Quality Review Chair, and Chair elect on the Oklahoma AHA ECC Committee.

Amanda is from Norman, Oklahoma and has been an advocate since 2014. Amanda had a heart attack just after giving birth to her daughter at 32 and she was given a 5 percent chance of survival. Thankfully, after a couple of surgeries and recovery she is doing great! Amanda started volunteering with AHA because she enjoys sharing her story with the hopes that it will save lives and raise money for research.

Brenda lives in a rural area outside of Lawton, Oklahoma and has been a nurse for more than 30 years. She spent much of her career caring for the sick in critical care units and now works as a Clinical Educator, sharing her nursing knowledge with others. She has also been teaching Basic and Advance Cardiac Life Support for the American Heart Association for over 25 years! She feels that the best way for anyone to survive a heart attack or a stroke is early detection and treatment.

Tim is from Poteau, Oklahoma and is currently semi-retired, while also working as a professional BBQ judge. He has been advocating with the American Heart Association for less than a year, after surviving a heart attack in 2016. Native Americans are 20% more likely to have heart disease, experience a stroke, or have diabetes. As a Choctaw Indian, Tim wants to help share this with others so that the nation can do more to fight these deadly conditions.

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