It is hard to find a single person or family who hasn’t had an experience in which they or a loved one suffered a stroke, cardiac episode or a heart attack. We can look into our family trees and if we shake the branches a bit, something is bound to fall, but it doesn’t have to continue down the lineage of your family. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association of Tucson is on a mission to make sure everyone has a fighting chance to not only survive after a cardiac event, but to live on and thrive.
This year marks the 58th Annual Tucson Heart and Stroke Ball, one of the oldest in the country, with the theme “Destination Heart,” featuring menu items and decor that reflect the world’s people and history. After all, we are all people with something in common, the hope to live a healthier life, no matter where you hail.
Co-chairs of the event Lynn Wood and Bruce Dusenberry, a couple with a remarkable record for their contribution to the AMA and ASA, after an absence, could not resist the opportunity to go back to something that is just in their blood.
“We are both volunteers here to support our association’s purpose of raising money for AMA and ASA,” Dusenberry said. “My wife’s father suddenly died of a massive heart attack when she was in law school and he was only in his 50’s. Of course it was devastating.
“Both my parents had bypasses and my dad had a stint when he was 82,” Dusenberry said. “[My mother] chaired this event back in 1974, and my father was leaving the board and I had graduated law school in 1975. He said the board needed a lawyer, so I joined the Old Pueblo around 1977.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Bruce joined each board as each one grew: First when Arizona merged with New Mexico called the Desert Affiliate. That rolled into Desert Mountain Affiliate including Colorado where he chaired that board as well. But he didn’t want to toot his own horn. He said he may be doing some good work, but his wife is the true hero.
“She’s always out fundraising,” he said of his wife, Lynn. “I couldn’t list them all, she has so many causes she loves.”
Lynn Wood has herself an impressive resume of her own. Last year she received the National Philanthropic Association Fundraiser of the Year Award. She has been recognized by the United Way for her efforts three times, Habitat for Humanity is on her phenomenal list of charities.
But they are quick to go back to the community and leadership that make the work of the American Heart Association a success. The ball gives the organization the ability to salute the donors, volunteers and the lives saved and improved by the efforts of all involved. This year the goal is to exceed $500,000 in donations; money that goes to supporting cardiovascular research, education and advocacy efforts. The mission statement of the American Heart Association (AMA) in Tucson is to empower people and their loved ones to live healthier lives and enjoy more peace of mind about heart disease and stroke by leading healthier lives, education and life-saving tips. So far, Bruce said, they are around $300,000, so they are doing well.
As part of the community, the AMA and ASA strives to make communities healthier by advocating for key issues such as a smoke-free public places; more streets with pedestrian and bicycle-friendly paths; appropriate food labeling to promote healthy choices; lowering the amount of calories children consume at school; as well as clean, healthy air in public places like bowling alleys, restaurants and bars and, of course, in the workplace.
Community-based programs also help people understand some of the basic life-saving techniques one should have in case of a cardiac or stroke situation. The AMA has groups such as Mission: Lifeline that improves emergency care by helping hospitals have a protocol for heart attack victims; and Get with the Guidelines program assists with cardiac and stroke victims by employing specific guidelines on how to treat these emergency cases as they arrive in the emergency room.
They also venture out into the community teaching the general public CPR, AED, which is use of a defibrillator and proper first aid in businesses and public places.
“You know, CPR has changed a bit from the time some us were kids,” Dusenberry said. “When you give CPR, you no longer have to breathe in the mouth to resuscitate someone. You just do chest compressions to the beat of the song ‘Staying Alive.’”
But some of the best way they can get information about and give information away is through the multitude of outreach programs. Some at-risk groups are specifically targeted through cause initiatives such as Go Red for Women, which fights the number one health threat to women today, and that’s heart disease. They also have My Heart, My Life: a comprehensive health, wellness and fitness platform to help Americans improve their cardiovascular health. For more information about causes, warning signs or life-saving techniques, visit www.heart.org.
For more details on the ball, which takes place Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Tucson Hilton El Conquistador, call 917-7522.