The tobacco sale age increase in Connecticut goes into effect on October 1st, rising from 18 to 21 years. Increasing the sale age will help to reduce rates of tobacco and e-cigarette use among Connecticut youth by cutting off social networks that lead to older kids to distribute these addictive products to even younger children.

The rates of e-cigarette use among teenagers is on the rise in the U.S. A report released late last year showed that over a million additional teenagers started using e-cigarettes between 2017 and 2018 and that more than two-thirds of high school sophomores say that both the e-cigarette devices are “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain.

In Connecticut, numbers show that nearly 15 percent of high school students say they use e-cigarettes.

“ Increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 is an important step in making it more difficult for our kids to go down the path of addiction and tobacco related disease”, said American Heart Association Government Director, Jim Williams. “While this will certainly help, there is more that we can do to help prevent tobacco initiation such as banning all characterizing flavors in all tobacco products which is essential for reducing their appeal to youth.”

Ninety-five percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21, and a substantial number of smokers start even younger— about 80 percent of adult smokers first try smoking before age 18.2. In Connecticut, 4,900 adults die each year as a result of their own tobacco use.

The American Heart Association, along with Leaders from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the MATCH Coalition worked together to raise awareness and introduce legislation to restrict children from getting access to these dangerous products that lead to life-long addictions.

The legislation was championed in the Senate by Senator Mary Abrams and in the House by Representative Jonathan Steinberg, who are both co-chairs of the Public Health Committee where the bill originated.


Heart Survivor Saved By CPR Pays it Forward

My story began almost one year ago. On July 6th, 2018, I was invited to my sister’s house to celebrate the return of my nephew Matthew who had been living in Boston. I dropped my fiancé Lori off at my sisters and then went to pick up my daughter, Lily from the train station. 15 minutes after coming back from the station, while sitting at the dinner table I went into sudden cardiac arrest. We didn’t know at that time, but the bundle branch block had prevented electrical signals to my heart which triggered ventricle fibrillation, which in turn caused my heart to completely stop beating.

What then happened was a chain of events which saved my life. My daughter called 911 and my nephew and Lori administered CPR. A Norwalk policeman was the 1st, first responder that arrived and continued to do CPR, keeping me alive until the crew from the Norwalk fire department arrived with an AED and started my heart again. Shortly thereafter, 2 EMT’s from Norwalk Hospital arrived and began advanced cardiac life support measures.

I was taken to Norwalk Hospital and a decision was made to place me in therapeutic hypothermia, a process where my body temperature was lowered to halt destructive brain mechanisms and allow my brain to reset itself.

While in hypothermia, my family was counseled and warned that I may have suffered cognitive brain damage due to the lack of oxygen during the resuscitation process.   Two days after my sudden cardiac arrest, the decision was made to warm me from the hypothermia and restore consciousness. As I awoke, my nurse explained what had happened. I was so grateful to be alive and ready to get on the road to recovery. The next step was to have an ICD device implanted in order to make my heart function better. I agreed to the procedure and as you can see, it was successful!

When I was in the ICU unit at Norwalk Hospital, it had an incredible view of Long Island Sound. It was beautiful. One morning I awoke, it was just before sunrise, and I watched the sun come up. It was breathtaking. I looked at my daughter Lily sleeping in the chair beside me and I made a promise to myself that I was going to do something different in my life. The company I was working for had recently been sold and was filled with turmoil. I had gotten this second chance, so I was going to do whatever I could to get involved with an organization related to my event so I could make a difference.

I began working with the AHA as a volunteer and had no idea I would be working here someday. Some things are just meant to be! I have been with the AHA for almost 7 months and am so honored to be here with you all tonight.

Todd Boe, left, shared his story along with fellow survivors, Mike Papale and Leigh Pechillo of CT.

I am living proof that so much of my survival is thanks to the work of the AHA; whether its CPR, the use of the defibrillator, or therapeutic hypothermia. I would not be here without the support of people like you and your support of this incredible organization. And now having the opportunity to share my story with others like at the Anthem Hands Only CPR Mobile Tour, I know I was placed in the job for a reason.



The American Heart Association will host the 2019 Greater Hartford Heart Walk on Saturday morning, October 19 at Hartford’s Bushnell Park.  Over 2,000 supporters and survivors of heart disease and stroke are expected to attend and raise funds to support cardiovascular research and education.

Activities begin at 9 a.m. Attendees can enjoy family friendly activities, a kid’s zone with entertainment, and live music.  The Heart Walk kicks-off at 10 AM with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  The route will consist of three 1-mile loops within Bushnell Park.  Leashed pets are welcomed.  The Heart Walk is a rain or shine event.

Sponsored by Hartford HealthCare and Stanley Black & Decker, the chairperson of the 2019 Heart Walk is Hartford Hospital President Bimal Patel. As chair, Patel is calling on the region’s business leaders, volunteers, survivors, and walkers to join the Heart Walk movement to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke—the #1 and #5 leading causes of death in the United States. *

“As president of a hospital which provides cardiac care to people across the region, I understand the need for continual research and support in the fight against heart disease through funding and awareness,” said Patel, who also serves as Hartford HealthCare senior vice president. “Hartford Hospital is committed to helping people live healthier lives by supporting the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.  We are joining together to advance their lifesaving mission of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease while encouraging a culture of physical activity.”

If you would like to register as a team or join the Heart Walk as an individual visit:   www.hartfordheartwalk.org

For more information contact the American Heart Association at (203) 303-3340. Registration is free. Individuals who raise $100 or more receive a T-shirt.



Donna Handley of Hartford HealthCare to Lead Eastern CT Heart Walk Sept. 29th

The American Heart Association, the largest voluntary health organization fighting heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, announces Donna Handley of Hartford HealthCare as chair the 2019 Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk. The annual event will take place on Sunday, September 29 at the Mohegan Reservation in Uncasville.

 Handley will lead the organizational and recruitment efforts in eastern Connecticut. She will call on thousands of area volunteers, survivors, walkers, and business leaders to step up to fight cardiovascular diseases.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with over 7,000 deaths in Connecticut each year”, said chair Donna Handley. “I am eager to have the opportunity again this year to promote health and wellness and support such a critical cause. Hartford Healthcare has been a strong supporter of the American Heart Association and we are committed to continue our support to advance this lifesaving mission.”

The Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk will attempt to raise $320,000 to fund research and education to fight heart disease and stroke. Each day, nearly 2,400 Americans die from a cardiovascular disease. That’s an average of one death every 37 seconds. A leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke is lack of physical activity. Research has found that individuals may gain two hours of life expectancy for every one hour of regular, vigorous exercise they do.

In her role as President of Hartford HealthCare’s East Region that includes Backus and Windham Hospitals, Donna Handley provides executive leadership for the East Region which includes The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Windham Community Hospital in Willimantic, the Plainfield Emergency and Ambulatory Center, various outpatient clinics and urgent care centers.

To learn more about the Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk, or to find out about sponsorship opportunities, please call Maggie Fitter at 203-710-4930 or go to www.EasternCTHeartWalk.org.


Eastern CT Heart Walk Benefits from CT Sun Event

The American Heart Association will hold its annual Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk on Sunday, September 29 at Mohegan Reservation in Uncasville. Over 1,500 supporters and survivors are expected to attend and raise funds to support cardiovascular research and education.

This year, the Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk has teamed up with the Connecticut Sun to benefit the American Heart Association. The Connecticut Sun will play the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday, August 1 at 7:00pm at Mohegan Sun Arena. $4 from every ticket sold will benefit the Heart Walk! In addition, $1 from every Dasani water bottle sold will benefit the Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk. Heart and stroke survivors will be part of the opening ceremony caring the American flag. For more information on the event, go the Connecticut Sun website.

The Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk activities begin at 9:00am. Prior to the walk kick-off, participants can enjoy complimentary health screenings, a kid’s zone with entertainment, and music. The walk will begin at 10 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a walk through Mohegan Reservation – rain or shine.

Those looking to start a walk team still have time to register. Registration is free. Individuals who raise $100 or more receive a t-shirt. To register as a team or individual for the Eastern Connecticut Heart Walk go to www.EasternCTHeartWalk.org For more information contact the American Heart Association at 203-710-4930.





More than 350,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year in the United States. About 90 percent of those victims die, often because bystanders don’t know how to start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) or are afraid they’ll do something wrong. Bystander CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

In 2016, the American Heart Association advocated and succeeded in making CPR a graduation requirement, creating a new generation of life-savers trained to give cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until emergency medical response arrives. But long before this important change, there were a group of teachers and nurses in Wallingford who had the desire to train students.

L to R: Leslie Carmody, Sue Pallotta, Carol MacDonald, Kathy Palermo, Julie Wollen

Nine years ago, Julie Wollen, Rock Hill Physical Education teacher; Kathy Palermo, retired Physical Education Teacher; Sue Pallotta, E.C. Stevens School Nurse and Carol MacDonald, Rock Hill School Nurse, along with supervisor Leslie Carmody from Survival Group, worked together to train all Grade 5 students in the district on Friends and Family® CPR and with Automated External Defibrillators, more commonly known as an AED.

“We started out volunteering our time becoming American Heart Instructors in CPR/AED and First Aid to certify our staffs at Rock Hill and E.C. Stevens Elementary Schools,” Wollen said. “At one point both schools had 100 percent of staff members certified! We then decided to try teaching this valuable skill to our 5th graders. We were amazed at how receptive they were to this important skill.”

The group knew that they wanted all students to learn how to handle a situation that required CPR or the use of an AED, so they worked together to receive approval from the superintendent to go to all four 3rd through 5th grade schools in the district and teach the 5th graders CPR and the use of an AED.

“During our visits to these schools, we would work with the school nurse and principal to run a practice Code AED drill for the staff’s Crisis Team,” Wollen said.

If there is any doubt that the lifesaving training and skill would work, it was proof positive when in 2014. Kathy Palermo and Carol McDonald trained Rock Hill’s secretary Debbie Morzowski and paraprofessional Connie Bickford in CPR. They were both at the Wallingford Recreation Department when a 34-year-old man dropped on the court. Debbie and Connie performed CPR for 20 minutes before EMS arrive and saved the man. This has been life-changing for Debbie, who has continued to have a relationship with this man and his family and has also since become a CPR Instructor.

In the last year, the group was approved to perform annual practice drills for all 12 schools in Wallingford, along with the Board of Education and Adult Education.

June 1 – 7th is CPR and AED Awareness Week and the American Heart Association encourages everyone to learn Hands Only CPR. To learn Hands Only CPR, go to heart.org/CPR. Just a few short minutes can provide a lifelong, lifesaving skill.


Register Today for Fairfield County Heart Walk & 5K Run

Online registration is open for the 2019 Fairfield County Heart Walk and 5K Run at www.fairfieldcountyheartwalk.org. The event is set for Sunday, May 19th at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. Participants can walk or run as individuals or on a team of friends, co-workers or family. Companies and community groups are invited to form teams and register to support the AHA’s mission through the Heart Walk & Run.

Registration and donation drop-off begins at 8:30 AM. The Run/Walk starts at 10:00 AM. All registered participants who raise $100 or more will be eligible for a Heart Walk T-Shirt. Registration fee for the 5K Run is $35 and $40 on the day of event.

The Heart Walk is part of the AHA’s Healthy For Good movement designed to help Americans create lasting change in their health and life, one small step at a time. These changes can help prevent heart disease and stroke. The approach is simple: Eat smart. Add color. Move more. Be well. Healthy For Good encourages healthier eating, including colorful fruits and vegetables, exercising 30 minutes daily, and focusing on whole body wellness including reducing stress and getting enough sleep. Learn more at healthyforgood.heart.org.

Events like the Heart Walk fund the AHA’s critical research and awareness programs that help save lives from cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke – the number one and five killers in the country. American Heart Association—the largest funder of cardiovascular research after the Federal government–currently funds 52 researchers in Connecticut at a funding level of $9,063,654 in 2019. AHA research grants have funded advances like bypass surgery, microsurgery and drug eluting stents, understanding cholesterol metabolism, Hands-Only CPR, implantable pacemakers and heart failure therapeutics. Thirteen Nobel Prize winners have received American Heart Association research grants.

Register for the Heart Walk at www.fairfieldcountyheartwalk.org or by contacting at Todd.Boe@heart.org or 203-295-2941. The Heart Walk is sponsored by EY, Norwalk Hospital, Philips, PwC, Stamford Health, 95.9 The Fox Radio, and Hearst Connecticut Media Group.


Heart Survivor Celebrates Fifth “Birthday”

On May 11, Leigh Pechillo will celebrate her 5th birthday. Five years since her life began, or should we say…began again. She will celebrate by teaching as many people as possible, Hands Only CPR. The one thing that kept her alive until help arrived. Knowing her five-year anniversary was approaching, she wanted to make sure other hearts could be started in an emergency.

The Hands Only CPR training will take place on May 11th from 9am-1pm at Southington High School on 720 Pleasant Street. The first 200 people to register, will receive a FREE American Heart Association CPR Anytime® Kit. If you don’t know CPR, bring the family and learn this life-saving skill. All ages are welcome! To register go to www.inaheartbeat.org/southington-community-heart-starters.

Taking 20 minutes to learn CPR could save a life.

The 20-minute Hands-Only CPR training will provide attendees with the basic skills to save a life from sudden cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur at home. If someone is called upon to perform Hands-Only CPR, it will likely be trying to save the life of a person they know and love. Hands-Only CPR has been shown to be as effective as CPR with breaths in the first few minutes of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest for an adult victim and can double or triple their chance of survival.

If you don’t know Leigh’s story, here is Leigh’s story in her own words.

“It was Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014. I woke up to my kids singing a song they wrote for me and sat down to a homemade breakfast made by my husband. But I just wasn’t feeling right. I had terrible heartburn – but I KNEW it wasn’t from my husband’s cooking! And the day before I noticed I had some shortness of breath walking up and down stairs.

My husband suggested I call the doctor who said it might be esophageal, but he couldn’t rule out a heart attack. He told me to take an antacid and if it didn’t feel better to go to the emergency room immediately. I couldn’t find an antacid and we continued our Mother’s Day celebration. My husband noticed I was rubbing my chest. He said, “Let’s go to the ER and make sure everything is okay.”

I just kept thinking, there is NO WAY it can be a heart attack. I’m a mother, I’m a wife. I’m YOUNG! I may not exercise every day and I might not have the perfect diet, but I’ve never been told my blood pressure or cholesterol were a concern. It COULDN’T be a heart attack.

I went to the bathroom to get ready… but I don’t remember anything until four days later.

Leigh and her family in 2014.

I was told I collapsed in my bathroom and my daughter Allie heard me fall. My husband yelled for me and when I didn’t answer he opened the door and found me on the floor. He immediately called 9-1-1, he started administering CPR until the paramedics arrived- while my children knelt and prayed. Ninety percent of out-of-hospital cardiac events end in death because the victims don’t receive CPR.

Every medical professional has called my husband, Tom, a hero, because he DID perform CPR. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have survived long enough for them to help save my life.

Once the EMTs arrived, they shocked my heart to get it beating again and brought me to our community hospital where they quickly realized I needed more help than they could give me. From there I was sent via Life Star to another hospital who could provide the care I needed.

There they performed an angiogram and determined I had a 70% blockage in my left anterior descending artery which is known as the “widow maker.” This is one of two arteries coming off the left coronary artery. They discovered that the blockage was high up, so close to the left coronary artery, that placing a stent was going to be extremely risky.

They used preventative hypothermia to cool me to save my brain and organ function.

But over a 3 hour period Monday night into Tuesday, I went into cardiac arrest three times and it took them defibrillating me 13 times to stabilize me. It was then the doctors made the decision not to wait for bypass surgery, but to try and place a stent. At that time the risky option became the only option.

The stent worked! I was grateful to be alive! Four days later, I returned home to my family.

At 44 years old, I was THIS CLOSE to being one in three women who are killed by heart disease or stroke.

But how?!?!

My father passed away at the age of 70 of congestive heart failure after multiple heart attacks, a quadruple by-pass, and an implantable defibrillator. But I knew he had rheumatic fever as a child, he smoked like a chimney for 50 years, he never exercised and had a diet of sugary soda and fatty foods.

But I never took my family history seriously enough.

I never accounted for the stress of being a caregiver to my Dad and my son, along with the everyday stresses we all face.

There is one other question that I have asked myself. Why am I still alive? For that, I have answers. The many prayers that were said for me were answered. The CPR my husband KNEW and administered. The amazing EMTs, along with the skilled doctors and nurses that took such great care of me.

The support of my family and friends near and far. And last, but certainly not least, the American Heart Association.

But that is not the end of my family’s story. Three months after my heart attack, my husband Tom wanted to make sure he was heart healthy. He contacted my cardiologist to get an EKG and echocardiogram and SURPRISE! We found out Tom had a rare congenital heart defect. He underwent open heart surgery just a little over a month ago, and I am happy to say he is doing well and has no further need for OHS.

And on a side note- I am happy to report that my daughter has been cleared of any heart related problems!

My son, my husband and I are living proof that the American Heart Association funds research to provide the protocols and education needed to save lives. For me it was CPR, the drug eluding stent, and Protective hypothermia. And for that, I am ever grateful.”