WBZ Cares: Become An Advocate

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month WBZ is profiling the American Heart Association which has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.

WBZ Cares features the American Heart Association and the good work the organization does on a local level. The organization introduced us to a Charlestown woman who didn't realize she had a condition that increased her risk for stroke.  

“I never felt better physically. I was in the best shape of my life,” stated stroke victim Jessica Diaz.

Diaz was introduced to the work the American Heart Association does on a local level after she suffered a stroke. At just 36 years old and seemingly healthy, Jessica didn't recognize the symptoms. 

“All of the sudden I felt a really sharp shooting pain down the left side of my entire body. It felt like it started in my face and went all the way through my toes, and then I had this sensation that my arm just sort of gave out. But it was quick, it was about maybe 15 seconds, 20 seconds, and then it was kinda like a jolt and then it went away. And then a massive pressure headache kind of started. My husband and I both decided, ‘Oh, I’m just tired’, so I was just gonna to take a nap which is the worst thing you can do in this situation. It never occurred to me I was having anything serious like a stroke,” said Diaz.

Jessica’s fortunate. She fully recovered. She’s now a Heart Association volunteer and with their help, she’s authored a state bill that would require physicians to test for the Factor V Leiden gene mutation before prescribing birth control. It’s the same blood clotting disorder that caused her stroke.

Public policy is a huge part of the Heart Association's work here in Massachusetts.

From health care access, to tobacco and vaping product restrictions, to healthy eating, emergency response plans and more. Government Relations Director Allyson Perron Drag works to get laws passed through the state legislature. 

“We’re one of the only few non-profits that have an advocacy presence in every state. And that's really because we have seen the value in passing policy change. So in order make real systems change or make a real impactful change you would make a policy change,” Perron Drag outlined.

And the Heart Association has made it easy for anyone to become an advocate.  

“We have a very easy online grassroots advocacy network called ‘You Are The Cure’. And you can sign up online at yourearethecure.org. And you can be able to send very easy messages to your legislators and those matter. It only takes about 3 to 5 correspondence to a legislator where they really start look into that issue. So that constituent voice matters. If you want to get more involved, we have plenty of advocacy opportunities where you can come to a lobby day, or you can meet your legislators either in the building or in the district. You can come and share your story. You can testify. We can have all the facts in the world, but those stories are what makes a legislator pass something. That’s what they remember and that’s the impact we see,” Perron Drag concluded.

WBZ NewsRadio1030's Shari Small Reports

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