John Murphy, Survivor-Advocate of the Year
With about three miles to go in the 2005 Chicago Marathon, John Murphy began feeling dizzy and lost vision in one eye. He finished the race and his vision returned, but that evening his left arm went limp — and when a stranger noticed Murphy’s face was drooping, someone called for an ambulance.
The next day he woke up in the intensive care unit. The 45-year-old marketing executive had suffered a stroke. After four days in the ICU, he began lengthy rehabilitation therapy.
Today, as a volunteer for the American Heart Association, Murphy raises awareness about stroke symptoms and prevention. He’s one of four advocates who were recognized on October 16 at the AHA’s Heroes Awards dinner on Capitol Hill. It was part of the biennial “You’re the Cure on the Hill” event, which brings hundreds of cardiovascular disease patients, survivors, caregivers and researchers to Washington, D.C., to encourage their elected representatives to support policies that lead to longer, healthier lives.
In addition to Murphy, the AHA recognized:
Edward Jauch, M.D., M.S., Science-Advocate of the Year
Edward Jauch, chief of system research at Mission Health in Asheville, North Carolina, and previously professor and chair of emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, worked closely with the AHA and South Carolina’s department of health to develop the state’s Stroke System of Care, a network of facilities that prioritizes fast, methodical stroke treatment.
The sometimes-bumpy road to the system’s launch began with Jauch’s arrival in South Carolina in 2008. Jauch served on the AHA’s stroke task force, advocated for legislation establishing a statewide stroke study committee, helped pass legislation authorizing implementation of the stroke system of care, served as chair of the statewide Stroke Advisory Council and guided development of the state’s stroke triage assessment tool and stroke protocol.
“None of this could have happened with such success without Dr. Jauch’s constant availability, his dedication to our state and his passion for excellent stroke care,” said Yarley Steedly, the AHA’s government relations director for South Carolina.
Peg O’Connell, Volunteer-Advocate of the Year
As an AHA volunteer for over 25 years, Peg O’Connell has worked with government officials and public health organizations to advance tobacco prevention and cessation policies. This includes support for creating the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund to invest tobacco settlement money.
She has also advocated for increasing the cigarette excise tax, passing legislation for smoke-free restaurants and bars, and ensuring that state funds are allocated for QuitlineNC and for addressing youth tobacco use. She has led the Corner Store Initiative to increase access to fresh, healthy foods. And for the past three years she has chaired Care4Carolina, a coalition of organizations working to increase access to affordable, quality health care in North Carolina.
“Peg is passionate about health policy, brings a voice of wisdom to the issues, provides encouragement and leadership to her fellow advocates, and persistently works to help our citizens enjoy healthier lives,” said Jennifer Collins, chair of the North Carolina AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee.
Abigail Davis, Youth Volunteer-Advocate of the Year
Abigail Davis became a guest blogger for You’re the Cure in 2017 when she was a high school junior, inspiring peers and adults to get involved with the AHA and sparking thought-provoking conversations about public policy issues. And last January she spoke at the Arkansas Capitol about e-cigarettes’ impact on her generation. She also recruited many of her peers and their parents to support Tobacco 21, the Arkansas legislation to raise the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21, which became law this year.
During Heart Walk and the Go Red for Women Survivor Gallery unveiling, Davis hosted a “Twitter takeover” for those who couldn’t attend the events, posting video interviews of attending advocates. She has also spoken to groups in Oklahoma and Arkansas, challenging other young people to get involved with the AHA.
One of the catalysts for her work has been her grandfather’s death from heart disease.
“He inspired me to work hard, educate others on the importance of keeping our hearts healthy, truly care for others and live each day with a sense of purpose,” she wrote in her blog. “I know that the work I am doing with the AHA is making my Pap so very proud, and everything I do is to honor his memory and make a difference in my community.”