What comes next

“The mark of a good team,” Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, “is the ability to win on the road.”

Well, Vince would be proud. Heart Defect survivors, parents, and Cardiologists must be a good team, because we played the ultimate road game. We went into the jungle known as Congress and with the introduction of the Congenital Heart Futures Act, we won.

Trouble is, the only thing we won was a trip to the playoffs. We’re playing in the Big Leagues now, gang. We were just a group of interested amateurs, working for an admirable cause. Now that we actually have legislation under consideration and a voice at the table, this time we’re for real.

So we need to step up.

Have you received an email from one of the Congenital Heart Defect Advocacy groups yet? Most of them have sent them out to their members and friends, but if you haven’t, here’s what you need to do:

Get the contact information for both of your Senators and your member of the House of Representatives. Get the information for both their Washington offices and their local offices.

Sit down and write each one of them a letter. Be polite and courteous, and be sure to say that you are asking them to co-sponsor the Congenital Heart Futures Act if possible, and to support it if/when it comes to a vote. You must use the bill number, the act is known as H.R. 1570 on the House side and S. 621 in the Senate. Tell them why the Act is important to you – personal stories work well. Are you a Heart Mom with a Cardiac Kid who always seems to be ill? An Adult Survivor? A Cardiologist? Give details, but be concise. Your letter should not be over one page long. Now, mail that letter!

Step Two: Sit down at your computer and compose a similar e-mail. Don’t copy your mailed letter word for word, but approach the issue from a different angle. For example, tell them how much your medication costs per month, and your hopes that the Act can eventually reduce the number of medication that you require. Again, use the bill numbers! Now type in the correct e-mail address and hit SEND.

Now, for your third task: Find out where that local office is. Is it nearby? Once a week, (and sometimes more often than that) one of the Legislator’s staffers will be in the office. Find out when he/she is there, make an appointment if you need to, and go to the office! This time, you’re expressing your support in person, so you have to be calm, cool and collected. Your best behavior is required, and use your indoor voice. In a famous TV ad, Shaft would threaten to “turn this place into a parking lot!” if he didn’t get what he wanted. But that won’t work here! (This city has enough parking spaces, the cop will say as they lead you away!)

And be prepared to repeat these actions at a later date, when the Act hits the floor for a vote or there is a chance it could be altered. Get yourself on the mailing list of one of the national CHD groups; they will let their members know when action is needed.

Congratulations! You have now done 80% more than the average concerned citizen! And with your dedication, the Congenital Heart Futures Act has a much better chance of passing.

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