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Survivors discover what they can achieve after suffering strokes » Page 2


Fairbanks event draws thousands » Page 5






To a healthier heart » Page 6


When it comes to heart disease, know what to look for » Page 7

American Heart Association publishes report on reducing stroke risks for women » Page 3

Lower your risk of developing heart disease by watching your weight, eating healthy foods, staying active and managing your stress.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner



Reducing your risk for stroke » 3 Testing newborns for congenital heart defects » 4 Fairbanks Heart Walk » 5 7 steps to reducing risk of heart disease » 6 Pay attention to your body for possible signs of heart disease » 7

Resilience is something that you can cultivate.” Veta Van Hatten, stroke survivor

Stroke survivor to speak at ‘Go Red’ conference Stroke survivor Mark McEwen speaks during the CBS Early Show Concert Series Featuring Mario and Monica at General Motors Plaza in New York, N.Y. McEwen is the keynote speaker at the Go Red for Women Conference and Luncheon on Feb. 14 at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. ANTHONY

Veta Van Hatten, right, and Kathleen Fagre laugh as they practice the piano Feb. 6 at Van Hatten’s home. Fagre helps guide the paralyzed left hand of Van Hatten, a stroke survivor. “The piano is really good therapy for me,” she said. SAM HARREL/NEWS-MINER

Woman demonstrates resilience after stroke By Amanda Bohman FOR THE NEWS-MINER

When Veta Van Hatten started her day one October morning in 2008, she felt dizzy but she was determined to press on. She went to work at Barnette Magnet School, where she taught first grade. She greeted her students as they came into the classroom. She took attendance. The dizziness persisted, so Van Hatten decided to retreat the restroom for a few minutes to pull herself together. She picked up her telephone to call the front office. She needed someone to watch her class. “The phone dropped out of my hand and I just watched my arm fall like dead weight,” Van Hatten said. When she tried to speak, to ask her students to get help, her voice sounded slurred as if she were drunk. Van Hatten grabbed a sticky note with her good hand, wrote “Please help. I can’t move,” handed the note to a student

standing nearby and slumped back in her chair. It was a stroke. The left side of Van Hatten’s body was paralyzed in an instant. She was only 31, and from that day forward, everything changed. Van Hatten is a different kind of educator now. She tells her story to help others facing trauma know that they too can endure. “I rebuilt my life,” she said. Van Hatten was born and raised in Fairbanks and graduated from West Valley High School and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is a different than she used to be. Before the stroke, she didn’t chew gum. Now she chews gum all the time. She no longer likes spicy food. Soda without ice tastes different than it used to taste. She watches less television and wears more makeup. Even the kind of art Van Hatten likes is different than it used to be. “I went from liking fine art to liking VAN HATTEN » 7


Now it’s all about reaching people.” Mark McEwen, stroke survivor


Mark McEwen woke up in 2005 in the hospital surrounded by people he loved. He felt happy to see the faces of his close family and friends. And then he had a disturbing thought. “I realized that most of them had come a terribly long way,” the 59-yearold television newsman wrote in his memoir ‘Change in the Weather,’” so I started to think, Okay, if they’re all here, looking all concerned like that, I must be in deep doo-doo.” He was. McEwen was about to learn that he had had a stroke. The broadcaster has since recovered and is the keynote speaker at the Go Red For Women Conference and Luncheon at the Carlson Center on Feb. 14. The luncheon takes place annually to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease. After a long rehabilitation, McEwen wrote the book with ghost-writer Daniel Paisner and began giving speeches about his experience and recovery from stroke, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Tickets to the luncheon, a fundraiser,

cost $125 and are available through the American Heart Association at http:// fairbanksgoredluncheon.ahaevents. org. McEwen is also speaking at the Men’s Red Tie Breakfast. Tickets to that event cost $50. McEwen, the son of a U.S. Air Force colonel, served as a news anchor on “CBS This Morning” and as a weather and entertainment reporter on “The Early Show.” He returns to WKMG-TV, a CBS affiliate in Orlando, next month with a regular series called “Positive Mark.” McEwen’s stroke left him unable to walk, talk or even feed himself. He had to relearn everything and learn it using his left hand even though he is right-handed. “My right hand shakes,” McEwen said during a telephone interview. “I do everything left-handed. Eat. Write. Shave. These are the cards I’ve been dealt.” Stroke can be avoided, McEwen said, through a healthy diet and exercise. McEwen lost 40 pounds after his stroke and began working out regularly. “I eat healthy,” he added. MCEWEN » 3

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Friday, February 14, 2014



Stroke risk reduction guidelines developed for women By Julie Herrmann FOR THE NEWS-MINER

Guidelines for reducing the risk of stroke specifically in women have been published for the first time. The American Heart Association announced the guidelines on Feb. 6. “We’re emphasizing blood pressure in really young women, in women who are thinking about getting pregnant ... and women who are maybe candidates for oral contraceptives,” said Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, who wrote the guidelines, in a video on the American Heart Association website. “We’re really emphasizing this at a younger age than what we often do.” Bushnell authored the new scientific statement published in the Heart Association journal Stroke. Although some of the stroke risk factors in men and women are similar, women have some unique ones. Among them are taking oral contraceptives and pregnancy. Having preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure that can lead to seizures during pregnancy and delivering prematurely, doubles the chance of having a stroke and increases the risk of high blood pressure later by four times. To lower the risk of preeclampsia, care provid-


» Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States, killing more than 129,000 people per year. » Stroke kills someone in the U.S. about once every four minutes. » During the past 10 years, the death rate from stroke has fallen about 36 percent and the number of stroke deaths has dropped about 23 percent. » About 795,000 people have a stroke every year. » Someone in the U.S. has a stroke about once every 40 seconds. » Someone in the U.S. dies from a stroke every four minutes. » Stroke causes 1 of every 19 deaths in the U.S. » Stroke is a leading cause of disability. » Stroke is the leading preventable cause of disability. » Black people have nearly twice the risk for a first stroke than white people, and a much higher death rate from stroke. American Heart Association

ers should consider prescribing aspirin or calcium supplements to women with high blood pres-

MCEWEN Continued from 2 High blood pressure was a contributing factor to McEwen’s stroke. High cholesterol and smoking are also major risk factors. Catching early warning signs of stroke can minimize the damage and save lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McEwen wasn’t so lucky. Doctors in Maryland, where McEwen was visiting friends and family, missed McEwen’s early warning signs, including dizziness, confusion, loss of balance and slurred speech. McEwen was about to board a plane to go home to Florida when he went to the hospital instead. He was misdiagnosed with the flu and told to get plenty of fluids and rest. A few days later, McEwen

sure history before pregnancy, according to the guidelines. Taking birth control pills along with having high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke. The guidelines recommend that before taking oral birth control, women should be tested for high blood pressure. Quitting smoking is recommended for women who both smoke and have migraines

managed to board a plane to return home to Florida. He didn’t know it at the time, but he’d already had a small stroke and was about to have a second, massive stroke. “When the plane started its descent, I suddenly found I couldn’t talk,” he wrote in his memoir. “I tried to say something to the woman sitting next to me, to ask her of she too was experiencing the same strange sensation, but no words would come … I tried to move, to reposition myself in my seat to get more comfortable, but my muscles wouldn’t respond.” Somehow, McEwen made it off the plane and to a wheelchair that he had arranged for in case he was still experiencing what he had initially thought were flu symptoms. A skycap wheeled McEwen outside of baggage claim to the curb and left him there. McEwen was unable to speak, to

with aura, symptoms before the headache begins, to lower stroke risk. The guidelines recommend that women older than 75 get checked for atrial fibrillation, a problem with the heartbeat, because it quadruples the risk of stroke. Risk factors for both men and women that are usually more common in women include

ask for help. He sat fumbling with his phone, speed-dialing his wife, who was beginning to panic upon hearing only her husband’s breathing. A kind stranger smoking a cigarette nearby took the phone and called 911. “Now it’s all about reaching people,” McEwen wrote in his book, “making a positive difference, and spreading the all-important message that the risk of stroke can be minimized and that stroke doesn’t define what you will become.” This will be McEwen’s first trip to Alaska, he said, and the 48th state he will have visited. He also hopes to visit South Dakota and Montana someday. “Alaska is on my bucket list,” McEwen said. “I am really pleased about coming. Go Red for Women is there to give out information. Knowledge is power.” Contact freelance writer Amanda Bohman at

high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, migraine with aura, emotional stress and atrial fibrillation. In addition, women have more strokes and die more often from strokes than men, according to the American Heart Association. The guidelines are aimed at primary care providers and ob/ gyns.

Alaska is on my bucket list. I am really pleased about coming. Go Red for Women is there to give out information. Knowledge is power.”

Mark McEwen, stroke survivor


Friday, February 14, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


Testing newborns for congenital heart defects By Robin Wood FOR THE NEWS-MINER

As of Jan. 1 providers of birthing services are required to offer testing for congenital heart defects on newborns. The law, signed by Gov. Sean Parnell, states screening for congenital heart defects (CHDs) must be completed using pulse oximetry equipment as close to 24 hours after birth as feasible. Birthing centers or midwives with fewer than 20 births per year have until January 2016 to implement the practice, and parents or legal guardians will be given the option to decline the screening. Pulse oximetry looks for abnormalities by

testing the percentage of oxygen in blood. According to the American Heart Association, CHDs are the most common birth defects in the U.S. — an estimated 32,000 cases each year — and the No. 1 killer of infants with birth defects. Alaska is one of 26 states with similar screening laws. Pulse oximetry is often included with taking vitals, and should be accompanied by a physical examination. It’s performed by attaching a clip-like sensor called a probe on a finger and foot; two locations reduces false positives. Light is then passed through the skin to be read by a sensor, which detects the difference between red oxygen-rich and blue oxygen-poor hemo-

globin — the protein in blood that carries oxygen. The cost is less than $5, and the test is provided free at many facilities. Congenital means “existing at birth.” Defects result from underdevelopment or abnormal formation of the heart or blood vessels, and range from mild to life threatening. CHDs increase the risk for a variety of conditions: pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, anticoagulation and congestive heart failure. The American Heart Association reports at least 18 types of CHDs. Dr. Mishelle Nace has been a pediatrician at Tanana Valley Clinic for 18 years. “A simple way that’s nonintrusive to find problems before symptoms start to show,” is how Nace describes pulse oximetry, add-

ing the only downside is the occasional false positive. If a CHD is detected the most common secondary test is an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart, to “look at function and overall anatomy of the heart,” according to Nace. Nace also explains that between birth and 24 hours blood pathways change over from fetal to newborn. Testing before 24 hours may increase false positives, while waiting too long could decrease valuable treatment time. Congenital heart defects are associated with several genetic syndromes, as well as multiple environmental exposures to the mother. Most cases, however, have no known cause.

Go Red For Women celebrates 10th year of improving lives By Jeffrey Bushke FOR THE NEWS-MINER

Seeing red is not all bad, especially if it is Feb. 14. This is the 10th year of the national Go Red For Women and, by luck, this Friday event lands on Valentine’s Day. The goal is to ensure every woman knows that heart health should be her top concern, and the American Heart Association is fighting for her survival. The Carlson Center will be buzzing all day with a kick-off planned for 8:30 a.m. and heart healthy lunch program starting at 11:15 a.m. Creating awareness about women’s health will be featured with health education seminars and health screenings. There will be a spa lounge and a silent auction. The luncheon is expected to host about 700 guests with the keynote speaker being Mark McEwan, a journalist and national television personality. McEwan is a stroke survivor and passionate about heart health and preventing heart disease. He was named one of the country’s “Ten Most Trusted TV News Personalities” in a TV Guide survey in 1995.

Local AHA Executive Director Janet Bartels expects the event to raise close to $250,000 this year. Funds will be used in outreach programs, education programs and bringing awareness of heart disease to as many women as possible. “It’s a job,” Bartles said. “But it is extremely rewarding when I see the impact that it makes on our community.” She said many women were unaware that the signs and symptoms of heart disease present differently for men and women. There are gender-specific symptoms, she said. AHA boasts that 650,00 women’s lives have been saved as a result of this program. There has been a 23 percent increase in an awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Other success stories of the program are gender-specific guidelines have been developed for prevention and treatment of heart disease, a lowering of the number of women who smoke, lower cholesterol rates for women, an increase in the number of women who exercise and there has been a concentrated effort to educate Hispanic and black women to the dangers of heart disease.

Every person now living in Alaska knows someone who will die as a result of either heart disease or stroke. Lower your risk of developing heart disease by watching your weight, eating healthy foods, staying active and managing your stress.


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Friday, February 14, 2014



Heart Walk planners optimistic about weather, participation By Jeffrey Bushke FOR THE NEWS-MINER

The Fairbanks chapter of the American Heart Association is busy planning the 2014 Heart Walk that will begin at 9 a.m. May 17. “What sets this walk apart and makes it fun is the entertainment stops along the way,” said Janet Bartels, Executive Director of the American Heart Association in Fairbanks. “We offer team photos, free blood pressure checks, free heart healthy lunches, the opportunity for friends

and families to walk together, and a special prize of Alaska Airline tickets.” The co-chairs for the 2014 Heart Walk, Lorna Shaw and Anna Atchison, expect the event to raise $250,000, a slight increase from what was raised in 2013. It is expected there will be 3,000 participants supporting the American Heart Association in this annual event. The walking courses are either 1 mile or 2 1/2 miles. Both courses start and end at Veterans HEART WALK » 6

Hundreds turned out for the annual Fairbanks Heart Walk in Veteran’s Memorial Park downtown May 19, 2012. ERIC ENGMAN/NEWS-MINER


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner



Steps to preventing heart disease, stroke Physical activity and eating habits go a long way toward a healthy heart

American Heart Association WWW.HEART.ORG


ore than one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. The good news is 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. So how do you protect yourself ? Protect yourself from heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, with “Life’s Simple 7” — easyto-embrace ways to significantly lower your risk of heart disease and improve your health. How simple is it? Just take a look: Get active. You don’t have to join a gym or run in a 5K. Start small by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine more and more: Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the farthest end of the parking lot or use your lunch break to take a quick walk. When you’re ready, aim for 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity each week. “That’s basically taking a 20-minute walk every evening,” said V. Seenu Reddy, M.D., a heart and lung surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Up for a more intense workout? You’ll get the same heart-pumping benefits with 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Along with gaining strength and stamina, exercis-


HEART WALK Continued from 5 Memorial Park on Cushman Street. “Through the generosity of Fairbanksans the local chapter has set national benchmarks for dollars raised per capita,” said Clover Tiffany, of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Ivy Hollinrake, a RN manager for the cardiac rehab center at FMH, has been associated with

ing regularly can lower blood pressure, keep body weight under control and increase your HDL — otherwise known as “good” cholesterol. Exercise also better regulates blood sugar by improving how the body uses insulin. You’ll help prevent bone loss, sleep better and reduce your risk of cancer. And if you’re still not motivated, consider this: Research has shown that for some adults, each hour of very brisk walking may provide about two hours to your life expectancy. Learn the American Heart Associations Guidelines for Physical Activity.

ing saturated fat, and cholesterol by avoiding too many animal products such as red meats and full-fat dairy, and including healthier fats such as certain vegetable oils. It’s also important to limit trans fats, too. For some people, diet and lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough. Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication to keep your cholesterol levels in check. If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, talk to your doctor about scheduling a cholesterol screening.

day • less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day • no more than 450 calories per week of sugar-sweetened beverages (based on a 2,000-calorie diet) Manage blood pressure. One in three Americans has high blood pressure — yet one out of every five doesn’t even know they have it. That’s because high blood pressure, “the silent killer,” has no symptoms. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range starts with eating a heart-healthy diet. Other important factors are exercising regularly; not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; limiting salt and alcohol; and taking medication prescribed by your doctor.


Control cholesterol. We all have cholesterol, a waxy substance in the bloodstream and in the cells of our body. But despite its reputation, cholesterol it isn’t all bad. In fact, it plays an important role in keeping us healthy. But a balance must be struck to prevent too much cholesterol in the blood. There are two types: the “good” kind (HDL) and the “bad” kind (LDL). High levels of bad cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. This is where good cholesterol comes into play: HDL cleans out that bad cholesterol from the arteries. You can produce more of those housekeeping HDLs by exercising regularly and limit-

Eat better. Eating the right foods can help you control your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. “Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., a nutritionist at Penn State University who herself uses Life’s Simple 7. “It’s important to choose fruits and vegetables over empty-calorie foods.” What’s a heart-smart diet? Looking for foods stamped with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark is one sure way to know you’re choosing a food low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Here are some other recommendations to eating healthy: • at least 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day • fish at least twice per week • fiber-rich whole grains every

Lose weight. Extra weight can do serious damage to your heart. Too much fat, especially around the belly, increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. So give your heart a break by dropping the extra pounds — and keeping them off. Every little bit helps. You can shed 24 pounds per year by dropping just 2 pounds per month, and losing as few as 10 pounds decreases your heart disease risk. The trick is to increase your aerobic physical

the Heart Walk since 1994 or 1995. “It used to be in September,” she said, “and we had maybe 150 walking and raised $1,000 from the event.” In those early days, a lunch of hot dogs and potato chips were served after the walk, which she found humorous because of the nature of the walk. “It is a non-competitive walk,” Hollinrake said. “We have had themed walks in the past, such

as a Hawaiian Island theme and Western theme.” There is not a theme for this year’s walk. She heads a team of about 60 participants who raise close to $20,000 for the American Heart Association work. Hollinrake likes the May time frame for the event but said 2013 was the worst she had seen because of the snow and ice on the ground. The hospital had prepared food for 3,000 people and almost everyone who showed up

for the walk departed right after the event and did not stay for the heart-healthy lunch. The Food Bank was a major recipient of the leftover food that day. Most years, the weather has been favorable for the event. “This is a very popular family-friendly event,” said Meadow Bailey, the business development director with the American Heart Association. She said there are lots of children, families, businesses and civic organi-




activity each week while reducing the calories you take in, to a point where you can achieve energy balance and a healthy weight. Reduce blood sugar. Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease or stroke, so keeping blood sugar levels under control is crucial to preventing medical problems involving the heart and kidneys. If left untreated, diabetes can also cause blindness and nerve disease, among other health complications. You can minimize the impact of diabetes on your body — and even prevent or delay the onset of diabetes — by eating right, controlling your weight, exercising and taking medication prescribed your doctor. In some cases, lifestyle changes result in less need for medication.


Stop smoking. It’s time to kick the habit. With one in five deaths caused by smoking, going smoke-free can help prevent not only heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease. The payoff is almost immediate. Quit smoking and you’ll have the same risk level for developing heart disease as nonsmokers within only a few years.


zations that get involved. Co-chairperson for the event, Anna Atchison said, “We are hoping for our usually beautiful weather.” The Fort Knox mine will field about 40 participants and are already holding fund raising events. “This is a very positive experience with a lot of energy. I enjoy walking through some of the older neighborhoods of downtown and meeting some of the residents.”


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Friday, February 14, 2014


Watch for symptoms American Heart Association WWW.HEART.ORG

Identifying heart disease symptoms can save your life. The dramatic scene is familiar in the movies and on TV: The man clutches his chest and somebody screams, “He’s having a heart attack!” Though we’ve all seen that Hollywood depiction unfold, it’s important to be aware that heart attack is just one kind of heart disease. Heart disease is a general term for sev-

VAN HATTEN Continued from 2 cheap flashy things.” Where she used to be quiet, Van Hatten is now bubbly and talkative. She went from being an introvert to an extrovert and she embraces it. “I joke a lot. I laugh a lot,” she said. “Resilience is something that you can cultivate.” A scan of Van Hatten’s brain illustrates how far she has come. The stroke “pretty much killed almost the entire right hemisphere of my brain.” Scans of her brain 10 days after the stroke showed the right side of her brain was dark. But a recent scan of Van Hatten’s brain shows two-thirds of her right hemisphere has come back. Only the middle part is dark, and Van Hatten is hopeful that her brain will continue to heal. The type of stroke Van Hatten experienced is called a carotid artery dissection. Essentially, an artery carrying oxygen-bearing blood to the brain collapsed. Van Hatten was healthy before the stroke. There was nothing to suggest what was coming, she said. When she began rehabilitation, Van Hatten had to start from square one. Her first order of business was to learn how to sit up on her own. The stroke affected everything, even her maturity and judgment. “My parents, bless their hearts, had to raise me again,” she said. Recovery has been challenging but successful. When Van Hatten returned home to Fairbanks from a Seattle hospital almost two months after the stroke, she was in a wheelchair. Now she walks with a cane. Orthopedic braces on her left arm and left leg send electrical impulses into her body and help her move. Van Hatten lives in her own apartment, above a garage on her parent’s property, drives a car and is studying for her master’s degree in education. She teaches Sunday school at Farewell Avenue Christian Church. She belongs to a head injury

eral problems that, together, kill more Americans than anything else. Identifying symptoms early can help you recognize an emergency or take action to prevent a larger health crisis, said Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D, Physician-in-Chief of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York and an American Heart Association volunteer. “There’s a huge incentive to be educated about your health risks and make choices for a healthy lifestyle,” Fuster said. Men older than 55 and women older than 60 face increased risks. “The only risk factor you can’t control is age,” Dr. Fuster said.

support group, the next best thing to a stroke survivor support group, which is not available in Fairbanks. “I cook. I bake. I throw parties,” she said. Some of Van Hatten’s friends think she is fortunate because she doesn’t have to work. Van Hatten is on disability. She thinks her friends are fortunate because they can work. Getting better is Van Hatten’s fulltime job. “It’s a lot of work being me as a stoke survivor,” she said. Van Hatten has endured pain, depression, kidney stones, a thyroid problem, a divorce and concussions from a couple of serious falls. A brief return to the classroom was disappointing. Van Hatten’s stamina is not what it used to be, she said. “There were times my body wanted to give up but my mind wouldn’t let me,” she said. “I have all of these life goals.” One of her goals is to learn to snowboard, but for now Van Hatten would be happy to finish a foot race before the race organizers pack up and leave. Before the stroke, Van Hatten had her pilot’s license and she was a licensed emergency medical technician. She held a commercial driver’s license. She was nominated as a BP Teacher of Excellence. She pondered a career path that would lead to becoming a school principal. Learning came easy for her. “I just thought that was the way life was,” she said. “I didn’t know how bright I was until I lost it all.” Van Hatten learned to play the violin and the piano at age 10. She is starting to read music again. “The piano is really good therapy for me,” she said. Her friend, Kathleen Fagre, lays a hand over Van Hatten’s left hand and plays the keys for her, while Van Hatten plays independently with her right hand. “Some people say I have bad luck,” Van Hatten said. “I don’t believe in bad luck. I am just happy to be alive. I wake up every day and I am like ‘Thank God.’” Contact freelance writer Amanda Bohman at



Friday, February 14, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

February is American Heart Month. To learn more about heart disease and how to prevent the second leading cause of death in Alaska visit:


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