The Total Child

Take the Prevention Promise: A Parent's Story

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The following guest post is by Martha Lopez-Anderson, Executive Director of Parent Heart Watch. She tells her story of how she became involved with Parent Heart Watch and why it's important to Take the Prevention Promise.

 A beautiful and sunny Sunday afternoon in February 2004 became the darkest day of my life. One minute my active 10 year-old son, Sean, was happily rollerblading to a friend’s house and the next he was lying unresponsive on the sidewalk of our neighborhood.

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Martha Lopez-Anderson with her son, Sean.

At first, neighbors thought he was having a seizure and called 911, but it wasn’t until a neighbor and registered nurse recognized he was not breathing, that CPR was started. Police were the first to arrive at the scene. Paramedics followed more than 10 minutes later and used a device known as an automated external defibrillator or AED several times to shock Sean’s heart back to rhythm, but his heart just quivered…it was too late.

Ironically, Sean’s heart had stopped beating just two days after he had participated in Jump Rope for Heart at his school.

 Four and a half months later we learned that Sean had suffered sudden cardiac arrest or SCA due to a heart condition that went undetected until after his death. How could my seemingly healthy son be gone? He was not sick and had never missed a well-checkup. I thought of myself as an informed and resourceful parent, yet I was totally blindsided by sudden cardiac arrest.

As I grieved the loss of my baby boy and searched for answers, Parent Heart Watch reached out to me, which is how I became educated about sudden cardiac arrest in youth, its causes, prevention strategies and treatment. Like the fact that 1 in 300 youth has an undiagnosed heart condition that puts them at risk for SCA. And that sometimes, warning signs of a potential heart condition go unrecognized and unreported.

Do you know what made my grief worse? Learning that my son’s death could have been potentially prevented. How you may ask? Through early detection or by simply being prepared in the event of a cardiac emergency.

Sadly, mine is just one story.

 According to a US Fire Administration census on school building fires between 2009 - 2011, there were an estimated 75 fire-related injuries, with resulting fatalities being rare. The National Fire Protection Association reports that there have been eight K-12 school fires with 10 or more deaths since 1908. Likely because every school is now equipped with fire extinguishers and fire drills.

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Now consider this: SCA is the #1 killer of student athletes and is the leading cause of death on school campuses. Given this tragic dynamic, educators could play a critical role in saving lives by championing SCA awareness throughout their school community and advocating for life-saving SCA prevention tools on their campus.

 We lose thousands of youth each year to sudden cardiac arrest because adults who live and work with youth are not prepared for a cardiac emergency, either as parents who are not encouraged to proactively protect their kid’s heart through a cardiac risk assessment and screening, or as educators, coaches, counselors and others who have not had the opportunity to equip their facilities with cardiac emergency response plans, CPR trained staff and automated external defibrillators.

 There is a national movement called Take the Prevention Promise that compels anyone who has children or works with them to get educated about the true incidence of sudden cardiac arrest in youth and how anyone can save a life. Educational resources and tools can be found at www.ParentHeartWatch.org.

 My hope is that we can all take the time to be prepared – the life you save could very well be your own child’s.


We are grateful that school administrators are championing sudden cardiac awareness. We appreciate that there are many initiatives relevant to creating positive, successful and healthy school environments. Your recognition of the importance of sudden cardiac arrest prevention brings us closer to our mission to eliminate these preventable deaths and disabilities by 2030. As stated at the last Institute of Medicine collaborative on sudden cardiac arrest, the only way we can move the needle on survival rates (which have remained stagnant under 10% for three decades) is for agencies to work together to educate and motivate our communities to take action.
Posted by: Maureen Legg( Visit ) at 5/22/2017 2:31 PM


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