Every day, 19 kids in American die of sudden cardiac arrest, from toddlers to college athletes. How many of these lives might be saved if communities made automated external defibrillators (AEDs) readily available? How many would be spared if their families, schools, and sports organizations were aware of the benefits of cardiac screening for heart defects?
You can’t help but ask, when you read these sad stories, were these avoidable deaths?
Don’t take a chance. No excuses. PLEASE contact us to get an AED in your child’s school and on the athletic field.
Cecelia “Princess George” Balma, 3
“Princess George” died at age 3 of sudden cardiac arrest brought on by an undiagnosed heart condition — she had no right ventricular coronary artery. At the suggestion of the doctor who saw “George” in the emergency room, her brother was subsequently tested for heart problems. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that is, fortunately, treatable.
Jennifer Lynn Balma, their mother, notes that “George” never showed any symptoms of cardiac problems — until the day she suddenly stopped breathing.
Olivia died at age 14 from sudden cardiac arrest attributed to Long QT Syndrome. The condition was undiagnosed. Olivia, a high school freshman involved in sports and cheerleading, suffered cardiac arrest during the night. Her mother found her unresponsive and called 911. Olivia was subsequently hospitalized, but did not survive.
Her mother, Corinne Ruiz, wrote: “Today, 6 years later, I cry for my daughter every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself: If only I had been told that there are screening tests or preventative treatments.”
Thomas Adams, 16
High school sophomore Thomas Adams died from cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest by a pitched baseball. Although Adams was wearing a chest protector, the ball hit with just the right impact to cause his heart to go into an ineffective rhythm called commotio cordis. News reports said there was not an automated external defibrillator available at the field where he was playing. Dr. Marrick Kuken of the Heart Failure Program at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York told reporters that having a defibrillator at the indoor field could have made all the difference.
“An external defibrillator would have hopefully corrected that rhythm,” Dr. Kuken said. “We should as a society have these in every large gathering place to prevent such a tragedy from happening.”
Reggie Garrett, 17
High school quarterback Reggie Garrett threw his second touchdown pass of the night, walked off the field, and collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital in West Orange, Texas.
In the news coverage following Garrett’s death, Dallas station WFAA.com urged cardiac screening for high school athletes.
Zachary Shrah, 16
High school football player Zachary Schrah collapsed and died of sudden cardiac arrest during football practice in Plano, Texas. His mother, Karen Schrah, has become an advocate for legislation mandating heart screenings as a part of student physicals.
Zachary’s death had an impact on the community at large. Heart Hospital Baylor Plano now offers low-cost ECGs and echocardiograms for the area’s student athletes.
Eric Paredes, 15
Eric Paredes, a two-sport high school athlete, had an enlarged heart. But no one knew about it until it was too late. His father, Hector Paredes, found Eric on the kitchen floor, unconscious and not breathing. He administered CPR, but was unable to revive him. Eric died of sudden cardiac arrest.
In Eric’s memory, the family has organized electrocardiogram (EKG) screening for other students at Eric’s San Diego area high school.
Andrew Cohn, 15
Florida high school student Andrew Cohn was yet another tragic victim of sudden cardiac arrest. He died after a collision during a baseball game triggered commotio cordis, a fatal heart rhythm.
There was no AED available at the field where Andrew was playing. An assistant coach performed CPR until an ambulance arrived with AED equipment. The tournament director for the game in which Cohn was playing when he died told firstcoastnews.com that many little leagues cannot afford to place a defibrillator at each playfield.
Nicholas Over, 20
Nicholas Over was a recent college graduate in apparently perfect health when he died in his sleep from sudden cardiac arrest. After his death, his family learned that he’d suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD).
His parents now donate life-saving equipment and provide AEDtraining in South Central Pennsylvania where they live.
“People are finally realizing the importance of AEDs, especially in schools and athletic programs,” Chris Over says. “I know Nicholas would have been proud of what we’re doing.”
Sara Kathleen Schacht, 18
Sara Kathleen Schacht died from sudden cardiac arrest in 2003 after a day of college classes. As she sat watching a movie with her boyfriend, she stopped breathing, collapsed, and died.
Sara’s heart had been weakened by a virus that left her with an enlarged heart. She took special medications for the condition, but nevertheless fell victim to sudden cardiac arrest.
Jimmy Brackett, 22, and Crissy Brackett, 21
The hereditary cardiac disease Long QT Syndrome ran in Jackie Renfrow’s family, but she had no idea about it until two of her children died from sudden cardiac arrest.
Jimmy Brackett was 22 when he died, leaving behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Crissy Brackett, 21, had just become a mother when she collapsed and died from sudden cardiac arrest.
Ten months later, when another member of the family was hospitalized for what they thought was a panic attack, a doctor diagnosed Long QT Syndrome.
Jackie Renfrow now campaigns to increase awareness of this life-threatening condition that claimed her children. She advocates for the placement of AEDs in the community “so that when Long QT syndrome leads to sudden cardiac arrest, it doesn’t have to be fatal.”
Dominic Murray, 17
Dominic Murray, a student at Farmingdale State College, suffered sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball. He had an undiagnosed heart condition the made him vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest. At the gym where he was playing when his heart stopped beating, there was no AED available.
Today his mother, Melinda Murray, is working with state legislators to drive a bill that would require cardiac screenings for student athletes. The foundation she established in Dominic’s memory provides free cardiac screenings for high school student-athletes and promotes CPR/AED training and awareness.
Nick Varrenti, 16
Nick Varrenti played in two high school football games — varsity and junior varsity — on Labor Day weekend. A day later, he suffered sudden cardiac arrest and died. His family learned later that Nick had lived with an undiagnosed heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Nick’s parents created the Nick of Time Foundation, which is dedicated to education schools, athletes, and communities about sudden cardiac arrest, public access defibrillator (PAD) programs, and cardiac screenings.
Danny Rumph, 21
Danny Rumph was playing basketball at a public recreation center in Philadelphia when he collapsed and died from sudden cardiac arrest. The center had no automated external defibrillator, and precious minutes went by before an ambulance arrived.
His family has created a foundation which has raised money to purchase an AED for the recreation center where he collapsed — a center that is now named in his memory. They are leading a campaign to get AEDs placed in more than 100 city recreation facilities.
Max Schewitz, 20
In 2005, Chicago conservationist and wildlife educator Max Schewitzdied of sudden cardiac arrhythmia. Since then, the Max Schewitz Foundation, created by his parents, has provided freeelectrocardiograms (EKGs) for more than 10,000 Chicago-area students through a Screen for Teens program.
According to media reports, the screenings have identified 142 teens who are considered at-risk for sudden cardiac death because of cardiac conditions.
Greg Moyer, 15
Greg Moyer collapsed and died of sudden cardiac arrest while playing in a high school basketball game in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. His school did not have a automated external defibrillator available and there were no nearby emergency medical services.
Afterwards, a nurse at the hospital emergency room suggested to Greg’s parents that they start a fund to help locals schools get AEDs. The Moyers are now involved in AED projects statewide, and Greg’s mother, Rachel Moyer, has traveled as far as Hawaii to advocate for school AED legislation and donate AEDs.