Michele Snyder is the Executive Director of Parent Heart Watch (PHW), the national voice solely dedicated to protecting youth from sudden cardiac arrest and preventable sudden cardiac death. PHW leads and empowers others by sharing information, educating and advocating for change.
For most of my adult life, I was a parent to two seemingly healthy children. That changed on August 21, 2008, at 7:15 pm, when my 17 year-old daughter, Jenny, collapsed on the soccer field from an undetected heart condition. At first it seemed she just fainted, but I now know she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Like so many other children, death was her first symptom.
SCA in young people is not rare! Approximately every three days another headline appears about a child that has had a sudden cardiac arrest. If not treated within minutes by CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), SCA results in death.
The good news is these deaths can often be prevented, and you can help. Make sure your school is prepared in case of a cardiac emergency:
1) Every school should have an AED accessible to the public at all times. Everyone in the school should know where it is located and understand how it is used. Studies show that someone as young as age 8 can follow an AEDs audio and visual prompts to save a life. Talk to your PTA about ensuring that there are enough AEDs to serve all the kids at your school during school hours and school sponsored events.
2) Every school should have a written and well-practiced Emergency Action Plan that includes cardiac emergencies. Ask to see the plan and find out who at your school is trained in CPR and AED use.
3) Finally, learn the Cardiac Chain of Survival in case you have to respond to an emergency:
- Recognize SCA – a person may suddenly collapse and be unresponsive; look like they are having a seizure or may be gasping, snorting, or having labored breathing
- Call 9-1-1
- Begin CPR Immediately – push hard and fast in the center of the chest
- Retrieve and use the AED immediately. AEDs only provide a shock if needed. It will not hurt the victim or responder.
- Continue providing care until EMS arrives
In 2013, National PTA passed a resolution to place AEDs in all schools, train personnel in their use and help schools develop emergency action plans. Parent Heart Watch is proud to support this resolution.
We spend so much time protecting and nurturing our kids. Please take time today to make sure your school is prepared to save a life.
For free educational materials for your school or to learn more, go to www.parentheartwatch.org.