Parent Heart Watch: Helping to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children

Rachel Moyer, President and Co-Founder of Parent Heart Watch, and Jen Bloomer
Rachel Moyer, President and Co-Founder of Parent Heart Watch, and Jen Bloomer
On December 2, 2000, Greg Moyer collapsed in the locker room from SCA after playing 10 minutes of a basketball game. No automated external defibrillator (AED) was available and CPR was not started for 10 minutes because Greg had a pulse. Paramedics arrived 30 minutes later, at which time his heart began to beat miraculously after being shocked by an AED. However, Greg was unable to sustain a heartbeat during the ride to the hospital. His cause of death was also HCM. On July 14, 2004, Sarah Friend was walking up the stairs at a local water park, collapsed, and never regained consciousness. She was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later. HCM was found to be the cause of her fatal cardiac arrest. Her family was told an AED, had it been used in a timely manner, would have saved her life. Ken Derminer suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during his high school football practice. His cause of death was found to be an enlarged heart. A defibrillator was never available on school premises during practices or games. All of these children suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, and according to the Pediatric Clinic of North America, SCA kills thousands of children every year. Therefore, the parents of the children mentioned above have formed a national, non-profit organization called Parent Heart Watch (www.ParentHeartWatch.org). Parent Heart Watch serves as a unified voice to: Help other families who have been affected by SCA Educate communities by building awareness of SCA Advocate for policy change, establish credible Research initiatives, and promote SCA prevention through Technology such as deployment of defibrillators and cardiac screenings. Collectively, these efforts are significantly reducing the deaths caused by SCA, the leading cause of death in the United States. For example, high school senior Matt Nader was home just days after a near-death experience that ended his football career. He won't be able to play the game anymore, but Matt looks forward to seizing the opportunity he's been given. Nader's collapse during a Friday night game signaled a critical heart condition. His mother gave him CPR as he laid on the track suffering a lethal arrhythmia. However, an automatic defibrillator saved Nader's life. Doctors implanted a defibrillator into Nader's chest that will monitor his heartbeat for the rest of his life. Nader has to give up playing the game he loves, but he expects football to still play a big role in his future. The members of Parent Heart Watch have come together through their personal and tragic loss to take action and advocate for awareness and change, all with the goal of protecting children from SCA. Through their outreach efforts, which include media monitoring, a new Web site, and grassroots work in communities, their current membership now includes over 80 parents in the following 40 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Parent Heart Watch empowers, connects, and educates parents on issues and activities related to SCA prevention. In 2006 the members of Parent Heart Watch collectively placed 400 AEDs in schools and other public places, trained over 3,500 people in AED and CPR, and conducted over 1,000 heart screenings. Through its networking power, Parent Heart Watch also helped many groups receive and make AED donations, equaling over 1,500 placements. In addition to helping communities with donations and education, the members of Parent Heart Watch are active advocates in state legislation requiring AEDs in schools and other public places. The members of Parent Heart Watch introduced bills in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan that were all signed into legislation during 2006. Parent Heart Watch has also introduced legislation that requires schools to obtain AEDs in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Texas, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington, and will be working with legislators in 2007 to get them passed. In January, their annual leadership forum brought new and old members together to discuss collaborative efforts for 2007 that include the launch of a new AED program, the development of a physician advisory board, and increased SCA research and advocacy efforts. The end goal is to strengthen the network of champions that advocate for SCA issues across the country. Through all of their efforts, Parent Heart Watch promotes specific information on sudden cardiac arrest so that communities are more knowledgeable on ways to stop SCA from killing young children. Early detection of heart disease starts with education and awareness programs for young people, including cardiac screening events for athletes and young children. The American Heart Association recommends that physicians conduct pre-participation physical examinations including heart assessment, and that parents complete appropriate and specific questionnaires that will pinpoint children at risk; this includes all of our youth, young athletes and non-athletes. Currently, states take a diversified approach in the physicals that are being conducted. When SCA strikes, the American Heart Association recommends that defibrillation be delivered as soon as possible. For every minute that elapses after SCA, the chances of survival diminish by approximately 10%. It typically takes medical emergency response teams between 9 to 15 minutes to arrive, with survival rates now hovering around 5 percent. The initiative to place AEDs in public places, such as stadiums, schools and businesses, as well as train laypersons to use AEDs, is the major focus of community efforts across the nation. Studies have shown that survival rates are as high as 74% when defibrillation is given within three minutes of collapse. Parent Heart Watch also advocates for defibrillation placement and training, especially in schools and athletic settings, since this is typically where witnessed SCA occurs in children, and treatment should be available immediately. However, in order to keep building momentum so that no child ever dies from SCA again, the parents involved in Parent Heart Watch need continued help from communities and organizations around the United States. Sudden cardiac arrest stories do not have to have tragic endings. Parent Heart Watch is leading that force, and is one of the reasons that Matt Keene is able to tell his story today: On October 18, 2006, at a routine football practice that was just winding up, Matt collapsed on the field after suffering sudden cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped, and he had no pulse. However, thanks to the quick response of people on the field and medical staff and athletic trainers, Matt is here today to tell his story. Critical to his survival was the successful implementation of what is known as the chain of survival an immediate call to 911, early CPR, early defibrillation and immediate transport to an advance care facility. For more information on how you can help reduce deaths from sudden cardiac arrest, please visit: www.ParentHeartWatch.org