Your child’s heart will beat over two billion times, pumping one million barrels of blood. How do you know it’s healthy? Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone. Seemingly out of nowhere, the heart stops pumping blood and the person collapses. If the heart is not restarted, then the person dies.
But how common is cardiac arrest in children? The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 2,000 children die every year from cardiopulmonary arrest. It is the leading cause of death of student-athletes. Yet, children are not routinely screened for heart defects unless they show signs of disease, even if they’re joining a sports program. In fact, many of us will go our entire life without ever having our heart monitored for problems. That’s no way to treat such a vital and hardworking organ.
Simon’s Heart is an organization that believes that all students should have their hearts screened as a cardiac standard of care. And there should be a free heart test. Research shows that cardiac screenings – together with a good medical history and physical exam – are much more effective at detecting heart conditions than a history and physical alone.
What are the origins of Simon’s Heart? On October 21, 2004, Phyllis and Darren Sudman welcomed the birth of their second child, a baby boy they named Simon. He was a seemingly healthy, happy baby who drank his bottles, slept, and hit the proscribed benchmarks. Simon smiled for the first time when he was seven weeks old. He died 47 days later. Simon was diagnosed with a treatable and detectable heart condition and Simon’s pediatrician recommended that Simon’s parents get their hearts checked. Mom was diagnosed with the same condition. Ultimately, Simon’s death saved his mom’s life.
The Sudmans turned their grief into action and founded Simon’s Heart, looking to a future where parents don’t lose children to detectable and treatable heart conditions. Based in Philadelphia, Simon’s Heart works with medical professionals, youth organizations, businesses and the community to organize free heart screenings, CPR Education through their innovative CPR Jukebox, distribute AEDs where children learn and play, develop and fund a national youth cardiac registry to provide cardiac data for search, and to advocate for children, teens, and young adults through the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act.
Simon’s Heart works with physicians and school districts across the country to offer free screenings for children, teens and young adults. Learn more about them and find one near you.
In 2012, Simon’s Heart helped Pennsylvania to pass the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, which raises awareness among student-athletes, parents, and coaches about the risks and warning signs of cardiac arrest. Now adopted by 15 additional states and covering over 2,000,000 student-athletes, the act calls for parents to review and sign an information sheet about the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest and requires coaches to annually review an online training course and remove any player who exhibits symptoms from competition until he or she has been cleared by a licensed medical professional.
Simon’s Heart Screenings include a thorough medical and family history, physical exam and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) looks for an irregularity in the rhythm of the heart. Local cardiologists volunteer their time to conduct and review the tests on-site. About ten percent of the students will also get an echocardiogram based on family history or an abnormal ECG. Parents are advised if a full cardiac evaluation or consultation with a pediatrician is called for.