AED Superstore sponsors a bi-annual scholarship for students entering or currently enrolled in college. We ask these students to either write a short essay or produce a short video telling us which of the sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) facts we listed on our scholarship application page came as a surprise to them, or that they wish more people knew about.
We received thousands of submissions over the course of the last two application periods, and realize we have a long way to go when it comes to educating the general public about AEDs, how they work, and the startling statistics surrounding sudden cardiac arrest. Overwhelmingly, the students chose fact #2 which states “SCA affects roughly 16 people under the age of 18 every day,” most likely because it hits a personal chord within them. They look around at their peers and they wonder if SCA is going to strike them down, or if it will affect them personally at some point in their life.
Applicants also needed to tell us how they would raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest. While most thought hanging posters and flyers would do the job, other “outside the box” ideas included school events, rallies, dedicated clubs, awareness days, and fundraisers to purchase AEDs for their schools or other public facilities. Some even took the initiative to speak with their school administrators, nurses and coaches about whether the school had AEDs, with mixed results.
Without further ado, we would like to introduce you to our winner – Cristina Rodriguez! Her essay impressed us with the time she took to research ways to help athletes:
“I wish more people knew that Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, or gender. In fact, SCA affects roughly 16 people under the age of 18 every day and is a silent killer that tends to target young athletes; yes, young exercising athletes. Most of the time many of our young adults do not realize that they might have a heart murmur or other heart abnormality. Most people would probably not know what to do if they saw a young person collapse. It is through proper training and familiarity of recognizing signs and symptoms that can determine the life and death of an individual.
It is important to know that anyone can save a life whether it is by dialing 911, performing CPR, or by looking for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to start your heart beating. The worst anyone can do is do nothing. As an athlete myself, I am concerned for the health and safety of any athlete who has overlooked being a target of this silent killer and worry about if it did occur would we know what to do. All athletes undergo a physical exam as a requirement to participate in a sport activity. We take it for granted that if we passed the physical we are good to go. I have come to learn differently today. A physical exam will monitor your outer body but does not look at your inner body and does not recognize any abnormalities within your heart. Anyone who plays sports is familiar with the rigorous practices and unpredictable weather temperatures that we are exposed to on a daily basis. With SCA, your heart just stops working and the person just passes out and will appear lifeless. As I researched to expand my understanding of SCA, I learned about The Nick of Time Foundation. I learned that this foundation came together through a common goal of keeping our youth’s hearts healthy. This organization is composed of a group of volunteers and medical professionals who will not only conduct the routine physical exam in your own school but will conduct EKG’s to monitor your heart rhythm and train you on CPR procedures among other life saving strategies. Knowing this, I find it necessary to collaborate with school districts leaders,coaches, parent and student organizations to bring a heightened awareness and understanding of SCA. Initial steps could include addressing parents through PTA’s and our district webpage. Student assemblies and sign up meetings can too serve to educate and train students. Something as simple as making it a requirement for students participating in any sport or physical activity including but not limited to PE, athletics, band, cheerleading, drill team, etc. be required to pursue further heart examinations beyond the basic physical as a precaution. Bringing The Nick of Time to our community could make this cost attainable to our parents and accessible being that we live in a rural community. Further awareness can easily be shared through our Health classes, PE classes, school nurses, athletic trainers, coaches etc… We must encourage parents to attend these medical screenings as a requirement and meet with the medical professionals for further recommendations if needed. We must drill everyone as if it were a fire drill and have AED accessible at all times. After all, this is our community, as parents these are your kids, and as athletes, this is your life and your fellow athletes’ life at stake. This is why we must all strive to raise awareness and a plan of action in every school and community.”
Upon graduation, she will be pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio in Fall of 2017. Her goal is to work with children with prosthetics and help improve their quality of life. Community service is important to her and she is especially proud of her participation in a project called “Packing for Success”. During her tenure, this project helped provide over 600 backpacks with supplies to economically disadvantaged elementary students in her community and she was honored to spearhead the project in 2016. High School was an amazing journey for her and will be graduating in the top 1% of her class. She is a busy woman and is an active and proud member of a number of clubs including the National Honor Society, Leo’s Club, 4H Club, UIL, Vice President of the Future Farmers of America in addition to all the sports teams she played over the course of her 4 years.
Her love for sports began at a young age but it was not until high school that she realized how much hard work and sweat is required to compete at a varsity level. She competed in Basketball, Golf, Volleyball, and Drill Team. Participation in these activities taught her to embrace challenges, to make the most of opportunities, celebrate successes, and understand the importance of good sportsmanship. She is an amazing role model for young women everywhere and proves the point that anything is possible when you put your mind and heart into it.
As Cristina mentions in her essay, there ARE ways to prevent needless deaths due to SCA in young athletes. ECG and echocardiogram screening during preparticipation physicals can identify underlying genetic heart conditions which, when aggravated by physical exertion, may lead to sudden cardiac death. Even if they are asymptomatic, just knowing the condition exists can lead to a lifestyle change or intervention by way of an implanted internal defibrillator, medications or surgery to lessen their risk.
Awareness is the key. Truly. Learning as much as you can about sudden cardiac arrest, how to recognize the signs and symptoms, what to do when you see someone in cardiac arrest, how to perform CPR and use an AED, and even just knowing that AEDs exist, is crucial to increasing survival rates. King County, Washington is an outstanding example of how educating a community can lead to significantly improved survival rates. The national survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest survival is in the single digits in most of North America. In King County, Washington, it was 62% in 2013! They attribute this success to a comprehensive system that works together when an SCA event unfolds. Read about their remarkable program here.
We congratulate Ms. Rodriguez and we hope these continued scholarship opportunities spur young adults to find ways to educate their communities about sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of AEDs. We will continue to do our part and keep working to spread the word – any help you can give us is greatly appreciated! Let’s save more lives together!