Defibrillator Training Programs Save Lives

A Mansfield teen is now living proof that access to and training on automated external defibrillators does save lives.

On Monday, we introduced you to 13 year-old Jeffrey Cotton, whose life was saved by his coaches and an AED after he collapsed on the football field at Danny Jones Middle School due to an enlarged heart.

Researchers are looking for ways to know if a child is at risk before he or she ever needs an AED.

Doctors say many children never show a sign or symptom until sudden cardiac arrest occurs.

It is rare, affecting an average of 66 children a year in the United States, according to the Centers For Disease Control.

Those are deaths that can possibly prevented, and they're fueling the mission of a group of parents and doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center.

Sarah Friend, 12, was a budding junior lifeguard from North Richland Hills when she suddenly collapsed by the pool.

"EMS yelled down to me and said, 'Is she on heart medications?' And that confirmed that was her heart," said her mother, Laura Friend, who later learned Sarah had an undiagnosed enlarged heart.

With no warning, sudden cardiac arrest stole Sarah's life three weeks before her 13th birthday.

"Had Sarah, my Sarah, had an EKG, there's over a 90 percent chance that they would have detected an enlarged heart," her mother said.

That's part of the reason why in the 14 years since her daughter's death, Friend has become a top advocate for cardiac screening and sudden death prevention in Texas.

Studies are underway nationwide on how to best implement cardiac screening, like electrocardiograms or EKGs in students.

The problem, it seems, is there is no "one size fits all" test.

"The number-two leading cause of cardiac arrest in young athletes won't be detected with an electrocardiograms. You would then have to go onto an echocardiogram, which is an more advanced test," said Dr. Dr. Matthew Dzurik, pediatric cardiologist at Cook Children's.

Some argue there aren't enough doctors to perform all the testing that would be needed at schools with required EKG screening programs, which are expensive and can lead to false positives.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against such screening programs.

"What we've done at Cook Children's is take on the secondary prevention approach," Dzurik said. "Secondary prevention means you have a rescue in place when somebody does go down."

Secondary prevention is what Friend coaches school staff through Project ADAM, an AED training program.

It's the same program that trained the Mansfield coaches who saved Jeffrey Cotton.

"When I saw that story, I was thrilled," Friend said.

It's comfort knowing her daughter's life is saving other children.

Sarah died next to an AED no one used on her.

"She could be here with me today, so to save one life is what I want," her mother said.

Dzurik says one possible warning sign of a heart problem is fainting during exercise. You can also ask your child's pediatrician to see if you should get referral to a pediatric cardiologist.

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