Fighting Sudden Cardiac Arrest for Washington’s Youth

Washington SCA Fight

Two mothers in Washington State are spearheading efforts to raise awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the need for AEDs throughout Washington school districts. Darla Varrenti, lost her 16-year-old son, Nick to Sudden Cardiac Arrest in 2004 after he played in a football game. Varrenti is the director of the Nick of Time Foundation that works to spread awareness for the #1 cause of death among young athletes. The foundation has educated hundreds of schools about the condition and provides youth heart screenings and training for students in CPR.

Melinda Truax joined the effort to raise awareness of SCA and AEDs after her 16-year-old son, Matthew collapsed while running the track in PE class at Meadowdale High School on Sep. 13, 2013. Teachers began CPR and called 911, but by the time a defibrillator arrived, it was too late. (Read more here)

Both Darla Varrenti and Melinda Truax were present in the State Senate as Bill 5083 (Sudden Cardiac Arrest Act) passed this month unanimously.

The bill calls for the following:
• Creation of an informational pamphlet about Sudden Cardiac Arrest—detailing symptoms, warning signs and prevention
• School districts to hold a meeting at the beginning of each year with student athletes, notifying them about SCA, and the risks they face in sports
• Parents and students would be required to sign a form stating they have reviewed the online pamphlet before participating in athletic activities
• Coaches be required to complete an online program on SCA prevention and warning signs

“Students need to know what their heart is doing,” said Darla Varrenti, who testified on the bill. “It’s not enough that we, as parents, protect them with helmets, seat belts, and all of the different kind of things we do, but we don’t protect their hearts like we should.”

After Melinda Truax learned that her son’s life may have been saved if an AED had been more readily available, she created the Heart of Edmonds Project, an effort to raise money to outfit every school in the Edmonds School District with multiple AEDs.

SCA can be effectively treated through prompt recognition, early CPR, and early access to an AED, a portable device that will read and analyze the heart rhythm and provide an electric shock to restore the heart to a normal rhythm if necessary.

“Most schools might have one, but many are old and not enough to cover entire area to get help quickly where needed. We want to put AEDs in over 34 locations covering about 20,000 students,” Melinda says. “When you think about teachers, parents, grandparents that are in our schools, 20% of our population on average is in a school every day. They’re worth protecting.”

The Heart of Edmonds Project is hosting a gala dinner and auction Feb. 28, 2015 to raise funds for AED placement.

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