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It was the hottest day of the summer—July 27, 2013. Scott had just finished up a few days of golf at Sugarloaf and was playing in a double-header softball game in Saco. Scott looped a single. The next batter hit the ball hard and Scott headed for home. After scoring, he said he did not feel well and went behind the dugout. Then, the 27 year old went down. 9-1-1 was called but since Scott had a pulse and was convulsing, his teammates thought he was having a seizure so no one administered CPR. Luckily for Scott, EMTs arrived in 5 minutes, recognized a sudden cardiac arrest and immediately began CPR and used their AED. They worked on him for 45 minutes in the field—shocked him 19 times and finally got enough of a pulse to get him to the local hospital. The local hospital was able to stabilize him and he was transported to Maine Medical Center where he was put into a coma to protect brain function. After a few failed attempts, they were able to bring him out of a coma after a few days and implant an

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). It took longer for his short term memory to return, but after a few days he could go home. Due to the memory loss and his healing body, Scott, who worked for Hannaford, was out of work for 3 months.

Twelve years earlier, Scott was a typical, athletic high school student. One day, during hockey practice, he had palpitations. He said something to his mom and she took him to his doctor, Dr. Linda Sanborn. The next day he wore a monitor during practice. The palpitations happened again and he was told "no more hockey". After further tests, it was determined that he had ventricular tachycardia. It was recommended that he get an ICD or limit his physical activity. Scott was worried about the ICD going off accidentally (he was told it would feel like a horse kicking him in the chest), so he opted to limit his physical activity. He could still play baseball, but could not do the full work outs. Hockey was not an option. Scott could also continue playing golf—something he continues to this day.

Scott’s ICD has gone off once, and yes it did feel like a horse kicking him in the chest, but it most likely saved his life. Luckily, this time, he listened to a co-worker, friend and fellow survivor and opted for the implant. Through all of his trials, Scott has found a new purpose—sharing his story in order to save lives. Scott has told his story at countless venues around the state for the American Heart Association—and is helping push for legislation that would require all Maine high school students learn CPR. He even went to Las Vegas to speak on behalf of the company who made his AED.

So, if you meet Scott on one of Maine’s many beautiful golf courses, or as he drives around the state for his new beer and wine distributing venture, please say hello and thank him for all he does for the American Heart Association.

On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin, a 7th grader at A. G. Wright Middle School, collapsed in cardiac arrest.  Several critical minutes passed before her father, Joel, reached her. CPR had not been initiated. “There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to,” said Joel. Gwyneth’s mother, Jennifer, stated “It was after the results of the MRI, 3 weeks later, that we decided no one should ever have to go through what we were going through. What became evident was the need for CPR training in schools."

While the couple immersed themselves in caring for Gwyneth at the hospital, friends and family were busy back home in Stafford learning CPR. Joel and Jennifer’s daughter, Gwyneth, passed away Monday, July 30, 2012, not from her cardiac arrest, but because CPR was not initiated within the first few minutes. Their home community mobilized, and the Griffins report that by the end of the summer of 2012 nearly 500 people had become certified in CPR.

Jennifer and Joel involved themselves in working with the American Heart Association and their legislators to establish legislation that would assure every student was trained in CPR before graduation.  Through their efforts and perseverance, and in honor of their daughter, Gwyneth’s Law was passed in Virginia in the 2013 General Assembly session.  The law has three components: teacher training in CPR, AED availability in schools, and CPR training as a graduation requirement.

Here’s a look at how the Griffin's determination led to success:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Since passage of the Virginia law, the Griffins have continued to work to help other states accomplish the same goal.  They visited Maryland legislators during the 2014 General Assembly session, and were instrumental in getting a similar law passed there.  They hope their story will help inspire others to support CPR training in schools as well. 

The legacy that Gwyneth leaves behind is one that will save countless lives. Help honor her legacy. This quick video will help you become CPR smart (and might get you dancing too):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGpp6mStfY

 

Gwyneth Griffin

 

Special thanks to You’re the Cure advocate/writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for help crafting this story.

 

Written by Shannon Chamizo

My name is Shannon Chamizo, I am a You’re The Cure advocate and a survivor. My sons and I became involved with the American Heart Association after I survived both cardiac arrest and a heart attack before I was even 40.  If you would like to read more about my experience click here.

I survived these two events in large part because of the heroic actions of my teenaged sons, Avery and Alston. Since then, my family has used those experiences to make healthy lifestyle improvements and to add formal lifesaving skills to their knowledge.

After having those health issues, American Heart Association Hawaii Division Board Member and American Medical Response (AMR) Training Director Dory Clisham (also a You’re the Cure advocate) took me under her wing and got both my sons and me certified in the use of CPR, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and First Aid using American Heart Association training (AMR is an American Heart Association certified training center). After completing that training in July, 2013, Dory also asked me if I might be interested in further training, and I responded yes.

This year on May 22, I completed American Heart Association Healthcare Provider and Basic Life Support (BLS) Instructor training and am now certified to train other professionals.

In addition, I have assisted at a community training event at Kaimuki High School for the Junior ROTC students by sharing our family story.  It was inspiring to see how our story added to the motivation that the students had to learn lifesaving skills.

My family and I want to continue to participate in community training events to help others learn. My younger son, Avery, is also interested in becoming not only an instructor, but also pursuing a career as a firefighter after graduating from high school next year.

We also want to help the AHA in its efforts to work with the Hawaii Department of Education and Board of Education to add CPR as a mandatory part of high school health curriculum. Since health is a required course, adding simple and quick ‘hands-only’ CPR training to those classes would insure that every new Hawaii high school graduate would possess the skills to save the life of a friend or loved one who experiences health problems like I had.

Jodi Lemacks, Virginia

In June of 2003, my third child, Joshua, was born via c-section.  Diagnosed with a Critical Congenital Birth Defect (CCHD) before birth, he was immediately whisked away to the hospital next door for his first of three open heart surgeries, without me even getting a glimpse of him.  The first time I saw Joshua the next day, it was hard to see the baby beneath the tubes and wires hooked up to him.  It felt surreal, like I couldn’t possibly be looking at my own baby. 

Joshua managed to survive the first surgery, but then struggled against infections and other complications for almost two months.  My husband and I, along with Joshua’s brothers and other relatives, stood by Joshua’s crib praying that he would make it, but mostly praying that this little guy would not suffer. Then one day, Joshua turned a corner—truly a miracle—and we finally got to bring Joshua home in August; he has made it through two more open heart surgeries since then.  Today, he is a happy, healthy nine-year old who loves baseball, golf, his family and life.

This scenario would have been entirely different if Joshua had not been screened for CCHD (in his case, before birth).  Working for Mended Little Hearts, a national non-profit that helps families who have children with heart defects, I know too well the devastating consequences of lack of screening for CCHD.  I get emails, and sometimes calls, from parents of babies who died or coded because their heart defect was not caught in time, and it breaks my heart. 

Joshua’s type of heart defect is 100% fatal if not caught—usually within a couple of weeks of life.  About half of the babies with this heart defect are not caught pre-birth, so screening soon after birth becomes vital and life-saving.  There are about 10,000 babies each year born with critical congenital heart defects that, like Joshua’s, can be caught through screening.  The sooner a baby is screened, the more likely the baby will get life-saving care.

Parents are looking to their hospitals and their states to help them.  Pulse oximetry screening, now mandatory in some states, is simple, non-invasive and inexpensive.   (For more information on pulse oximetry screening in states visit www.pulseoxadvocacy.org.  This website was created by Kristine Brite McCormick who lost her baby, Cora, due to lack of screening.)  Most states already conduct newborn screening, and many are working to include pulse oximetry screening in their standard newborn screening panel.   In New Jersey, such a law saved at least one life within 24-hours of implementation.  

As of April 2014, in AHA's Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, You're the Cure advocates and Mended Little Hearts have helped make pulse oximetry screening for all newborns the standard of care in MD, VA, NC, and SC, and I am proud to have been able to support the process.

 

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