Preventing Fatal Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children

Heart screenings can catch otherwise-unnoticeable abnormalities if parents are willing to shell out for non-standard care. Local efforts are making that care more accessible, saving dozens of lives in the process.

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ALWAYS PREPARED: Steve and Christy Silva with a photo of  their sons and the automated external defibrillator they now keep in their home. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Sept. 4, 2010, began like any weekday for Christy Silva. As she went about her daily routine, her sons rode their bikes and played in the backyard of their Downingtown home, tagging along with her later when she ran errands.

That afternoon, without warning, 7-year-old Aidan collapsed in the hallway upstairs. Silva had been helping 5-year-old Devin change his clothes while Aidan worked on a puzzle. By the time she got to her son, he was lying unresponsive on the floor. Her attempts to revive him with CPR proved futile. The ambulance arrived 10 minutes later, but Aidan couldn’t be saved.

“A neighbor came over as we were waiting for the EMTs to come, and she said, ‘He’s probably having a seizure,’” says Silva. “I wanted to hold on to that possibility, because I knew seizures weren’t life-threatening.”

Aidan was a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. But children’s young hearts aren’t supposed to just stop beating. Five weeks prior, Aidan’s pediatrician had given him a clean bill of health, and Silva had no reason to doubt that he was right.

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