Restoring a Heartbeat

  • Restoring a Heartbeat
    By CWK Network Producer

    “The board of education in the county we live, told us that they could not afford to put one in the school.”

    -Cricket Ledford, Natalie’s Mother

    A study of 100 6th graders by the University of Texas found that seven of the children has a previously undiagnosed defect in their heart. Every year in the U.S., between six and eight thousand kids die from sudden cardiac arrest. But yet only a third of schools across the country have a small device that could save some of those lives.

    Natalie was in her first grade classroom when she passed out. “I went to pick up my pencil and I just fell over,” she says.

    An undiagnosed heart defect led to what is called ‘ventricular fibrillation’.

    “The heart’s beating really, really, really rapidly – but it’s not a coordinated strong muscular pump,” says Robert Campbell, M.D., with the Sibley Heart Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “So it’s not generating any blood pressure or blood flow. So if that continues uninterrupted, the patient will die.”

    “When you pass out it’s very, very scary,” says Natalie, “Cause you really don’t know if you’re going to come back or not.”

    But a portable device called an Automated External Defibrillator, or A.E.D., can safely and quickly return a person’s heartbeat back to normal.

    Unfortunately, Natalie’s school did not have one.

    “Natalie, this patient, may have been lucky to survive by having a self-terminating fast heart-rate,” says Dr. Campbell.

    He says parents should encourage their schools to install A.E.D.’s in strategic locations.

    And, he says, if schools think the $2,500 price tag for each device and for training is too high, “there are Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, there are church groups, lay groups, there are individual philanthropic individuals, you know people that really would love to contribute something like this to a school. They just need to recognize the need.”

    Cricket Ledford, Natalie’s mother, says wherever the money comes from, “the defibrillator doesn’t cost anything compared to a child’s life.”

    Once Natalie was diagnosed, doctors installed an internal pacemaker. She hasn’t passed out since.

    “This could happen to anybody,” Natalie says. “It’s not just me. It could happen to anybody, anyplace, anywhere.”

    Heart Disease
    By CWK Network, Inc.

    Heart disease is shortly expected to overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Consider the following statistics:

    • Over 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of heart disease.
    • More than 2,500 Americans die from heart disease every day.
    • Three million Americans claim to suffer from chest pain.
    • Over 250,000 people died from heart disease before they reach the hospital.
    • Fifty million Americans suffer from high blood pressure. Of those, 35 million are unaware they have it.
    • Cardiovascular disease sufferers are evenly split among sex lines, with males making up 52.2 percent and females making up 47.8 percent.

    What Parents Need to Know

    Unless it is a hereditary dysfunction, heart disease can likely be prevented or at least lessened by the way your child lives, including exercise routines and sleep patterns. Perhaps the best way to help your child develop a healthy heart is by establishing good eating habits when he/she is young. Consider the following ways, developed by experts at

    • Buying a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.
    • Setting specific times for meals and snacks.
    • Limiting sugary, high-fat snacks. Not only do they contain little nutritional value, they leave no room for healthy foods.
    • Avoiding adding excessive salt to foods.
    • Encouraging your child to drink plenty of water or milk, not empty-calorie fruit drinks and sodas.
    • Avoiding caffeine in the foods and drinks you serve your child.
    • Setting a good example. You can’t expect your child to choose water or milk and an apple if you’re snacking on colas or iced tea and cookies.

    Also, consider the following tips from the American Heart Association:

    • Help your children develop good physical activity habits at an early age by setting a good example yourself. Practice good heart-healthy habits.
    • Limit the amount of television, movies, videos and computer games to less than two hours a day. Substitute the rest of leisure time with physical activity.
    • Plan family outings and vacations so that they involve vigorous activities such as hiking, bicycling, skiing, swimming, etc.
    • Give your children some household chores that require physical exertion, keeping in mind their levels of strength, coordination and maturity. Mowing lawns, raking leaves, scrubbing floors and taking out the garbage not only teaches responsibility, but it can be good exercise as well.
    • Observe what sports and activities appeal to your children, then find out about lessons and clubs. Some children thrive on team sports; other children prefer individual activities. Some activities, like tennis and swimming, can be enjoyed for a lifetime and are much easier to learn during childhood.
    • If it is safe to walk or bike rather than drive, do so. Use stairs instead of elevators and escalators. Increase the distances you and your children walk.
    • Stay involved in your child’s physical education classes at school. At daycare, make sure the kids exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Ask about frequency of classes and activity, class size, curriculum (instruction in lifetime fitness activities as well as team sports should be emphasized), physical fitness assessments and the qualifications of the teacher (should hold appropriate certification in physical education and be an appropriate role model for students). Physical fitness should be measured at the beginning and end of each year, and goals should be established for each child. Encourage your school board to put emphasis on skills students can use for the rest of their lives.
    • Discourage homework immediately after school to allow children to find some diversion from the structure of the school day. Children should be active after school and before dinner.
    • Choose fitness-oriented gifts, such as a jump rope, mini-trampoline, tennis racket, baseball bat or a youth membership at the local YMCA or YWCA. Select the gift with your child’s skills and interests in mind.
    • Take advantage of your city’s recreation opportunities, from soccer leagues to fun runs. Check out the various camps or organizations that sponsor outdoor activities such as camping, hiking trips and bird watching.
    • When your children are bored, suggest something that gets them moving, like playing catch or building a snowman in the yard.
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    A study of 100 6th graders by the University of Texas found that seven of the children has a previously undiagnosed defect in their heart. Every year in the U.S., between six and eight thousand kids die from sudden cardiac arrest. But yet only a third of schools across the country have a small device that could save some of those lives.

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