Mother turns tragedy into mission to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest

Not all athletes have access to defibrillators

PASCO COUNTy, Fla. - Martha Lopez-Anderson made it her mission to keep other parents from experiencing what she went through.

“When these things happen it devastates a community. It devastates families,” she said.

Her 10-year-old son, Sean, died in 2004 while rollerblading. She said he suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

“I could just not understand how my seemingly health child could suddenly collapse and die,” she said.

It took about 10 minutes before an automated external defibrillator or AED got to Sean. But it was too late.

Now, Lopez-Anderson heads up Parent Heart Watch, a national organization focused on preventing sudden cardiac arrest.

She’s glad to see all Florida high schools are required to have AED’s.

At Land O’Lakes high, they have four spread throughout the school.

“It increases survival rate tremendously, having one of these even close,” said Matthew Wicks, Pasco School District Athletic Director.

Three years ago staff at Plant High school used an AED to save freshman Charlie Curtis after he collapsed on the track.

Experts said defibrillators double the chances of survival during sudden cardiac arrest.

But you won’t find them everywhere kids are active.

“Like when I go to my own kids soccer game, I’m at a park and I don’t see an AED around, so that’s one thing that always worries me, especially with club organizations or community parks,” said Wicks.

“These devices need to be in elementary and middle schools and anywhere youth congregates,” said Lopez-Anderson.

We are still waiting to hear back from Alvin Williams Junior’s AAU team to find out if they had access to a defibrillator. The 13-year-old from Tampa had just finished practice last week when he collapsed and died. His parents are now planning his funeral.

Experts said every three days another young athlete in the US dies from sudden cardiac arrest.

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