“This year we have a special emphasis on young athletes,” said conference chairman Jennifer Mulrooney, targeting especially those who missed a spring sports physical.
Conference organizers are hoping young athletes and their parents will take advantage of the battery of free cardiac screenings that will be available at the annual conference.
The conference is also hosting an Aug. 13 Moonlight Mile fun run organized by Anna Claire Reed, Weston Reed’s sister, as a way to give teens and young adults another avenue for getting involved with the conference.
Eleven-year-old Weston Reed, whom the conference memorializes, collapsed and died as a result of sudden cardiac arrest following a soccer practice scrimmage at Ballard Park Sportsplex in August 2007.
The conference’s mission is to increase awareness of heart health and spread Automated External Defibrillators – and the knowledge of how to use them – throughout the community.
“It was really the wish of his parents and family,” to try and reach more young athletes. “They don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
The free screenings focus on heart health risks and will cover:
- Height/weight to calculate BMI; carrying too much weight is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Blood tests for lipids and blood sugar; high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood sugar all raise the risk of heart disease.
- Blood pressure; uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of heart problems.
- Ankle brachial index; blood pressure readings are taken at the ankles to measure for the risk of peripheral artery disease, which can increase the risk of blood clots in the legs.
- Six lead EKG; placing electrodes on the arms and legs to see if there are any electrical abnormalities that could increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
An estimated 300,000 Americans die each year from sudden cardiac arrest.
Although sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack both involve the same vital muscle, the two conditions are different.
In a heart attack, the blood supply to the heart’s muscle is cut off. In sudden cardiac arrest, the electrical signals that cause the heart to contract in a steady, orderly rhythm are disrupted leaving the heart quivering instead of pumping.
Use of automated defibrillators can improve the chance that someone will survive a cardiac emergency.
The simple-to-use devices analyze the heart rhythm and, if appropriate, deliver a shock that aims to jolt the heart back into rhythm.
At the conference, anyone 15 and older can take a free CPR-AED class.
In addition to prevention efforts, the conference aims to help more people be prepared in case of a cardiac emergency.
Automated defibrillators, also called AEDs, can analyze heart rhythms and deliver a potentially life-saving shock.
The damage from a heart attack can put a person at increased risk for sudden cardiac death.
While older folks and people with previously diagnosed heart disease are at higher risk for sudden cardiac death, it can happen to anyone at any age, Mulrooney said.
In most cases, there are no noticeable symptoms, she said.
“You don’t know it’s going to happen until it happens,” Mulrooney said.
At the Aug. 14 conference, adults and teens can take advantage of free CPR-AED training to learn what to do in a cardiac emergency.
Folks who got certified at the first Weston Reed Cardiovascular Conference in 2007 will be able to renew their certification through the classes this year.
But the training doesn’t help if there aren’t defibrillators where people need them. The conference has donated about 85 AEDs to schools, park and recreation facilities and law enforcement agencies.
Tupelo police officers and Lee County Sheriff’s deputies now have the defibrillators with them on patrol, thanks to the conference.
“I think it’s just important to have them out there,” said Tupelo Police Officer David Harville, who coordinates the training for the department.
Sheriff Jim Johnson said he’s grateful to now have life-saving devices – which cost about $1,200 wholesale – in patrol deputies vehicles and at the jail. In remote areas of the county, it isn’t uncommon for the deputies to arrive first on the scene at emergency medical calls, he said.
Deputies haven’t recorded a save with the defibrillators yet, but Johnson feels it’s just a matter of time before the little machines make a life-saving difference for someone.
“I know there were times when this could have made a difference,” Johnson said.
Michaela Morris/NEMS Daily Journal