For more information about sudden cardiac arrest, go to www.parentheartwatch.org.
To learn more about free heart screening and bringing the program to your school, check out www.mhcfoundation.org or call (630) 932-2165.
The reports come across as a rare event ... a seemingly healthy athlete dying suddenly. But the truth is these cases are not rare ... and not unique to athletes. Any child may be at risk.
Michele Snyder, Mother: "She was very social and very loving."
Michele Snyder beams with pride when she talks about her daughter, Jenny ... a summer camp counselor, soccer player and peer group leader at her high school.
Michele Snyder: "She just had a joy of life."
In August 2008, the 17-year-old spent most days on the soccer field.
Michele Snyder: "She ran a few laps because it was the beginning of practice and they were warming up. And she apparently had turned around to the coach and said, 'My chest hurts.' And then she went down."
An ambulance took Jenny to the emergency room where doctors tried to restart her heart.
Michele Snyder: "After about an hour and a half, you know, they came in and said 'We're really sorry.'"
Jenny had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
Michele Snyder: "The first thing you do as a parent is rack your brain. Did I miss this? Did she ever complain of chest pains? I mean, this child ran, she was a lifeguard at camp, she windsurfed, she played soccer. No, I didn't miss it. There is nothing in our history. She never fainted. She never had light headedness. Nothing."
But there was something. An autopsy revealed one of the main coronary arteries was in the wrong location -- leaving half of Jenny's heart muscle without sufficient blood supply. The defect disrupted her heart rhythm.
Dr. Robert Bonow, Cardiologist, Northwestern Memorial Hospital: "There are certain forms of heart rhythm that we know are very serious and can lead to a situation where the heart is beating so fast and so irregularly that it can no longer pump normally. Then the blood pressure falls and someone faints. The lucky person wakes up the unlucky person doesn't wake up and that's really what a cardiac arrest is."
Michele Snyder: "Once I found out it was sudden cardiac arrest obviously I started investigating and I said, 'What is this? Why do kids literally drop dead?' Healthy. Seemingly healthy kids drop dead."
Michele's quest for answers led her to Parent Heart Watch (www.parentheartwatch.org) where she learned she wasn't alone in her heartache. Thousands of parents have suffered the same, sudden devastating loss. Their childrens' pictures posted as a memorial and a sobering reminder.
Michele Snyder: "This is not rare. It's happening to athletes and it's happening to non-athletes. It's happening to kids running on a soccer field, doing cheerleading practice, in their beds and at a restaurant."
Undiagnosed, congenital heart conditions kill 30 young adults every week in the United States.