Once, when I was 17, my father decided to grow red raspberries along with the strawberries, apples, herbs and vegetables in his garden. “Why.” I asked,”do you want to grow those thorny, seedy things?” He lowered his head and sighed, then spoke quietly. “I was five when my mother died, and the last thing we did together was pick raspberries.” I saw a moistness in his eyes, and not knowing what to say, I simply hugged him. The day after we buried my mother, , I took my 14 year old son berry picking. “Why” he started. I took his hand and whispered, “I’m starting a new tradition.”
Archive for June, 2012
Knowledge and prompt response are the keys to saving anyone with sudden heart arrest.
Parent Heart Watch is a wonderful organization dedicated to preventing the death of young athletes (and youth in general) from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. I became aware of them after the death of my teenaged son, who died while playing baseball in 2006. As I searched for a reason why a healthy, active child could die without warning, I found this group and have since supported them. I ask all of you to do the same. Their website is :
http://www.parentheartwatch.org. Their phone number is 1-800-717-5828.
I recently became part of a fund raiser “Register to Relax” where supporters simply donate to the organization and encourage others to do so. It is an on-going fund raiser. Since I get their regular e-mail bulletins, I heard about another campaign to raise awareness of this life or death issue.
I contacted Parent Heart Watch after they informed me of a campaign to give out magnets with information on how to detect symptoms of possible heart failure and steps that could be taken to prevent it. They sent me 100 magnets, which I hope to give out at schools, churches, and in my neighborhood, along with a letter about what happened to my son. I hope to help them raise money to further their cause and keep other families from going through what our family has endured.
Yesterday, my middle-school student came home and told me that volunteers from a local hospital supported by Parent Heart Watch had come to his school and given a short (but important) course in CPR/chest compression techniques that anyone could use while waiting on help to arrive. They told the children how to watch for signs of possible heart issues in their friends. I am proud to support this organization and know that is working across the country to stop these horrific losses.
I can’t help but think that my son would be alive today if I, (or someone there)
had known the information that Parent Heart Watch seeks to teach. Even the information on the tablet-sized magnet could save a life. Parent Heart Watch encourages early detection of possible heart issues and early defibrillation of apparent heart related emergencies.
This is our story. Our son had hit a great double and made a steal to 3rd base in the previous inning, but the next player had made the last out of the 6th inning. Our son
had gone to his position in right field as the other pitcher and catcher practiced for the last inning. I later heard he had told a team mate after the 6th inning that he didn’t feel good. But, my son’s motto was “What don’t kill ya will make ya stronger,” He went out for the last inning anyway. That statement has haunted me,
Someone. saw my son grab his head and said, “Is he hurt?” I looked up and saw him running to me. I began running to meet him. A few feet from me, he threw up his hands, as if to catch himself, and fell, apparently loosing consciousness. I later found out that his best friend, who was playing second base, had asked him what was wrong, and my son turned to him quickly and said, “I don’t feel good, I’m gonna have to go in”. That was the last thing he said.
It seems that no one on the field knew what to do, even a “nurse” who ran up to us didn’t immediately recognize that this was a heart issue. The ambulance, dispatched from a station within sight of the ball field, took a long back road, trying to get the ambulance closer to the field. To my knowledge, the 911 operator didn’t stay on the phone with the parent who made the call. I have seen a lot of kids collapse on ball fields/courts, but have never seen one die, as my son did. The coaches and parents were most likely in the same category as I was.
I will add that once the ambulance arrived on the scene they worked diligently to save my son. I saw them trying to defibrillate him front the passenger seat of the ambulance. The emergency room doctors worked on him over an hour. A chaplain stayed with us and brought reports from the doctors. The problem was, that time is everything in the case of sudden heart arrest, and it was too late for my son when help arrived. I had taken CPR many years before, but had no idea that my son was in arrest. When he was obviously unresponsive, I am not sure why the “nurse” didn’t think of the possibility of heart issue.
I must continue stressing the importance of early response in the case of any heart issue. On Parent Heart Watch’s magnet, it lists things you can do to properly respond to cardiac emergencies. They stress that we must know how to respond to “SCA” (Sudden Cardiac Arrest), which means that a person has collapsed and is unresponsive. Below is a list of symptoms and responses.
(1) The person may have seizure-like activity or gasping and gurgling. (My son developed a “snore-like gurgling as he struggled to breath). This should be recognized a cardiac emergency.
(2) Always call 911 immediately.
(2) Begin CPR manually immediately. (I have learned that even cardiac compressions to the tune and rhythm of the Bee Gee’s song “Stayin’ Alive” will work in many cases.)
(4) Having a portable defibrillator on site is vital-use it immediately if the symptoms of a cardiac emergency are noted.
My son was 15 years old when he was talked into playing baseball on a league based on groups of friends from different communities in our area. He had played baseball and basketball for years, but had tired of organized and school related ball and hadn’t played in about a year. Though he had been given “sports physicals” in previous years, he had not planned on playing for school and he asked to wait to have a physical. I agreed. He was very healthy, rarely getting sick enough to stay out of school. He used to joke with me about wanting to stay home, Smiling at me and saying, “Can I be absent?”
At the time of my sons death, even national organizations such as the Little League and the YMCA did not require physicals. They simply had a parent sign a paper that said they knew of no health issue that would keep their child from participating. Even the schools, who did require a “sports physical” did not require an Echocardiogram, which is the only certain way to note heart issues. I do not know if these rules have changed.
After his death, the autopsy revealed my son had a bicuspid valve, which is relatively common and rarely causes problems until middle age, and may never warrant anything but precautions if one is not athletic. His official cause of death was “viral myocarditis”, which, as the medical examiner explained to mean meant that “an unidentified cold virus got into his heart” and caused the infection which lead to heart failure.
The medical examiner said the bicuspid valve probably didn’t directly cause his death. People sometimes get virus and recover within a short time, thinking that perhaps, they had the “flu,“ My cousin had the same condition, but was saved when he had symptoms of bronchitis and an alert emergency room physician noticed his symptoms and was able to get his heart back in rhythm with a defibrillator. My cousin also had a bicuspid valve, and though he was in his 50’s at the time, it had never been detected.
The point here is that my son most likely would not have been playing ball if we had known about the bicuspid valve. If he had been allowed to play, we should have been aware of the “Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Condition” as outlined by Parent Heart Watch.
These symptoms are :
(1) Fainting, or seizure during or after physical activity, emotional excitement, distress or startle.
(2) Unusual shortness of breath ,fatigue or tiredness (our son did seem tired, but most teens do not get enough sleep and that, alone, would not alarm us if it wasn’t a lengthy, noticeable tiredness, possibly with the teen saying that they “feel tired all of the time.”)
(3) Chest pain or discomfort or racing heart.
(4) Dizziness during or after physical activity.
Only a year before, a local 23 year old school teacher that we knew had died in his sleep of “viral myocarditis” after having symptoms of pain in his back and chest the day before. He though he may be getting sick, but had no idea or symptom that caused immediate alarm. To emphasize how common hear issues are in athletic young people, the nephew of my sister-in-law died a day after collapsing on the first during football practice. He was a 22 year old college senior.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youth is not the “one in a million” event that people like to believe it is. It is estimated that around two or three teenagers in every mid-sized high school have some sort of heart issue which at least should be detected and the parents be made aware of. Even if heart issues were a “one-in-a-million” crisis, if that one is your one, that is the only one that matters.
Therein becomes the importance of Parent Heart Watch’s other goal-Early Detection of heart issues.
Sometimes, as with our son, there were no early symptoms. Thus, the importance of early detection of possible problems. The most important test for early detection of possible heart issues is for every teen athlete (possibly every teen period) to get an Echocardiogram, which would show heart abnormalities, such as bicuspid valves, “holes” or weaknesses in the heart muscle, mitral valve prolapse (heart murmur) or other issues.
Please, take the time to learn these symptoms and procedures, whether you are a young student or a retiree. They may help save a life. Please support Parent Heart Watch in its efforts to educate the public on this critical issues. Loosing a child has devastated my life, and damaged so many more. Every day, I think of who my son might have become and of how much he is loved and missed. You can stop another child from dying. You can keep another family from going through this hell. Maybe, in your case, “What don’t kill
ya really will make you strong. Contact Parent Heart Watch today and get involved!
With immense help and advise from my teenaged son, we have written this review of his “new” favorite electronic game app:
One of the best electronic games I have come across lately is Minecraft. Minecraft is a amazing game. It promotes the use of thinking for efficiency and design. An example of this concept is that you can build a mansion and have many options of what materials to use. You can make the house out of cobblestone, out of wood, or even out of marble.
Minecraft has two modes creative and survival. The creative mode already has everything that is in the game so that you can build infinite structures. Survival mode requires you to find your own materials to build whatever you want to build. Survival mode also has a health bar unlike the creative mode. If you want to make a pickaxe you need to chop down a tree to get wood. Wood can be turned into wood planks and wood planks can be turned into sticks. Next, you have to get some cobblestone or iron (this isn’t required this is only an example). Another example would be, if your building a house, and you want glass in your house, first you need to build a furnace out of stone and coal. Then you need to put some sand in the furnace and in a minute or two you get glass.
This game is a hard game to learn but once you learn what to do, it is a lot of fun as well as challenging. It takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master. Minecraft promotes education with the component that you need to create something that will last. You develop and create your style of project. Because Minecraft promotes architecture and creativity, it may appeal to people who are not interested in the popular war or sport type games.
Minecraft has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars . You can get Minecraft on three types of devices; a computer, an IOS or OS product or the Android market. To download Minecraft on the computer is free, however, creating a account is $26.98. For the IOS and Android market or both, the price is $8. This cost is worth the amount of fun you have on Minecraft.
Today, I went to a party celebrating a dear friends sons’ graduation from high school. His older brother was one of the best friends of my then 15 year old son, who I lost very suddenly in 2006. It was difficult for me to go to this house where my son spent so many fun days and nights. It wasn’t going to my friends house that made it hard, it was going there to celebrate something that my son never go to do-graduate from high school.
I used to tell my son that I wanted to hear his name called out when he graduated, with the symbolic “with honors” tucked behind his name. Since that horrible day when I lost him, I would give anything to hear his name called out at graduation at all. He would be a senior in college this coming fall, an adult. When I looked at his friends’ younger brother today, I saw an adult, and choked back tears, knowing that I would never see my son make the transition that this young man has made since the loss of my son.
I find myself constantly wondering what life would be like had my son lived. I think of how he would look, what he would be doing, if I would be healthy now, happy now. I think of all the misery I have endured since his loss, the illnesses caused by the trauma of his death, the damage to my faith, my family, my ability to relate to others, how others relate to me. It is overwhelming.
I have struggled greatly during these years as I fought through the emptiness , the guilt a parent feels when they loose a child, the way people treat you so differently than they did before. The first thing someone I know thinks when they see me is, “She lost her son.” Mothers inevitably talk about their children, their accomplishments, their ages, their lives. When someone I don’t know, or who doesn’t know me well, asks me. “How many children do you have?” I cannot bring myself to say “five” instead of “six”-he was mine, I love him-present tense, he is a part of me, I refuse to simply say “five” in order to spare myself the pain of explaining.
When I say that I have six kids, they ask me about them and I have to, in some way, tell them that I lost my son. I open myself up to the untenable pain of explaining the unexplainable. I fight back tears, or maybe don’t win the fight. I have recently attempted to make a valiant effort to reclaim at least the part of my life that is possible to reclaim. The statement made famous by President John F Kennedy, but originally said by a man named Reinhold Niebuhr, comes to mind. It states: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
I think the last part of that statement is the hardest one to understand. Can I change the fact that my precious son is no longer with me? No. Can I regain my health in the state in was before his loss? No. Can ever find my faith again, reclaim the way my family saw me as strong, tough, enduring? I don’t know. Do I have the strength to keep trying? Maybe-I have for nearly six horrible years. It is the last part that confounds me-the wisdom to know the difference.
It seems that one day, I feel it is impossible for me to ever feel like I hold the place in my family, in the lives of those I encounter that I did before I lost my son. I feel they look on me with pity, sadness, not knowing how to act. It’s almost like they are afraid of me. They don’t know what to say or do or how I will react. I cannot bear the well-intended religious comments about “God being with me,” ” I will pray for you”. or “If you will turn it over to God…” I feel God let my son down, let me down, that I had turned “it” over to God when I felt something was wrong around my son, and couldn’t seem to figure out what it might be. Will I ever be able to feel the assurance that God cares again? Right now, I cannot imagine it.
That is my greatest issue at present-to decide what I can change, accept what I cannot change and somehow have the wisdom to know the difference.
As milestones in my life and in the lives of my children and other loved ones come and go, I find it difficult to react with the joy that I should, or maintain my calm in the event of sorrow. I feel great pressure to react in the “proper” way, to at least, in public, present that air of confidence and strength that I once did. As I struggle to “know the difference” and live under these new and oh-so-cruel rules that order my life, I wonder if I will ever come to the point where I can say that I can uphold the thoughts issued in the “Serenity Prayer”.
As we encounter those who have faced horrific losses, endured disabling diseases, or even been told that they or someone they love will not survive, please remember the inner struggles that these people undergo every minute of every day of their lives. Perhaps, we, as outsiders looking in, should find more compassion in how we deal with those struggling with fear and grief and loss. Maybe we can help them find that “wisdom to know the difference”.