In Memory of Nick Over

Friday, November 27, 2009

Anne McGraw Reeves also has a column that appears Mondays in The Patriot-News.

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Nicholas Over’s heart unexpectedly stopped beating eight years ago, cutting short a life full of promise and potential.

After they buried their 20-year-old son, George “Skip” and Cristal Over faced two choices: Descend into a deep depression over Nick’s tragic death, or fight to make sure no other parent suffered the same mind-numbing pain.

The Carlisle couple chose to fight.


Only after Nick died did the Overs learn that he had a rare genetic heart disorder. One day he appeared healthy, the next day, he was dead.

The couple established the Nicholas Ryan Over Foundation to provide automated external defibrillators and training to local schools. The group is affiliated with the national organization Parent Heart Watch.

“This kind of public speaking, training and advocacy was out of character for our family when Nick was alive,” George Over said. “When you read about something like this you think, ‘that’s a shame,’ but when you go through the death of a child, you have the option of working through it or going into a deep hole.”

Since its inception in 2002, the foundation has delivered 49 AEDs, mostly to local schools, but also to other nonprofit organizations. Earlier this month, the Hershey Public Library received one.

“We want to make south-central Pennsylvania heart-safe,” he said.

“We’d like to see AEDs in schools throughout the whole country, have staffs trained in emergency protocol and see students screened for heart abnormalities by ninth grade, especially athletes.”

The machines typically cost up to $3,000 each, he said. The foundation can buy one for $1,250, getting most of its funding from an annual dinner and silent auction.

Some of the larger schools in the area have more than one AED. But so far, not one machine has been used.

“I hope they all get dusty. If they’re never used, that’s fine by us,” George Over said.

“I feel there are a lot of people walking around in south-central Pennsylvania who have heart conditions and don’t even know it; they’re not being diagnosed, especially in children.”

The foundation conducted the first Heart Screening for Youth last month at Carlisle High School. For a reduced rate, participants received exams, including an electrocardiogram. Over said the group was a little disappointed in the turnout — about 100 — but they know of a least one family who learned their second-grade son showed a heart abnormality.

“Nobody even blinks about getting their teeth or eyes checked every year, but nobody gets their heart checked. If your heart is bad, you don’t have to worry about your teeth or your eyes,” he said.

Survival rates for people suffering from sudden cardiac arrest increase sharply if an AED is used within three minutes, he said. That’s time the family didn’t get with Nick.

“You have to throw the ‘what-ifs’ out the window. You could go crazy thinking that you should have done this, or you should have done that,” he said.

Overcoming overwhelming grief, the Overs’ amazing efforts to memorialize their son could one day save a life.

Nick would have been proud.

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