Feleica Stewart thought she had no reason to worry. There was no history of heart disease in her family. In fact, longevity was the trend. Her grandmother lived to 90. Her mother lived to 82.
To top it off, she was a nurse and John, her son, was the picture of good health, and at 7 foot 4, 305 pounds, he was set to play college basketball at Kentucky . . . until he passed out and died of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) 13 years ago. He was 18.
“Kids have been dying from this disease for years,” Stewart said. “I wish a parent would have taken up the issue a long time ago, then I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. He would have had early detection.”
Stewart’s son was a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death among young athletes. About 100 die per year from the condition and thousands more children die of heart conditions.
The issue will be at the forefront of the second annual Brandon Jennings boys basketball invitational, which is scheduled Saturday beginning at noon at Milwaukee Marquette.
Throughout the day, Stewart, the executive director of the John H. Stewart Foundation, as well as representatives from the Close the Gap Foundation, an educational initiative aimed at reducing disparities in cardiovascular care for women and minorities and raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest, will be on hand spreading the word about heart health issues. Free blood pressure screenings will be available.