The Heart of Mike Pence

Published previously in Huffington Post

It’s official. Governor Mike Pence of Indiana is Trump’s pick for Veep (great show, by the way). Most people are “meeting” him for the first time. I “met” him in March 2014, when he became the fourth Governor to sign the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act (SCAPA). This Act was introduced by Representative Ron Bacon and educates coaches, parents and players about the risks and warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest.

It is estimated that 1.35 million students visit emergency rooms for serious sports injuries every year. The overwhelming majority of these injuries are strains, sprains, fractures, contusions (bruises) and abrasions (scrapes). Fortunately, the prognosis for these types of injuries is very good.

That is not the case for students who experience cardiac arrest. The likely outcome is death. In fact, the survival rate is less than six percent. That rate can be improved with the availability of an automated external defibrillator (AED) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but its still pretty poor.

As parents, when a child goes down and is writhing in pain, we know that something is wrong. If there is not an athletic trainer on site to assess the situation (which there should be), we will take the child to an emergency room (hence the 1.35 million visits mentioned above). Time is usually not of the essence for these cases.

However, unless you’ve lost a child like I have, or know someone who has, you probably think that sudden cardiac arrest is just an adult thing. It’s not. Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death of student athletes. It takes the lives of thousands of students every year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A study showed that seventy-two percent of families who lost a child to cardiac arrest reported that there were warning signs. This conclusion was further corroborated by another recent study.

So, in children, what are the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest?

  • Fainting or seizure during or after exercise
  • unexplained shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • extreme fatigue
  • racing heart
  • sudden and unexplained death of a family member under 50

This is why the SCAPA is such a great tool.

  • Parents must read and sign a form acknowledging the risks and warnings signs associated with sudden cardiac arrest
  • Coaches must take an online training course to learn about the warning signs
  • Coaches must remove players who exhibit symptoms and those players cannot return until cleared by a licensed medical professional.

The legislation is budget neutral, meaning that it does not create a cost for the state to implement (other than the cost of printing some forms). As a result, the parents of over two million student athletes have become informed about the risks and warning signs, and two hundred thousand coaches have been educated by the free video produced by Simon’s Fund and promoted by the National Federation of State High Schools Association.

The SCAPA been passed in nine states, and adopted by athletic associations in two other states. We were fortunate to collaborate with some amazing organizations on this effort:Andy Smiles Forever Foundation, Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation, Giving Hearts a Hand, Heart in the GameNick of Time Foundation, Play for Chase, and Who We Play For.

We’re going to hear a lot more about Governor Pence in the coming months. My hope is that, with your help, we’ll also hear a lot more about preventing sudden cardiac arrest among our children.