October 30, 2010 was a crazy day in the Keeley house. Both of single mom Beth’s kids had soccer games and the family had promised to attend a birthday party. As a result, Alaysia Keeley almost didn’t make it to Norristown High School to get her heart screened. Luckily, a voice in Beth’s head told her to keep the appointment. That voice may have saved the East Norriton middle schooler’s life.
Alaysia’s EKG suggested Long QT Syndrome, the same heart condition that took Simon Sudman’s life. A stress test and genetic testing at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia confirmed it. The most common electrical heart condition, Long QT Syndrome can cause a fast, chaotic heartbeat, and lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
For Alaysia, a three-season athlete with dreams of playing in the WNBA, the diagnosis was life altering. She was immediately placed on medication with the warning that she might need a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator. Her doctor also limited her physical activity.
Today Beth Keeley struggles between protecting her daughter’s health and allowing her to live a normal life. The two worked closely with Alaysia’s doctor to find a compromise about basketball. The result: as long as there is an AED on site, Alaysia is allowed to play for two minutes every other quarter. She must sit down if she begins to feel sluggish. Alaysia’s school has asked Beth to attend all of her daughter’s games, requiring her to regularly leave her job at CVS for hours at a time. She brings her own AED.
“It’s the worst as a parent. I don’t want her to feel different, but I’m afraid. What if I let her play and something happens. How will I live with myself?” wonders Beth Keeley.
This year, as she signed Alaysia’s health forms for school sports, Beth was excited to see the information sheet about sudden cardiac arrest, required by Pennsylvania’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Act. Beth and Alaysia were part of the contingent from Simon’s Fund which travelled to Harrisburg to lobby for the law — a law this mom hopes will raise awareness among coaches of the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest in their athletes.