Testimony for Maryland Ways & Means

Chairwoman Hixson and Committee Members:

Thank you for giving me the privilege to testify in support of HB 427: The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act.

My name is Darren Sudman. I am a co-founder and the Executive Director of Simon’s Fund. I am also Simon’s dad. I live outside of Philadelphia now. The last time I was at a formal ceremony in Annapolis, I was being sworn in to the Maryland State Bar. It’s been a while.

Nine years ago, my three-month old son passed away. Initially, we were told that it was SIDS, but SIDS really means, “sorry, we don’t know why your baby died.” The medical community was unaware. We were VERY unaware.

Fortunately, we had a curious pediatrician. She told us to get our hearts checked because “babies don’t just die.” Through this process, my wife, Phyllis, was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, an arrhythmia.

We learned from the Mayo Clinic that Long QT is responsible for up to 15% of all SIDS deaths. We learned from the American Academy of Pediatrics that about 2,000 children die every year from sudden cardiac arrest. We read stories in the paper about children like Tekau Rasayon from PG County, Santiago Vesperoni from Montgomery County and Jonathan Nolon from Bowie. Like so many other children, they collapsed and died while doing something they loved – playing sports.

We learned that SCA is the #1 cause of death of student athletes.

You see, like most of the residents in Maryland, and every other state in this country, we thought that sudden cardiac arrest was just an adult thing. Unfortunately, we had to pay the highest price to pique our curiosity. We were slowly becoming aware.

Do we really want other families to take the same road to enlightenment, or is there a more effective and humane way to share what we’ve learned.

There are a few ways that we can prevent sudden cardiac arrest from taking the lives of our children.

We can try to detect the conditions before they strike by providing heart screenings. That’s what Simon’s Fund does. We’ve screened over 8,000 students; helping 60 plus discover heart conditions.

Or, we can be prepared when it does by knowing CPR and having AED devices available.

Hopefully, one day, we’ll do all of these things, but the reality is that few people will avail themselves of the screenings, and not many people will reach for the AED device, until they know that SCA is a threat to their child.

On May 28, 2012, very few parents, coaches and players in PA knew about this threat. However, the following day, after the passage of Act 59, sudden cardiac arrest became a household term. Every parent and coach of a student knew that SCA wasn’t just an adult thing. They learned that Gatorade may not be the remedy when a player passes out. They learned that a racing heart isn’t necessarily caused by drinking too much soda.

Pennsylvania didn’t have to spend any money to provide this information, and the parents and coaches didn’t have to lose a child or student to learn this lesson.

Last year, the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine released a study that found that 72% of all students that experienced sudden cardiac arrest exhibited symptoms.

Don’t we want to share this information with parents and coaches in Maryland? If the answer is yes, then HB 427 is a great vehicle.

Thanks for your time.