Friday was a tough day for Melinda and Jerry Truax.
It would have been their son Matthew’s 19th birthday had he not suddenly passed away from Sudden Cardiac Arrest two years ago while in a physical education class at Meadowdale High School.
To honor their son, Melinda and Jerry along with the the Heart of Edmonds School District and Community Heart Safe Project, the Nick of Time Foundation and Physio-Control gathered at Meadowdale High School to celebrate the installation of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in the four district high schools – Meadowdale, Lynnwood, Edmonds/Woodway, and Mountlake Terrace.
“It’s bittersweet of course,” Melinda said of Friday’s gathering, which included many of Matthew’s friends. “Matthew loved this school and he had so many friends.”
Melinda and Jerry were comforted by being around all of their son’s friends and knowing that all four Edmonds School District high schools will have plenty of lifesaving AEDs and the training to use them.
“It means so much. It means everything to us,” Melinda said.
If she had one message to share with parents it’s that they should not take their child’s heart health for granted. While they may see a child in perfect health, Melinda said that appearances are no guarantee that their child is healthy.
Most children who experience Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) have no prior symptoms, Truax said.
The installation of AEDs at the four district high schools was phase one of the Heart of Edmonds School District & Community Heart Safe Project.
SCA continues to leave a deadly imprint on the United States, killing more than 369,000 people a year, according to the American Heart Association, and shattering the lives of family members and communities in the process.
On average, a seemingly healthy young person suffers sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) every two days in the U.S. In most SCA cases, cardiac abnormalities are not detected, there are no warning signs, and unless a normal heart rhythm is restored with a shock from an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) within minutes, death is the end result.
It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere and at any age. An AED is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest and is an easy to operate tool for someone with no medical background. Time is of the essence in situations such as these. The average response time for first responders once 911 is called is 8-12 minutes. For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by approximately 10 percent.
The Heart of Edmonds School District & Community Heart Safe Project was created in memory of Matthew, who suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest and died while running the track in PE. His school called 911, provided CPR, and unlocked the gates for the medics to drive down onto the track but it was 7 minutes after the call was made that paramedics used an AED on Matthew.
Unfortunately by this time he had lost over 70 percent chance of survival. Matthew died just five days before his 17th birthday.
“With improved awareness, training and access to AEDs 50,000 lives could be saved each year,” Melinda said. “All emergency responders should have access to them. They should be common in places where the community gathers, meets and spend time, because they save lives. A donation like this is always great, not just for the school district, but for the entire community. The life saved may be someone you know or love.”
Matthew’s friends donated hundreds of volunteer hours in his memory and also are trained in CPR and the use of AEDs.
“They’ll take that knowledge with them for the rest of their lives,” Melinda said.